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Broadway Ah Beng
04/02/2006
The Straits Times
LOTS OF BENG FOR YOUR BUCK
By Hong Xinyi

Is Sebastian Tan the next big thing in Singapore comedy? Going by his debut one-man show, the prognosis looks good.

He may have scored a meaty role belting out showtunes in a 2004 British tour of Miss Saigon, but actor Sebastian Tan is much more endearing when he is warbling Hokkien ditties with unabashed gusto.

In his debut one-man show, he delivered getai classics like Ai Pia Jia Eh Ngia (Must Fight Then Can Win) as well as Broadway staples like There's No Business Like Show Business.

He belted out the latter with typical Broadway swagger, which made them fun to watch, especially the priceless retelling of Miss Saigon in, as he put it, "eight and a half minutes. Okaylah, give or take, maybe 10 minutes."

But it was when he took to the stage with his Hokkien repertoire that his cheeky personality really shone through. Even the timbre of his voice seemed to change, from a clean tenor to a creamy vibrato.

Special mention much be made of his trio of back-up singers / dancers, namely the delightful campy Denise Tan, Jacqueline Pereira and Leigh McDonald.

The three hammed their way through their various numbers in skin-tight sequined costumes and moulting feather boas, with the choreographed moves of exaggerated hand sweeps a delicious send-up of 1980s variety show dancers.

With his boy-next-door charm, Tan is a likeable stage presence, and hearing him tell jokes about his life is very much like listening to a friend deliver coffee-shop punchlines.

The Hokkien monologues he delivered – about such things as how he dreaded going to the public swimming pool when he was a fat child – were simple, slice-of-life type anecdotes.

But his natural delivery and uncontrived Ah Beng persona were enough to make them work.

The show has its patchy moments, though. Several of the Broadway medleys, for example, slowed down the tempo of the show rather than build up momentum. Some of the more throwaway jokes also did not quite register with the audience.

Still, in all, this was refreshing and promising debut. Here's hoping there is more Ah Beng coming our way.