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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My first Esplanade experience

Last Saturday, i had my very first experience in watching a performance at the Esplanade. That was why i stayed back in SG on Friday night.

Sui and i had bought the tickets for the theatrical play, "December Rains" (雨季) months ago.

Buying the tickets was an adventure in itself. We wanted to get good seats since were were buying the most expensive tickets that cost SGD106 each. Yet, SISTIC does not allow the patrons to choose their own seats when purchasing the tickets online. The system will supposedly allocate the best seats, and it remembers the IP address and will keep on assigning the same seats no matter how many time you tried. We then tried to beat the system by having one person holding on to the allocated seats while the other person processing the on-line purchase at the same time so that the system will allocate a new pair of seats. In the end, we managed to get rather good seats for the play.

On Saturday afternoon, Sui came in to SG and met up with me at the Esplanade MRT station. Due to some unforeseeable situation, she left home later than planned, and it was already around 2.15pm when we reached the Esplanade.

Both of us had not had lunch yet, and for Sui, she hadn't even had her breakfast! The play was starting at 3pm and there was not enough time for us to have a proper meal. So we decided to have a light and quick lunch - just a muffin and drinks.

On the dress code, i had originally wanted to wear a smart-casual dress since it was at the Esplanade and normally one should not wear too casually at such places (such as at the Sydney Opera House or the Broadway). After checking with Sui and was told that she was gonna wear jeans with a blouse, i decided to match her and wear jeans as well. It turned out that we were right, as the people here simply do not care about dressing up for a theatre at all. There were even people just wearing shorts and sandals!

Before entering the theatre hall, we went to the washroom and i was very annoyed by a bunch of teenagers in the washroom. There seemed to be a school activity or something, where there were lots of these teenagers at the Esplanade watching this play as well.

The problem with the kids nowadays is that they were very much self-centred and inconsiderate. The washroom at the Esplanade was small, and yet they would gather around the basins chit-chatting while waiting for their friends going to the toilet. They did not even bother to give way when i was standing there, wanting to wash my hands after using the toilet. Basically, they just couldn't give a sh*t about anyone else, as if i was invisible or something. I couldn't help but feel that the future of this world is hopeless.

But i digress.

Anyway, the play did not start exactly at 3pm. It was late by about 10 minute or so. While we were seated in the theatre hall and waiting for the play to begin, i took a picture of the stage with my iPhone.

Then the usher came to me and told me that photography is strictly prohibited in the theatre hall. I apologised and kept my phone, even though i do not understand why it was not allowed when the play has not even started yet. I mean, i can understand if they do not want people taking pictures or recording the play when it was being performed, but this was before it started. Anyway, it is a rule and i will follow it, but there were still many people taking pictures even with flash! The ushers were having a difficult time tracking and giving warning to every audience who did that.

During the waiting time, there was this actress at the corner of the stage, acting as an old lady selling "ding ding candy". She was very professional; she was really acting it out as if she was at a street of the old days, working hard in earning that little income through selling candies. She would sometimes wipe her face with her handkerchief, or sit down looking far away, or mumbling to herself, or making the candies, or drink some water from an old water bottle that she brought with her... And to imagine that she gotta do this for almost an hour before the play started even when no one was really watching her. I really admire her professionalism.

Ok, now i should be commenting about the play. There was an interval of 20 minutes, and i found the second part of the play to be better than the first part. At least i was touched by a few scenes and songs on the performances after the interval.

Well, in summary, i would say i do not feel the tickets worth the price at all. Of course, i should not compare this play with the operas i've watched before - Phantom of the Opera at Broadway in NYC, and Miss Saigon in Singapore. Yet, it was rather a disappointment to me. I guess the other audience felt similar too, as there wasn't a standing ovation after the play ended, which normally was an indication that the performance was not THAT marvellous to deserve one.

First of all, the killer of all is the hackneyed plot. The story line is so unoriginal and so old that we could have written it ourselves. In fact, we had already guessed what would happen next even before the scenes. I am not gonna relate the story here; it's basically those boring love story with the familiar plot of poor boy, rich girl, the patriotic youngsters of the colonial era, having a love child, misunderstandings and hatred, the devoted third party, tragedy... i guess you would be yawning by now too.

Next, normally when we watch a live performance like this, we would also be looking forward to some stage setting that would wow the audience, such as the helicopter in Miss Saigon or the dropping of the chandelier in The Phantom of the Opera. Yet, there was nothing on the set that really left an impression on the audience, though there were some good use of some items for different scenes.

