FLOORED BY THE FULL MONTY

Of all the musicals I’ve watched in Singapore, Roxie was the only musical that I enjoyed watching. The energy level of the singers was high; the dancing was crisp and sharp; and, most importantly, no one went off key. Miss Saigon was disappointing because the lead actors’ voices sounded like an out-of-tune guitar and acting was over the top except for Leo Valdez who played the sleazy engineer superbly. In one show of Miss Saigon the dancers doing the somersaults, according to a friend, ended up on the orchestra pit! Chang and Eng wasn’t as horrible as Miss Saigon but it was laborious watching the singers strain themselves in reaching the high notes. After those shows, watching musicals was no longer part of my list of things to do in Singapore until I chanced upon a review in My Paper and Today of The Full Monty. The reviews lauded the inaugural show of Pangdemonium Productions, the new theatre company set up by Adrian Pang and wife Tracie. Adrian is one of the accomplished actors in Singapore who honed his acting chops in the UK while Tracie is a lightning designer, occasional playwright, director and Associate Artistic Director of Singapore Repertory Theatre. Both also are Pangdemonium’s Co-Artistic Directors.

Bad or good review, I would have still bought a ticket and trooped down to Drama Centre Theatre at Victoria Street. There was no way I was going to pass up the chance of seeing Adrian Pang on stage again. The first, and last, time I saw him was opposite Lea Salonga in They’re Playing Our Song. He held his own opposite the established Broadway actress, which was impressive. After that, my sightings of him were scanty; I spotted him on TV in this inane sitcom where he played the male version of the Ghost Whisperer hounded by an insufferable spirit and another as one of the hosts of yet another food show. I chalked it up to an actor having to pay his bills.

Watching Adrian Pang on stage is like reading one of the novels of one of my favourite writers, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Marquez always takes me to different worlds and, most of the time, offers me thought-provoking insights. I embark on a similar journey when I get to watch Adrian. This time I ended up in Buffalo, New York, following his new doppelganger.

Consistency in his acting is what makes Adrian different. He immerses himself in the role so much so that you don’t see Adrian anymore, but the character he is currently playing. There are no traces of the other characters he’s played before so Jerry is Jerry, the former steel factory worker now unemployed. Pushed to the edge and on the brink of losing his son to his ex-wife and her new husband-to-be, the blue collar worker finds inspiration from the most unlikely place to earn enough money to tide him over and not lose his son. Down to the tics that make Jerry the person he is – twitch of the mouth, hand gestures, laughter coupled with comic timing – Adrian didn’t skip a beat in making The Full Monty engaging, funny and alive.

Jerry is not cerebral but Adrian doesn’t bring him down to the level of the archetypal member of the lumpen class. He retains that congenial and affable side of Jerry despite being pushed to desperate measures to eke a living. Balancing the seriousness and hilarity of the situation like a dexterous juggler, Adrian kept the audience enthralled all throughout the show up to the much vaunted strip act that, undoubtedly, floored me and the entire house that Friday night.

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