Mama White Snake brings about a combination of singing, dancing, Wushu, and Chinese opera. Written by playwright Alfian Sa’at, the musical aims to reinforce the importance of family love through a comical version of the classic Chinese folk tale. “Families come in all shapes and sizes, and as long as there is love, no family should be discriminated against,” Director Pam Oei explains.
The 15th edition of Wild Rice’s pantomime also marks Glen Goei’s return to the local stage after 30 years, as well as his first appearance together with best friend Ivan Heng.
“There were many occasions in which they actually served as two pairs of extra eyes for me, since so many things were going on in the rehearsal room at any given moment. It’s been a real privilege to direct them actually. Glen’s return to the stage is a magnificent one and Ivan is a joy of an actor to direct,” Oei shares about working with the two veteran actors.
Glen and Ivan play Mama White and Auntie Green respectively, while their teenage son Meng, who runs away from home, is played by Andrew Marko. Along the way, he finds a new friend Mimi (Cheryl Tan), and ends up enrolling in the martial arts school run by her father, Master Fahai (Siti Khalijah Zainal) and his wife Madam Ngiao (Zelda Tatiana Ng). As fate would have it, the pair are seeking to recapture the Serpent Sisters, leaving Meng and Mimi caught in a conflict between their parents.
Fahai is Oei’s favourite character, and I can see why. Initially, his stubbornness garnered the laughter of many, but he changes and grows to be more forgiving of others as the musical progresses. He starts off with a stern disapproval of the vermin sisters, but ends up allowing Mimi to spend time with Meng.
The musical comes to a close as Meng proudly declares he is not ashamed of his family’s roots, but not before a vigorous display of martial arts manoeuvres is executed by Ivan and 22 young children aged 5 to 12 years-old. The coordinated and entertaining spectacle usually leaves the theatre hall roaring with applause and encouragement.
“I have learnt that when the kids are onstage, they steal the scene, because you can’t help but look at all the kids,” Oei affords about her young performers. “I always believe that the kids are way more capable than what adults sometimes give them credit for. So my pantomine kids don’t just sing and dance, they perform Wushu, dance hip hop, have speaking lines, and are featured in a big way. Of course it takes a little longer to get the kids to do what you want, but once they get it, they get it. And they have so much fun doing what they do onstage, I love having them around.”
Mama White Snake plays in Drama Center Theatre, National Library Building until 16 December 2017. Tickets are available from Sistic.