Ge Tai, known as 歌台 in Chinese, is commonly known in Singapore as a stage event that occurs usually around the 7th month of the lunar calendar, which is also during the Hungry Ghost Festival. This is a period where you would see heartland estates come to life as numerous stages are erected around the entire Singapore, sending audiences here into a musical frenzy. What comes to mind is often loud-booming oldies and even remixed pop medleys performed by singers decked in glitzy costumes, leather boots or high heels, all amidst psychedelic stage lights and dizzying stage effects.
Now picture that scene in an indoor theatre setting, and what you get is a show like Ge Tai – The Musical, Resorts World Sentosa’s first ever Chinese production led by director Jalyn Han (韩雪卿), in partnership with local renowned script writer Jonathan Lim (林志坚). Apart from the all-too-familiar oldies, expect titles from Xin Yao (新谣) veteran and song writer Jiu Jian (玖健), who composed three brand new songs just for the musical.
Prior to watching the show at RWS, I was piqued by the idea of putting an entire ‘Ge Tai’ into an air-conditioned theatre with rows of comfy seats and dimmed lights. My most recent brush with the musical genre had to be during the Ge Tai Challenge (歌台星力量) when it was aired in MediaCorp’s Channel 8 a few months back. I was pleased to note that there was a revival of the getai genre, much loved from the older folks since the 70s and 80s. Royston Tan’s 881 was a splendid experiment on how getai could be infused into the film genre, and it worked. I was a huge fan. I thought the 881 musical spin-off by Toy Factory Singapore quenched my thirst for the genre further as well.
When I attended the Gala showing of Ge Tai – The Musical at RWS, I was a bit disappointed. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the stage setups – a getai “stage” on the RWS theatre stage looked like it was lifted right off from a neighbourhood grass patch. To me, that came as a visual treat as it looked like the ‘real deal’. Not to mention the ‘open-air carparks’ and ‘basketball court’, which were fantastically portrayed. In fact, the stage sets are on point. And when you have veteran singers like Hao Hao, who plays Shen Yi Fei, a getai celebrity in his own right from out of town, and also Desmond Ng, winner of Ge Tai Challenge, who plays manager Liu Zheng Wen, nothing could go wrong, right?
It is no doubt that the energy levels on stage are high. Seasoned performers like Chriz Tong, Teresa and Tracy Ong help serenade the crowd with their melodious voices and colourful dresses, alongside marvellous dance acts put up by other dancers. However, although the aesthetics are well played, the story itself lacks development and somehow, the transitions (between past and present in the different acts) do not work as well.
One of the main attractions of the show is also to catch getai veterans in concert. Weekly special appearances will be made by Zhuan Xue Zhong (庄学忠), Sakura Teng (樱花), Yang Xiao Ping (杨小萍), Zhang Di (张帝), Cai Qiu Feng (蔡秋凤) and Qing Shan (青山).
I was at the opening night, and I managed to see Zhuang Xue Zhong, a name not unfamiliar to me as I recall my folks listening to his songs in the past. On that night, he did a few songs on stage. However, I had to say that the guest performing act felt incongruous to the entire plot. It looked like he was having a separate private concert of his own, with nothing to do with the main story at all. There was little connection to the audience and we were not moved, literally.
Perhaps if you are a diehard fan of getai, you could still catch this. After all, familiar classics like Cupid (爱神), Passionate Desert (热情的沙漠) and Hokkien crowd-favourite Fight to Win (爱拼才会赢) do strive to teleport you back to the 80s, along with the main leads.
For me though, I would still prefer an outdoor atmosphere soaked in greenery and the standing audience’s cheers, even if it means fanning myself throughout the entire getai session. But of course, if watching in a theatre setting sounds interesting to you, you could always try on a new experience. Who knows, it could be a nice prelude to what is to come in a few months’ time!
Ge Tai – The Musical, is now showing at Resorts World Sentosa theatre till 29 May 2016. Tickets are priced at S$38, S$48, S$68, S$88 and S$98. For more information, visit http://www.sistic.com.sg.