Dama Orchestra’s shanghaiNights
The Dama Orchestra evoked a sense of nostalgia in its latest production.
THE musical journey back to the 1930s Shanghai began when the familiar melody of Zhou Xuan’s Shanghai Nights rang in the background at Dama Orchestra’s Glitz And Glamour: Tales From Old Shanghai To
Fragrance Bay last Friday. From there, the audience that filled the Pentas 1, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC) in Sentul Park, felt as if they were transported back to an era when their sole entertainment was via the radio.
Dama Orchestra’s latest music and dance production attempts to recreate the glitz and glamour that accompanied the golden oldies that had captivated generations of Chinese listeners, by weaving a love story that sees Budding Rose (portrayed by Tan Soo Suan) and Lady Star (Evelyn Toh) vying for the affection of The Man, charmingly portrayed by Roax Tan.
Appearing in and out of sets was the talented Nell Ng, whose powerful and moving narration chronicles the rise and development of Chinese popular music (known as shi dai qu) in Shanghai and later, in Hong Kong.
Though at times her pronunciation of Chinese names was not as accurate, it did little to mar the overall experience.
There were minimal props and sets, as the orchestra relied heavily on the cast’s vocal power – particularly the two leading actresses – to carry the show.
And they did not let the crowd down. Soo Suan’s Budding Rose was the heart and soul of the show. The winner of the Boh Cameronian Arts Award (for Best Vocal Performance) took our breath away with her flawless rendition of the musical number Madame Butterfly.
Equally stunning was Toh, who stole the show with her big voice and enigmatic presence.
Other than showcasing her operatic prowess in tunes such as Ren Sheng Jiu Shi Xi (Life Is Like A Show), the prima donna put on a sizzling act with leading man Roax on a long table. That scene spiced up the night.
However, the gems of the show were the tunes of yesteryear made famous by Chinese songstresses like Zhou Xuan, Bai Guang, Tsin Ting and Grace Chang almost half a century ago.
Audiences lost themselves in the orchestra’s perfect delivery of Salome, Deng Zhe Ni Hui Lai (Waiting For Your Return), Wu Ye
Xiang Wen (Midnight Kisses), Madame Butterfly and Can’t Get Your Love. A total of 22 classics – among them English numbers like I (Who Have Nothing), Cheek To Cheek, Fly Me To The Moon and Mambo Italiano – were given new arrangements by Dama’s music director Khor Seng Chew.
Another plus point was the Dominique Devorsine-designed costumes – ranging from delicate cheongsams to glittering sequined dresses – which further enhanced the mood of the show.
Also enriching the performance were the 23 members who put on energetic and vibrant dances in between scenes throughout the two-hour show.
Glitz & And Glamour: Tales From Old Shanghai To Fragrance Bay will be playing until Oct 31 at Pentas 1, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre in Sentul Park. Showtime is 8.30pm with weekend matinee shows at 3pm. Tickets are priced between RM60 and RM275. For details, call % 03-4047 9000/6201 9107. Alternatively, browse klpac.org or damaorchestra.com.
Centre of attention: Dama Orchestra dancers surrounding Budding Rose (Tan Soo Suan) in their
latest production GlitzAndGlamour: TalesFromOld
Evelyn Toh (right) was riveting as Lady Star, who vies with Budding Rose for the affection of The Man (Roax Tan).