Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Today, Tuesday June 12, 2007

Short, but sweet
Musical on Georgette Chen packs in the laughs, while it lasts
by Juliana June Rasul

Going by the young Georgette Chen's early declaration that she wants to be an artist who "sets fire to cathedrals ... and dies of opium poisoning", laughs are the last thing you'd expect from a production of her life story.

And yet Musical Theatre Limited's Georgette, which ran on Saturday and Sunday at the Esplanade Theatre Studio, packs laughs aplenty, albeit for some strange and possibly unintentional reasons.

At one point, to illustrate the pioneering Singapore artist's fight for her work while surrounded by art-shunning communists in China, the ensemble splits into two camps. One rattles off the names of artists like Van Gogh and Picasso, and the other battles back with names of celebrated Marxists like Sun Yat-Sen.

This had the strange effect of reminding this reviewer of the song We Didn't Start the Fire, Billy Joel's names-only rundown of key events of the 20th century.

Meant to be a condensed, no-frills version of what playwright Ng Yi-Sheng hopes to turn into a proper musical, Georgette's brevity leaves little room to explore anything at great length.

Even the romance between Chen (played by Seong Hui Xuan) and her husband Eugene (Eu Jin Hwang), which was meant to be the focus of the musical, gets short shrift.

However, Ng earns some rather well-deserved giggles for art-themed in-jokes such as: "I'm not beautiful ... but that's modern art".

The play's general naughtiness also comes through at times, especially when Chen's father, Mr Zhang (CC Leong), a businessman, proclaims his sense of nouveau riche elitism by rhyming "business class" with "peasants, you can kiss my ****".

Yet even these funny moments add to, rather than diminish, the audience's incredulity at a work that has Chen donning a straw hat and salsa her way through a song celebrating her husband's intriguing early life on the Caribbean island of Trinidad.

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