Producing one hit show after another is far from an easy task, and we’re constantly amazed by how Pangdemonium makes it look so effortless. The powerhouse theatre company blew us away yet again with The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, a story about a shy girl with a knack for impersonating famous singers. In Little Voice, we’re taken back in time to Singapore in the 1970s, a period where everything from music to fashion was evidently larger than life.
Ok, ok. We know everyone is going to be raving about Mina Kaye’s performance, but it would surely be a crime if we didn’t do the same. The young starlet is truly a gem in the musical theatre scene, and we’re thrilled that she’s finally getting the chance to showcase her talent in a leading role. Sure, we don’t hear much from her during the first half of the play. Her character’s already small voice is drowned out by Mari (Denise Tan), her loud and overbearing mother.
But rest assured that your patience will be rewarded, especially during the second act where Little Voice makes her stage debut, performing a repertoire of songs in the groovy nightclub Boo-gis Wonderland. Expect to see jaw-dropping impersonations of Bernadette Peters, Judy Garland and even Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng as Kaye belts out their greatest hits.
Throughout the performance, Kaye seamlessly transits from one diva to another, commanding the stage with her powerhouse vocals and on-the-spot impressions. Whilst assuming the persona of around ten different characters, she impressively manages to retain Little Voice’s reserved and socially awkward personality. With such potential, Kaye will be missed as she heads off to Boston to pursue her Masters in Musical Theatre.
Supporting characters such as Siti Khalijah and Rishi Budhrani shine as well. In a particularly surprising and delightful scene, Kalijah brought the house down with a rousing rendition of Aretha Franklin’s R.E.S.P.E.C.T. My only qualm was that she seemed rather underused in comparison to the other characters, and her role would have benefited from being expanded upon.
As for Budhrani, the talented comedian was no doubt a hit with the audience. In addition to playing nightclub owner Mr Boo, he also served as an emcee for the show itself. Besides playfully heckling those seated at the cabaret tables, the self-deprecating actor cracked numerous comical jokes at his own expense. Judging from the audience’s enthusiasm in cheering and clapping along during songs, we’d say he did a solid job.
I must admit I did have reservations about a British play being localised, but was immediately set at ease with the local references being cleverly inserted and relevant to the story. Older Singaporeans will recognise references to places like the old Bugis Street and past government policies. Stop at Two campaign anyone?
The inclusion of Chinese and Malay tunes in addition to Western popular music was also fitting, reflecting Singapore’s struggle between embracing Westernization and retaining ethnic identity. As Little Voice attempts to let her voice be heard, we also see Singapore as a young nation trying to find her own voice and identity amidst outside influences.
Last but definitely not least, hats off to the live band and the sheer genius that is set designer Eucien Chia. With a gorgeous revolving set that demonstrate enormous attention to detail, Chia is truly a master at his craft. Evidently, Pangdemonium has struck gold yet again, and we’re raring to see what they have in store for their next production Frozen. And no, it will be nothing at all like the Disney film.
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice runs at the Drama Centre Theatre till the 18th of May. Tickets available at SISTIC.
Photo credits: Pangdemonium