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Theatre review: Dream Academy’s Crazy Christmas: A groundNUTCRACKER

SINGAPORE—If I were a real Grinch, I’d say there is a minus point about having a popular show series such as Dream Academy’s Crazy Christmas. The plus point is that the producers are guaranteed an audience thanks to the reputation the show has built through the years. The audience too can go into the theatre knowing that if nothing else, they’ll watch a competent performance.

Theatre review: Dream Academy’s Crazy Christmas: A groundNUTCRACKER

It's all tutu much: Dream Academy's Crazy Christmas: A groundNUTCRACKER included a twisted retelling of the Nutcracker ballet. Photo: Dream Academy

SINGAPORE—If I were a real Grinch, I’d say there is a minus point about having a popular show series such as Dream Academy’s Crazy Christmas. The plus point is that the producers are guaranteed an audience thanks to the reputation the show has built through the years. The audience too can go into the theatre knowing that if nothing else, they’ll watch a competent performance.

The only problem is that audience expectations and the eventual show you watch may not match up. Which is why the director for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams, was quick to say that the movie would probably not meet its fans’ expectations. Call it humility, or call it a disclaimer.

Thankfully, the good folk helming Crazy Christmas: A groundNUTCRACKER, didn’t need to do that. For one thing, Crazy Christmas has never pretended to be more than what it is: A jolly, fun Christmas programme where the cast sing Christmas songs and perform some funny skits. That was very evident from the start, when popular comedian Kumar (cast as the tallest elf ever) steals a bejewelled giant groundnut.

What follows is about 90 minutes of music and laughter, from the main opening where the cast come out singing Chinese New Year songs, apparently getting the festive occasion wrong before Kumar’s elf sets them right, all the way through to the sing-along finale that ends with, yes, confetti.

This being the 15th anniversary of theatre company Dream Academy, a portion of Crazy Christmas is dedicated to a flashback sequence of sorts, where the cast play out several snippets of previous productions, such as Little Shop Of Horrors, Dim Sum Dollies, Broadway Beng and Into The Woods (“I always wanted to do a Stephen Sondheim musical,” explains Dream Academy founder Selena Tan at the beginning of the sequence). Throughout the show too, there are references and nods to previous situations and characters, most notably Pam Oei’s Bat, whom we met in the 2010 edition, once again lamenting about she longs to migrate from Halloween to Christmas.

As expected, the music bits were brilliant. Regular musical guests Vocaluptuous were once again spot-on during their segment as they whipped up a funky performance, including a nod to Stevie Wonder’s I Wish (and Superstition). Singer Michaela Therese and Crazy Christmas newbie Caleb Goh performed a duet and later joined Karen Tan, Judee Tan, Denise Tan, Selena Tan, Sebastian Tan, Robin Goh and George Chan for a brilliant a cappella mash-up of 12 Days Of Christmas.

The “combined” choir, featuring students from Nanyang Primary School and members of the Henderson Senior Activity Centre, when they sang Teresa Teng’s Tian Mi Mi, was a quaint moment too; as was the rendition of Silent Night.

The skits could have been a little perkier though. Not that they weren’t funny, but they somehow lacked the verve and punchy humour that we’ve come to love about Dream Academy’s comedy productions. There were some moments that really lived up to the Crazy Christmas tag: The Broadway Beng retelling of The Nutcracker bordered on hilarious (although looking around, those who didn’t understand the Hokkien nuances didn’t quite get why others were tearing with laughter).

While the Star Wars segment was funny enough (the killer punchline belonging to Darth Vader), it didn’t match up to some of the other sequences in the show. And Kumar’s running gag as the groundnut-stealing elf could have had a tighter arc, and he was a little underutilised.

Still, it was a night of fun and you didn’t feel the minutes ticking by. Of course, the mark of a good show is how much the audience takes away from the performance. Going by the queue for photos and merchandise after the show, and the fact that there were people humming Christmas carols as we left, you could say this was, to paraphrase Burt Ives (or Michael Buble, for those not born in the 20th century), a holly jolly Christmas show.

Crazy Christmas: A groundNUTCRACKER runs until Dec 19 at the Esplanade Theatre. Tickets from SISTIC.

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