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Makan Place
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Makan Place

Makan Place 1 small.jpg
Makan Place

The Musical

Book by R Chandran
Music and Lyrics by Saedah Samat-Alkaff & Jasmin Samat Simon
Additional music by Varian Lim, Jerome Quek and Eugene Ryan Chionh
Music arranged by Saedah Samat-Alkaff, Varian Lim, Iqbal Jumaat, Ao Cheng Su, & Kevin Woo
Executive producer: Ganesh Kalyanam
Producer & production manager: Yap Pei Ying
Director: Jeffrey Tan
Choreographer: Zaini Tahir
Music director: Varian Lim
Vocal director: Irene Jansen
Technical and lighting director: Tony Kam
Audio designer: Mark Spencer
Stage Manager: Shivvani Jegatheesan

Makan Place is a musical staged at the Republic Polytechnic Cultural Centre from 27th to 31st October 2012. It has the distinction of being the first original Singapore musical, and was staged in 1988. Apart from a few minor changes, this revival is quite faithful to the 1988 production.

The story is set in a hawker center in the 1980s where we see six food and drink stalls. It focuses on two teenagers, Siew and Zil. Siew (Nicholas Chin) is the son of Leng (Sharon Tan), the hawker selling Chinese fishball mee. She owes loanshark Kung (David Roy Quake) some $600, and manages to persuade him to allow her two more weeks to repay her debts.

Siew’s good friend is Zil (Lim Teck Kiang), the son of Pakcik (Thng Poh Huat), who runs the mee rebus stall. Zil aspires to be an entertainer and one of the customers, Yin Mei (Geneva Xu), helps set up a show audition for him. Unfortunately Zil’s father, Pakcik, collapses unexpectedly from an unknown illness, necessitating emergency admission to hospital. As Zil has to look after the mee rebus stall while his father is away, he misses the audition.

Siew receives regular tuition from Judy (Emma Dzalin), a tuition teacher who is only slightly older than him. But Siew wants to stop the tuition, as well as leaving school to start work, in order to help his mother repay the loansharks. Siew tells Zil that he is infatuated with Judy, but when she brings her boyfriend to eat at the hawker centre, he gets upset when the boyfriend insults Judy, and challenges him to a fight.

Some of the minor characters are quite hilarious. The tourist (Lee Yao Hui) who is exploited by being charged exorbitant prices for his meal; the environment inspector (Divitra Sukumaran) who fines one of the hawkers for littering; the impatient customer Tom (Goh Jun Jie) who complains about the slowness of his food; the celebrity Dezel (Liya Alisya) who gets a free drink when she signs her autograph for Rahim (Hafidz Abdullah); the blind woman (Davinia He) and her companion (David Roy Quake) who prey on the customers selling their wares; the group of schoolgirls making advances to a group of schoolboys.

The resolution of the main plotlines all lead to happy conclusions. Siew studies without the help of tuition and does well in his exams, Zil has a second chance auditioning and wins the role, his father recovers from the illness. When the loan sharks reappear demanding payment of the loan, Siew’s mother Leng can only muster up $450. The loan sharks threaten to close her stall, but the other members of the hawker centre combine to come up with the remaining $150 to pay the loan sharks.

Makan Place is a very enjoyable musical, with hummable songs and throbbing dance music. Congratulations to Saedah Samat-Alkaff and Jasmin Samat Simon for their songs.

The strengths of this production are the well-choreographed exciting synchronous dancing, especially the rat sequences and the fight scenes. The well-rehearsed orchestra supports the singers closely. The sets and costumes are simple but appropriate. This is an ensemble cast, and the singing by the lead performers is especially good.

I hope that Makan Place will be restaged in the not too distant future. My suggestion is that the story should be updated for the 21st century. The character arc of the leads can be better mapped, and the resolution can converge a bit better towards the end.

Congratulations to everybody involved in this fine production.

Kenneth Lyen
31 October 2012

Rehearsal video: