You don’t have to be Hokkien to attend Broadway Beng, but it helps. Sebastian Tan as Singapore’s Beng with a capital B is 10. His 10th Anniversary Broadway Beng, produced by the Dream Academy and playing to crowds at the Capitol Theatre until 31 July, is literally Broadway meets Getai. Certainly when it comes to his costumes. From the fabulous Frederick Lee no less.
If you can’t claim to be proud to be Hokkien, don’t scared, big screens on either side of the stage explain it all. Albeit in sometime bizarre English. Such as “Night come smell” for Ye Lai Shan. But what’s not to understand, “I sing song, you ding dong”. Ultimately, Hokkien humour is universal humour, most of us laugh at the same things hor.
Sebastian Tan is a likeable, even lovable, stage presence, and boy, can he sing. From every Broadway musical to every Chinese karaoke kua (song) the Beng can belt it out. With energy, several costume changes, and good-natured humour. He is backed by a versatile strong five-piece band, and a trio of chio bus (babes) you have to applaud for being such troupers.
For a while back there I thought I was at sea in a Royal Caribbean cruise enjoying the nightly show. (Cruise directors, please take note of Sebastian Broadway Beng Tan for your Chinese passengers.)
If there’s a nit to pick, it would be the lack of a unifying factor, it is 90 generous minutes of sing-song, Chinese, English, dialect, jokes, family stories, musical spoofs, all one on top of the other, in hurry-burry fashion. But this does not subtract from the pleasure of the whole.
The Les Miz told and sung in under 10 minutes, and The Lion King’s Circle of Life performed to a “lin lau peh” chorus were inspirationally creative.
The Beng’s still got it, after a decade, and you must catch it.