Arts Comedy Review Singapore Theatre

★★★★★ Review: Dim Sum Dollies – Still Steam by Dream Academy

No holds barred production in an all-out performance from these Singapore icons.

Ever since they first performed at the Esplanade in 2002, Dream Academy’s Dim Sum Dollies have established themselves as three of Singapore’s most recognizable icons in the local theatre scene. Not only have they dazzled countless audience members over the years with big sets and glitzy costumes, but also daring to address pertinent local issues through laugh out loud sketches and catchy numbers.

20 years on, the Dollies prove that they’re as fresh as ever, with their new show and triumphant return to the stage in Dim Sum Dollies: Still Steam. Co-written by all three Dollies – Selena Tan, Jo Tan and Pam Oei, this edition sees them playing women of all shapes and sizes, from cheeky schoolgirls to iron lady politicians, Disney princesses to literal goddesses, making Still Steam a celebratory show that brings together both the Dollies’ greatest hits and some brand new material that makes for a wild ride.

Directed by Glen Goei, as a no-holds barred cabaret show, Dream Academy goes all out to bring big production value and pull out all the stops for Still Steam. Introduced as primordial beings that have been around since the dawn of time, the Dollies make a grand entrance as images of the Big Bang and birth of the universe swirl on the digital screens behind them. Emerging in bright glittering mermaid-themed gowns and massive headpieces, their appearance commands our attention, the audience breaking into applause as if reunited with old friends after a long absence.

All three Dim Sum Dollies are talented, and lean into their strong group dynamic and chemistry across the various sketches and scenes. Selena and Pam, as the OG Dollies, still carry a flair for performance and exuberant energy that catapulted the Dollies into the peoples’ hearts in the first place, while Jo, who was not part of the original trio, has found her place and capitalises on her strengths as she showcases good onstage chemistry with Pam and Selena, and manages to make her performances uniquely her own. All three seem perfectly comfortable onstage, confident and brimming with pride, and whether in their solo verses or singing a chorus together, their voices soar.

Throughout the show, the laughs and humour keep on coming. Some of the stronger pieces include one where moon goddess Chang’e recruits her clients into joining her shady ‘beauty elixir’ pyramid scheme, while elsewhere, the Dollies play schoolgirls having a good laugh over ‘adult’ objects found in their parents’ rooms. At one point, the Dollies even become Chinese athletes in Singapore, with questionable but hilarious accents as they mangle the pledge and even engage in an impressive choreographed number that involves all six ‘Loh-Mai-Guy’ backup dancers when forced to train on the MRT.

Amidst these scenes, beloved Dollies ‘Chopstick’ Hossan Leong is always there to support the performances. Already in the opening montage, he performs in drag as a series of women across history, from the first woman Eve to Mrs Lee Kuan Yew, and maintains his high energy and sense of joy in every scene he appears in. At one point Hossan takes on the role of a naughty convent girl punished by Irish nuns, or conducts therapy for Disney princesses dissatisfied with their happy endings. Hossan even gets to show off his abilities on the piano when he plays Chang’e’s Jade Rabbit, entertaining us with a medley of instrumental covers and jokes while the Dollies get into costume, while also showing he can hold his own when he performs dance numbers with the Loh-Mai-Guys.

The stand out and highlight of Still Steam is an irreverent, surreal ‘Women on Top’ conference, with the Dollies parodying three (in)famous Asian female politicians, gathered together in a single event and ripe for political satire of these famous women clashing with each other. This naturally segues from powerful women into their vulnerabilities, as the Dollies play senior SIA stewardesses, mourning the toll age has taken on their bodies. Yet the sketch ends on a hopeful note, as they pride themselves on experience instead, and perform their riff on the classic song ‘You’re A Great Way To Fly (Singapore Girl)’. It’s a strong final message for a show that’s all about proving how women are worth celebrating, and how the Dollies are still superstars after all these years, cementing them as undeniable icons of local culture.

Together, from Frederick Lee’s larger-than-life costumes to Ashley Lim’s wigs reaching to the heavens, Elaine Chan’s music direction and compositions and Flex Chew’s bombastic multimedia design, Reuben Ong’s illuminating lights to Wong Chee Wai’s set, Dream Academy’s Dim Sum Dollies: Still Steam is a labour of love that spares no expense at producing a show to remember. In its final mashup of famous chart-topping songs by women, from Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ to Whitney Houston’s ‘I’m Every Woman’, and finally ending it off with Sister Sledge’s ‘We Are Family’, there is an undeniable sense of triumphant joy and achievement that fills the theatre, and without a doubt, makes it clear why these women are still one of Dream Academy’s best after all these years.

Photos courtesy of Dream Academy

Dim Sum Dollies: Still Steam runs from 26th August to 10th September 2022 at Capitol Theatre. Tickets available from BookMyShow

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