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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Liao Zhai Rocks! Or not?

Of fancy sets, mangled plots and east-meets-west intentions
ST701 Editorial Team - March 29, 2010
By: Linda Lee
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Liao Zhai Rocks! Or not?

A Production by The Theatre Practice, Lian Zhai Rocks! is a rock musical based on ancient Chinese ghostly fables.

Presented by some of the same talents behind If There’re Seasons, Wu Xi, Xiaohan, Eric Ng and Kuo Jian Hong come together once again to showcase their prowess in this extravaganza.

The story goes like this: Scholar Sang Xiao (Ric Liu) wins the affections of vixen spirit Ying Ning (Joanna Dong). But before the two’s love could fully blossom, he falls for the ploy of San Niang (Celine Rosa Tan), a trapped soul who tricks him in order to get reincarnated with her childhood sweetheart. He is poisoned and cast into the underworld, where he gets emotionally embroiled with his murderer and exorcist friend (show host Sugie). On the other hand, the undeterred and smitten Ying Ning decides to embark on a perilous journey (at the expense of her life) to save Sang Xiao. The protagonists’ fates intertwine and the plot soon thickens – much to the amusement of an intimidating but kooky King of Hell (100.3 DJ Huang Wenhong) – to a karmic culmination.

Joanna delivers the goods as a lively, foxy hybrid and she does have much to impress with her vocal prowess. Sugie, a newcomer in the theatre scene, doesn’t disappoint either. The funnyman amuses easily with his on-the-beat tempo, energy and silly antics. While the other actors play along just fine, it is Celine who almost always never fails to awe – and I’m quite sure I’m usually picky when it comes to singing - with her beautiful tone and reliable acting, in spite of her second fiddle role.

The story moves along a little too slowly for my liking at first, but picks up eventually as it meanders along to get into the groove. While the rock songs and live ensemble appear to be a tad boisterous and jarring (hence drowning the actors’ voices at times), the ballads seem more palatable, with the cast being able to focus more on their sentimental nuances.

If you are a fan of all things spooky, Chinese culture (and even popular radio presenter Wenhong!), then you may find this offering enticing, especially since it purports to marry rock music with Chinese-style period drama and the supernatural – a stylish notion by itself. But the same may not apply to neutral viewers who may find the straight-ahead performance a little less-than-engaging despite the cast’s best efforts.

Unconvinced? Spooked? Check out the performance and be your own judge then.

The last show ends on 18 April 2010. Tickets are available at Sistic.

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