Earlier this month we were pleasantly surprised by a highly competent production of Jean Tay’s Boom by a group of students from Yale-NUS. We thought this was the kind of thing that comes by only every so often, but evidently we were wrong, having proverbial lightning strike twice with Myle Yan Tay and Nathaniel Mah’s new musical tackling office life: Overtime.
Overtime is the rare student musical that feels almost ready for a professional staging, like a good off-Broadway production. As we follow two housemates who’ve taken on divergent paths after art school, the familiar themes of dreams versus practicality emerge as they navigate the perils of the real world and the surprisingly high cost of a steady corporate job. Yan’s story is tightly scripted, commanding just the right amount of gritty realism, legitimately humorous lines and real heart to feel enjoyable throughout.
Adroitly steering away from narrative cliches yet maintaining a compelling narrative, we’re thoroughly impressed by the originality and intelligence with which this was written, whether he’s commenting on the thankless nature of office life or workplace sexual politics. As director, the cast’s actions always feel natural when they need to be, reacting accordingly to each other while almost always interesting to watch. Particularly in musical numbers such as ‘Lay It On Me’ and Act 1 closer ‘I Don’t Date’, the choreography is cheeky and innovative, both Finch and Alex cleverly moving across the set in sharp, well-rehearsed movements.
Speaking of numbers, Nathaniel Mah’s score is expertly composed and wide-ranging, spanning genres from rap (‘Scene One’) to stripped down, acoustic guitar (‘Found’), every song appropriately capturing the mood in their scenes. Mah also often utilizes refrains and reprises like a professional musical composer, and he would do well to continue down a similar path in future with this kind of promise.
Ziyad Bagharib and Chia Yaim Chong are cast appropriately enough as protagonists and roommates Finch and Alex, the ebb and flow of their friendship fun to watch as the play goes on. But it is Ryan Dennis Lim who steals every scene he’s in, be it as the menacing and stereotypical ex-army Boss, or eccentric ‘Artist’ EV. Lim gets his physicality down perfectly in both roles, and brings out his characters to their full comic effect, while shining vocally in his numbers ‘If You Slip’ and ‘Incompetent’. Cora Ceipek as would be romantic interest Angie also capably plays her career-minded female role, an honest to good strong and independent character we’d love to see even more of in theatre.
Professional, emotional and refreshing, Overtime is one of those new works that clearly deserves a life even after this weekend, simply for the chance for more audiences to catch this promising musical. We couldn’t be more glad to have caught a glimpse of what they’re capable of here today, and without a doubt, excited to see how Myle Yan Tay and Nathaniel Mah’s theatre and musical careers proceed from here on out.
Photo Credit: Zac Yeow (Flotography)
Performance attended 18/11/17 (Matinee)