Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Catching Musicals: Singapore To London: Part One

        Happy Talk: Juanita Hall: South Pacific (Rodgers/Hammerstein)

Watching Musicals from 1950's to 1990's

I enjoy watching musicals both from the screen and on stage. As a younger person and going to the movies in Singapore 50's, catching these shows was an exciting part of my life. I was in my early teens and it was easy to take a straight bus from St. Andrew's School to the cinema near Prinsep Street.

The Cathay Cinema was the usual venue for musicals to be screened. I remember Brigadoon, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Oklahoma, Kismet, The Student Prince, Paint Your Wagon and the unforgettable South Pacific. The movies were all in Technicolor and watched on the large screen in Cinemascope or Superscope grandeur, topped with stereophonic sound.
          A crowded Cathay Cinema showing Elvis Presley's Blue Hawaii 

Happy talk, keep talking happy talk
Talk about things you like to do
You gotta have a dream, if you don't have a dream
How you gonna have a dream come true...*

Those were wonderful years visiting the rojak man at Waterloo Street after the afternoon show. And I usually go alone because many of my classmates were either playing football or cycling around their own kampong. They would never have heard of Mario Lanza or Juanita Hall.
                        West End, London where the theatres are

Then came the 60's and The King and I, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Camelot and a host of other musicals came along.  With a little bit more money I had nasi padang (local Malay dishes eaten with rice) at the Rendezvous Restaurant near Bencoolen Street. It was a small coffee shop then fronted by the Malay rice stall.

In with the 70's and its disco musical like Grease and Saturday Night Fever. I was too busy with studies, work and left  Singapore for New Zealand where I managed to catch our university production of rock musical, Hair and the Australian production of, Jesus Christ Superstar in Sydney.
                       St Martins Theatre showing The Mousetrap

London, England
It was only in the 80's and 90's when I started visiting London to actually patronize the theatres at the West End that made loving musicals all the more thrilling.  My first stage performance wasn't a musical but a long-running play called, The Mousetrap

If I remember correctly, I had stayed at a hotel near the St. Martin's Theatre and was invited by the smiling and persuasive concierge to buy a 20 pound ticket to watch the show. Twenty English Pounds was a lot of money in the 80's, about $160.

"Last ticket for to-night," he told me.  I bought the ticket but to my chagrin I had a seat at the corner end of the second row from the particularly high stage. The whole night I was looking at shoes, socks, legs, pants and furniture bottoms on stage, and could hardly understand the play at all because I was so furious as perceptions became distorted. My seat and viewing distance bothered me a lot.
                      London, England in the 1990's before the smart phone.
My return to the hotel to look for the concierge cheat that night proved fruitless because he was off duty. When I left the next morning, I found out he was on leave. There was no point making a complaint because I was leaving for Aberdeen, Scotland and wasn't returning to the capital. A bad experience indeed. Bottom line, never trust a hotel concierge too much! 

Within a ten year period I managed to fly back and forth to London about six times, either with tour groups to on the way to Europe or as a couple with my wife when we travelled privately. 
       Jellicle Cats: Cats Musical: (Andrew Lloyd Webber /T. S. Eliot.)

These were enjoyable trips and we had always managed to catch musicals on stage like Cats, Phantom of The Opera, Miss Saigon, Song and Dance, Les Miserables and the truly fab Starlight Express. We also learnt that theatre tickets were cheap at Leicester Square if we queued up for them much earlier in the day. We wanted to but never did. 

Are you blind when you're born? Can you see in the dark?
Dare you look at a king? Would you sit on his throne?
Can you say of your bite that it's worse than your bark?
Are you cock of the walk when you're walking alone?**

I even caught one in Vancouver, Canada when I was there in the 90's. Then not too long ago Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Rent in Singapore. Seen Chicago but it could have been on DVD. Went one full circle. 

Those were fun years. But that's another story.

Do you love musicals? Pray tell.

