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Sing’theatre’s A Spoonful of Sherman: An Interview with Sing’theatre Artistic Director Nathalie Ribette

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Sing’theatre has been around for a long time – since 2007 in fact, and each year, they’ve only been upping their game with bigger production value, better performances and always with heart. “Sing’theatre usually produces musical theatre, or performances with music, such as Souvenir last year,” says Sing’theatre Artistic Director Nathalie Ribette. “It’s always been a part of our ethos since our very beginning, and we’ve been growing in scope ever since.”

This November, they’ll be presenting Robert J. Sherman’s A Spoonful of Sherman in its Asian premiere, featuring some of our most prominent local performers as they sing the Sherman brothers’ greatest hits. Watch as Aaron Khaled, George Chan, Hossan Leong, Mina Ellen Kaye, Vanessa Kee and more sing all your favourite tunes, with music from films such as Disney classics Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book and The Aristocats. Songwriting geniuses? You bet.

On why they decided on this particular show, Nathalie explains: “We brought in A Spoonful of Sherman because it’s really such an accessible show, and it’s a feel good show for just about everyone. It’s aimed at all ages, so we’re staging it in November so we can get entire families to come down during the school holidays, and we can only hope it sells well. It hasn’t always been easy to balance good quality shows with marketability, like how Molière et moi last year was very good but very niche, and when we did a not so French show like Forever Young we ended up with a sold out run.”

A Spoonful of Sherman, as Nathalie elaborates, is a complex and demanding show that requires our performers to be able to act, sing and dance, and really shows off the triple threats of our theatre scene. “It’s the kind of show that’s good not just for the people familiar with the songs, but for those who really appreciate the technicalities and rigour of the performance,” she adds. “The story is pretty thin, but it’s really just a way to link the songs with each other – and these are such beautiful songs.”

In line with Sing’theatre’s secondary goals of showcasing young talent, Nathalie highlights A Spoonful of Sherman’s director TJ Taylor, who makes his directorial debut with this show, and is also Sing’theatre’s associate artistic director. “I’m very happy to give him this chance because I do trust him, with all the work he’s done with us so far,” says Nathalie. “It’s the perfect show for him simply because he really understands musical theatre, and can sing and dance well. We’re hoping to really use this opportunity to groom him.”

Speaking on their casting, most of the performers had previously worked with Sing’theatre in shows, with Hossan Leong in particular being one of their most frequent collaborator. But one cast member in particular stands out for Nathalie: “In terms of talent, we needed one cast member who could also play piano. Dancing and singing are one thing, but add piano to that and it becomes really hard to find. And then Aaron Khaled came along! It turns out playing the piano actually might be his best skill, and he’s one of those talents I sincerely think will be the next big thing.”

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Nathalie Ribette

Beyond simply staging productions, Sing’theatre has been making the move to give back to the community, with them having introduced the annual MusicFest@SGH  since 2013, bringing music to hospitals with their performers to cheer up and entertain the patients. Adds Nathalie: “We’ve also introduced the academy, Singapore’s only dedicated musical theatre academy and we’ve got maybe 200 students now, conducting classes and workshops, and even this monthly open mic session where people can just come up, sing their favourite numbers, and we even have a pianist to accompany them!”

“Funding can be difficult at times,” says Nathalie, reflecting on the similar challenge SIng’theatre faces within the local arts scene, “and a lot of the time productions are risky because we don’t know how they’ll be received. We definitely don’t have the budget to do big works like The Lion King, so we’re always looking for smaller, alternative works to do. We do plan ahead, but we have that flexibility of not having to book a venue a year in advance and we can adjust for each production we stage depending on our capabilities.”

As for what we can expect post-A Spoonful of Sherman, Nathalie says: “In the coming months, we’re excited to reveal more of our season, like the return of A Singaporean in Paris next year, which marks its 10th anniversary since it premiered in 2010. Unlike some of the local theatre companies, we don’t really focus on social issues and rarely do local works. But what we do do is musical theatre well, and that’s something we want to showcase with all of our productions and in all that we do.”

A Spoonful of Sherman plays from 20th to 30th November 2019 at the SOTA Drama Theatre. Tickets available from SISTIC

 

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