“It’s funny, very funny!” Denise Tan , who is part of a group of 3 Chio Buus (pretty girl in Hokkien, a Chinese dialect) in Broadway Beng 3, declared when UrbanWire asked her about the Beijing Olympics component in the musical.
She added, “I think that maybe if someone else said it, it won’t be as nice, but Seb has a funny way of saying it.”
She was referring to Sebastian Tan , the Broadway Beng protagonist Ah Beng (Chinese boy who is stereotypically loud and uncouth), who incidentally had a more serious perspective. Bringing the focus away from the musical, he said,
“I think it’s wonderful. I am so proud that it had come to the East, you know. Because of political reasons, a lot of people sabo (Singlish for sabotage) it, but I think that it is just not the spirit of the Games.”
“Even if you were to disagree with the political issues, it’s still for the human spirit, and you have to support it; it’s the celebration of the athletes’ hard work. I don’t know how did politics get involved and how it became so complicated,” he continued.
It was the end of another staging of Broadway Beng and the artistes are stripping away multiple layers of heavy makeup, shiny glitter and colourful – almost ostentatious – costumes in one of the many rooms behind the stage of the Drama Centre in the National Library.
“Because we are the supporting cast, we have to do multiple parts and perform tiring costume changes,” Denise explained, when asked about what happens backstage. “For example, in Sound of Music, we have to have all the different parts, and sing all the different parts, of the movie in 10 minutes.”
Clare Moorhouse , a fellow Chio Buu, chimed in, “We actually have 3 layers of costumes, that is why when we come on stage looking so huge. Underneath the nun, we have the penguin, and underneath the penguin, I have the captain.”
“I think they will laugh even more if they saw us backstage during our costume changes. You’ll fluster if something doesn’t fasten, making things worse. You’ll be fighting with this button and you’re like f***!” she exclaimed, her voice breaking into a sustained falsetto.
That is not the only difficulty the Chio Buus face. The show runs every day in the week, except for Mondays. “It is very difficult to keep the energy up. I’m feeling during the day that I’m just gone, and I’m thinking, ‘Why am I so tired?’” Clare asked, in a loud monologue. “It’s funny because I normally go out for drinks to chill out, after my shows in the UK. But here….” Her voice trails off as she theatrically expressed her physical exhaustion.
Denise added, “Yes, I agree. From Sunday night to Tuesday, I don’t talk at all.” The 91.3 FM DJ then explained that it is difficult for her to strictly adhere to the self-imposed rule, as she has to go on air periodically.
But it’s probably Jacquelin Pereira , the last Chio Buu and Dance Captain, who sacrificed the most for Broadway Beng. The thespian, who spoke very little during this interview with the UrbanWire, had to celebrate her birthday and Mother’s Day at work. “The musical opened on the 13th of April and my birthday is on the 4th of May,” she stated matter-of-factly. When probed further, she self-consciously said, “We made some arrangements, but the show must go on,” before adding that her family were meeting as she spoke.
How different is this run compared to the previous 2 instalments? “We definitely got a bigger budget, bigger sets and definitely way more costumes,” Denise said.
Speaking in a more serious tone, she said, “In this third round, people have already got expectations. To make it a very tight show, shows were arranged back to back and people get pow, pow and pow and it’s over.” She also added that this show is much shorter than the previous shows, which were 2 hours long with an interval.
“The audience had grown in numbers, as well as acceptance. In our first run, they’re shocked. That’s also good as it gives us the element of surprise. They go ‘Oh my God! What’s this?!’ and laugh and laugh,” Sebastian said.
“In our subsequent runs, we have to work a lot harder with newer and stronger jokes, while keeping the theme constant, to meet people’s expectations as they already know what to anticipate,” he adds, explaining the need of a tighter and better structured show.
With such acclaimed response from both the critics and audience, will there be a Broadway Beng 4, UrbanWire asked him.
“54, you mean,” he interrupted, drawing laughter from the people in the room. “I’m always joking to my Chio Buus, ‘Can you imagine us 60 years old and still performing?’” He laughed, before breaking into song.
It was the end of another Broadway Beng series. The curtains fell and lights, dimmed. While ideas are being thrown around and possibly put to paper (entitled Broadway Beng 4?), the artistes are stripping away multiple layers of heavy makeup, shiny glitter and colourful – almost ostentatious – costumes in one of the many rooms behind the stage of the Drama Centre in the National Library, revealing the very human sacrifices they make and their heartfelt emotions hidden beneath the vivid maquillage and flamboyant personae they wear.