(This post is dedicated to Jan Cheong and CYLin who both love musicals.)
My Favourite Song From A Musical
Not in any order:

Stranger In Paradise
Baubles, Bangles And Beads

Paint Your Wagon:
I Talk To The Trees
Wand'ring Star

Almost Like Being In Love

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers:
Bless Your Beautiful Hide

Oh What A Beautiful Morning
The Surrey With A Fringe On Top

South Pacific:
Happy Talk
Some Enchanted Evening
Bali Ha'i
There Is Nothing Like A Dame

Images: Google and A Personal Collection;
Lyrics: *Happy Talk (Rodgers and Hammerstein); **Jellicle Cats (Andrew Lloyd Webber /T. S. Eliot.)



to bad the show is no longer around any more which makes me so sad :( i saw the show so many times i lost count of the number of times i have seen it i wish the show was still around because its always been a dream of mine to perform in CATS iv dreamed of being a performer in the show for as long as i can remember.

JAN CHEONG said...

Thanks for the memories, Andy.

LIM KUAN MIN said...

A young and dashing globetrotting Andy Lim.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you all for immediate support. And John Cher too. Hard to get readers from Facebook to connect to blog. Unless a personal picture is published.

FACEBOOK said...



AARON CHOO said...

good old days.


I wonder if they used this 'happy talk' in the original 1949 Broadway version, I saw Matthew Morrison in the 2008 version and Liat danced to this song and never did this 'hand' business. Who 'invented' it, Rodgers or Hammerstein? Anyone old enough to have seen the 1949 version?

chakap chakap said...

Cats is a musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats' by T. S. Eliot, and produced by Cameron Mackintosh.

The musical tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and the night they make what is known as "the Jellicle choice" and decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life.

Cats introduced the song standard "Memory". The first performance of "Cats" was in 1981.

DR. A. K. said...

Yes, thanks for the memories.

E.GOH said...

Takes me to my teen years. Thanks Andy.

FABIAN FOO said...

Will look out (for musicals) while in London on 31st May.

(On board the Royal Carribean Ship 'Navigator of the Seas' sailing from Southampton port.)

CYLIN said...

Andy, thanks for the dedication. I too watched a number of live musicals from way back in the sixties and in various cities --London -(Mousetrap, Hair, Starlight Express). New Zealand--(.Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar). Sydney- (Singing in the rain, Miss Saigon, Victor and Victoria)

My love for such shows was awakened in the fifties when I could watch them on the big screen for free at RAF base camps at Seletar, Tengah, Changi and Sembawang.

One foreign production staged locally not too long ago that I attended was The Lion King. It was truly enjoyable and for a couple of hours, I had no cares in the world ---immersing myself in the storyline and catchy music score

Our local theatre scene is quite vibrant and there has been a number of productions that really entertains ---Christmas Chestnuts, Dim Sum Dollies, Broadway Beng...

My only grouse is that Sistic which has the monopoly has been upping the cost of each ticket it sells... it's now four dollars. So for the coming BB 10th anniversary show, I booked the cheapest seat- 58/- but I pay sistic 62/-

Tell myself as long as I have the dough, I'll go. Believe in the lyrics of 'Enjoy Yourself', it's later than you think...

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Many thanks for thumbs-up from FB group and reading friends.

A special thank you Lin. Your comment proves a point, that lovers of musicals will travel the distance just to watch one.

Your support and love for local theatre speaks for itself too as the price you pay to watch the shows are pretty expensive. Like Singapore 60's music in the past, our productions are well received in the present.

Monopolies are common in Singapore. It is an exorbitant sum to pay for a small service. I hope SISTIC will read your comment.

Enjoy yourself with BB.

FACEBOOK said...



chakap chakap said...

'The Mousetrap' is a murder mystery play by Agatha Christie. The Mousetrap opened in the West End of London in 1952, and has been running continuously since then.

It has by far the longest initial run of any play in history, with its 25,000th performance taking place on 18 November 2012. The play is known for its twist ending, which the audience are traditionally asked not to reveal after leaving the theatre.

The play has been also presented internationally, in 2013 in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, by the British Theatre Playhouse.

For how long more will the play run?