Boeing Boeing returns with a new cast and Pam Oei as director

Boeing Boeing returns with a new cast and Pam Oei as director
The latest restaging of Boeing Boeing will be directed by veteran actress Pam Oe, who was part of the cast for 2002 and 2005 production. Photo: W!LD RICE
The veteran actress talks about directing popular play
Published: 9:00 PM, June 24, 2017
Updated: 9:00 PM, June 24, 2017

SINGAPORE – Homegrown theatre company W!LD RICE has brought back the acclaimed Tony-Award winning comedy Boeing Boeing for a fourth time.

Pam Oei, who was part of the cast in the 2002 and 2005 productions here, returns as the play’s director this time, together with a new ensemble of young actors.

The international comedy which has been adapted for local audiences, will feature Rodney Oliveiro in the role of the playboy architect Bernard, and SQ air stewardess, Air India air stewardess and Air China air stewardess played by Oon Shu An, Judee Tan and Sangeetha Dorai respectively.

Boeing Boeing has been listed as the most performed French comedic play in the world since 1991, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. In its previous staging in Singapore, it played to sold-out houses.

TODAY speaks with to Oei, 45, who previously directed musicals such as The Emperor’s New Clothes in 2015, about her experience taking on this much-loved play as a director.

Why do you think this play has such a timeless appeal, even in Singapore?

It is the situation. The premise is that one guy juggles three girls, and the fact that they are stewardesses is funny because that is how he manages them. He has to pick them from different airlines (and) manage the routes so people want to see how it unfolds. You also know disaster is on its way, you know it is going to blow up.

Do you enjoy directing more than acting?

The role of the director and that of an actor is very, very different.

The actor only has to be concerned with the one role he or she is playing and play it very well. Being a director is much more complex, I have to deal with many things, including (rehearsal) schedules and working with my stage manager.

(But) I do enjoy acting very much. Actually, I loved being in Boeing Boeing very much, the 2002 and 2005, it is one of my all-time favourite shows to be in. I think it is because the laughter you receive from the audience is so amazing, it’s a roar of laughter. When you’re a comedian, you are privileged (as a) recipient of such positive energy.

What are the benefits of being a director on a play in which you have also acted in?

I had the benefit of running this show twice, for two seasons, so I know the play very well; I know what works and what doesn’t work.

Because it’s such a well written script, it is so tight, every night the laughter is clockwork. I know at this line I’m going to get a two second giggle, this line is going to be five second roar and this line (the audience) are going to go nuts and we actually have to walk around the stage for a bit till the laughter dies down.

How do you engage the actors in the process, given that they are a new cast and are less familiar with the material?

The writing is so sparkly and so obvious… It is very clear how you should say it. When it is a new script, you may experiment, you may workshop it, but this script was written in the sixties so it has been tried and tested.

On top of that, we have staged this in the Singapore context before. I give them the freedom to discover other things if they want to. I also have the benefit of telling them, this one if you play it right, if everything goes right, you may get applause.

What else can the audience look forward to in this restaging?

One of the actors, who is really funny is Shane Mardjuki. He plays the geeky friend that comes to visit the cad, and is invited to stay for a week. Shane is a genius actor, he is a genius comic and his timing is superb.

I have said to the actors as we are cackling away during rehearsals, ‘good luck to all of you while you are on stage with Shane Mardjuki, I don’t know how you’re not going to laugh because he is so funny’; really, really funny.

Boeing Boeing runs from Jun 23 - Jul 22 2017 at Victoria Theatre. Tickets are available on SISTIC.