The Goosebump Review of The Hossan Leong Show
I didn’t expect to get goosebumps watching something as frivolous as Dream Academy’s new production. But I did. One instance.
It was during a showdown between “Mariah Carey” and “Whitney Houston” (Chua Enlai and Hossan, respectively).
Not that they were bad singers. I’m guessing it had something to do with frequencies burrowing its way into my psyche… just as I was about to fall asleep.
I tried to like this show. It was, after all, the second straight stage production I had watched that used the theatre set-up to explore another format.
If These Children Are Dead (see previous post) was supposed to be an exhibition lecture, The Hossan Leong Show was a TV variety-cum-talkshow – done “live”.
It’s not something you can do on Singapore TV, the hosts quipped. And for the most part, the show’s novelty was promising.
Hand clappers were distributed, co-hosts Chua, Karen Tan and Celine Rosa Tan came up onstage to prep the crowd, prizes were given out to and a fashion make-over was done to audience members, and there were “commercials” in-between segments.
The show itself faithfully followed the talk show format with its Top 10 Lists segment, a “backstage tour” and a charmingly eager-beaver musical sidekick in Japanese DJ Shigeki Ito – who, with his “Afro” `do, was more Questlove to Jimmy Fallon than Paul Shaffer to David Letterman.
Unfortunately, Leong was no Letterman. He was more jittery and shrill than suave and composed. The kind of host that’s perfect for a variety game show but not for an evening one.
To be fair, no one looks for consistency in a talk show, so it really didn’t matter that it bounced from one topic to another – reminiscing about the good ol’ days of black and white TV and dressing up as Wonder Woman to a funny (and equally troubling) segment where Leong finds out if Singaporeans knew their Pledge and their many Ministers.
I’ve seen this thing done before in a recent exhibition, but it’s still as troubling how many people can’t distinguish between their SMs and MMs and PMs.
But overall, there was little satisfaction in watching the whole thing.
As entertainment fare, the show’s steam runs out midway through. The initially interesting idea of excessively dishing out product placements left and right becomes downright irritating (Yes, definitely not something you can do on TV anywhere).
And then, there are the gags.
I was joking with my colleague that if I heard another Mas Selamat quip in a play, I’d readily commit the worst possible sin a theatergoer could do – and whip out my handphone and SMS him then and there.
Of course, I was too polite for that, but we were right – there was a Mas Selamat joke. And a Little Nyonya one.
A Ris Low joke? Sure. Cracking one on foreign talents? As repetitive as it is, it is an ugly issue that has reared its head once more.
But surely there are other ways to grab your audience’s attention than to bring up another scenario of a limping terrorist or a Peranakan bibi?
And while we’re at it, surely the theatre scene has perfected its act through the years, enough to consider other ways of tickling its audience’s funnybones than say, through Singlish or quips about the press (we already know, lah).
(The Hossan Leong Show runs until Oct 11, 8pm, Drama Centre Theatre. With 3pm weekend matinees. Tickets at $28 to $68 from Sistic.)