Finally, the performers and the performances. Well, the songs were generally quite good even though not fantastic. I personally feel that Kit could not carry the character very well. Perhaps it was her age and her figure, which made it not convincing when she was acting as a coy, innocent young girl. Her later part as a middle-age lady was so much better.

For the singing part, the males did better than females. The two lead actors were very good, with good and loud voice. Kit, on the other hand, was rather soft at some parts. When she was singing duet with the lead actor, his voice overpowered hers and we could hardly hear her. At some parts when the orchestra was playing, her voice was also very faint. One of the main supporting actresses also couldn't sing well even though the acting was good.

And to make the experience worse for me, the person seated in front of me was super annoying. He was sitting quite up-right and blocking my view. This was actually expected since we were not seated at the first row, and it would have been ok if he could just keep still. Yet, he was fidgeting, kept moving his head left and right, probably was bored by the play or something. Then i gotta move myself left and right too to find an unblocked view, while at the same time worrying that this might in turn disturb the person sitting behind me as well.

The play ended at 5pm+, and we went out to take some pictures of this landmark architecture before rushing back to JB for a dinner gathering.

So all-in-all, my first experience at the Esplanade was rather unmemorable. Well, i guess a lot of first-times in life are like that. Let's just hope that the subsequent experiences will be better - same as other life experiences as well.


wah, it seems you were passionate for the play to have it booked "months" ago and still remember the day. i never had the chance of visiting theaters, and always wonder about the acting professionalism without retaking the scenes like actors/actress in tv dramas and movies. hmm, what if they make mistake like forgetting the lines, slip, glitch, some other errors that become a laugh . of course not, they are professionals. the way you described the actress played the old lady selling candy reminds me stephen chow's quote in king of comedy, which was played in fm also - "even if it's extra, it's still an acting job. cheer up." sometimes, even the story and scripts are weak, recycled and predictable, if the actors/actresses are real good, the play could turn out to be awesome, just the veteran actors/actresses in tvb dramas, especially with their facial expressions.

ah, just a few bunch of teenagers behaved rudely and ignorant, to link it with future of the world is hopeless is a bit ...... kind of too much. as an adult who happenned to be at the scene, well, er, should set a bit moral guidance to educate them about being respect and empathy, isn't it? that's what you call educating the young. (and i preach something that i wouldn't do because i am shy, timid, and ignorant person, too). most young people teenagers are like that, and they'll change when exposed to working world. just be a bit open mind-lor.

anyway, perhaps the next time you should try comedy rather than soapy play :).


Permit me to comment and I humbly apologise for some corrections. I think you meant musicals instead of plays. And of course opera is yet another category, mainly Italian example Turandot.

For matinees, most people are usually casually dressed. As for plays in Sydney Opera House, which I had subscribed (Sydney Theatre Company) for 7 years, casual dressings are acceptable. They do stage orchestral concerts there but I don't think it has staged musicals though. If you have not watch a play in live before, it would be nice to do so as it is a very powerful medium.

Personally, like you, I enjoyed Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon, but if you have the opportunity do not give Les Miserables a miss, which in my personal opinion is probably the best musical.

Best regards.

Angel, you gotta book early to get the tickets. Some performances sold out very fast. And if you have paid so much for the ticket, I'm sure you would not forget about it! ;)

Fat4, thanks for the correction. Yes, it should be musical and not play, since there were singings and dancing.

Actually I do not expect formal wear like those seen in movie, but I would think at least smart casual. I do not think shorts and sandals are appropriate, even for matinees.

Yeah, I've heard Les Miserables is good, and I missed it last time when it was performed in SG because I couldn't get good seats.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010 @ 3:24 am: The past long weekend
Saturday, August 07, 2010 @ 2:03 am: A pathetic Friday
Thursday, August 05, 2010 @ 4:14 am: Some pictures and comics
Monday, August 02, 2010 @ 3:56 am: The past weekend
Saturday, July 31, 2010 @ 1:21 am: At KLIA
Thursday, July 29, 2010 @ 3:58 am: At KL
Tuesday, July 27, 2010 @ 2:40 am: Still undecided
Tuesday, July 27, 2010 @ 2:11 am: New umbrella
Monday, July 26, 2010 @ 1:21 am: The past weekend
Saturday, July 24, 2010 @ 3:31 am: Updates in short