Arts Concert Music Preview

Setting Their Sights: An Interview with star Mina Kaye, producer Derrick Chew, and musical director Joanne Ho on ‘Mina Kaye – Live In Concert’

Mina Kaye is without a doubt, one of the most talented local performers around. Blessed with a voice that matches the quality of some of the most renowned songstresses in history, the actress has just come off a successful run of End of The Rainbow as Judy Garland, but her star power just keeps rising. Next week, she’ll be headlining her very own one-night only concert.

“It’s quite surreal that I’m doing this show so quickly after End of the Rainbow,” says Mina. “Sure, there’s a demand for live music because of how the pandemic kept everyone indoors, but I always wondered why people would come see me. After all, I’m just a humble actor, and I always thought you’d need a certain following or level of fame to really have a successful concert.”

She’s being humble of course. But if this wasn’t her idea, then whose was it? None other than Derrick Chew of Sight Lines Entertainment, who is directing and producing the concert as part of the company’s 10th anniversary.

“It just felt right to hold a concert like this in a post-pandemic season, and with it been 8 years since she last did a solo concert, I’ve been bugging Mina to do it again,” says Derrick, who also produced her last solo concert, The Mina Kaye Show, back in 2014. “We started to explore the idea, I called up a bunch of theatres for availability, and the stars aligned with the Drama Centre Theatre being freed up for a Friday night. Once we sort out scheduling and venues, then all that’s left is to market it to the masses.”

Over the course of the evening, Mina will be performing show-stopping ballads, toe-tapping musical tunes and diva impersonations, recalling acclaimed roles in local musicals such as RENT, Into the Woods, Company and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, and more. Mina will also be joined by guest performers Seong Hui Xuan, Vanessa Kee, Tiara Yap, and Honey Gluttony.

“The repertoire and the work is quite varied, and the concert will show how much growth Mina has had, going from a 400-seater cabaret setting in a bar in 2014, to a 600-seater at the Drama Centre Theatre, and marks the biggest venue where Sight Lines would have a staged a show yet,” says Derrick. “We’re taking it one step at time, and if all goes well, she might be able to play to even bigger audiences in future. For now, the focus is on enjoying the process, and ending the year on a fun project like this.”

Mina Kaye: Live In Concert is more than just fun though, and represents a milestone for both Mina and Sight Lines Entertainment. “At its heart it’s still a celebration, but we also want to consider what it means for the company in future,” explains Derrick. “When Sight Lines started in 2012, we did a production of Jean Tay’s Boom, as well as a musical revue, Trainstopping. Now, we’re going to be premiering the film version of Boom at the Singapore International Film Festival, and the concert, which is like a revue, this November. It’s a milestone, and we’re also thinking about how we’ll continue developing the educational and training side of our company in the years to come as well.”

Is it possible then, that we’re sleeping on a whole lot more Mina Kayes among us, if only they got more exposure and opportunity to develop their latent talent? “There are so many people who want to pursue musical theatre but have never had a chance to train, and even three years in an institution isn’t enough,” says Joanne Ho, Musical Director of Mina Kaye: Live In Concert. “We do have a lot of raw talent in Singapore, but it needs to be shaped. I always get very sad because they have so much potential, but they simply don’t have the time and space to get as much training as they possibly can compared to other countries.”

Mina Kaye in promotional images for Pangdemonium’s End of the Rainbow

What Sight Lines hopes then is that their future programmes will also include more well-rounded training, and skills-based courses that help fill the gap local arts institutions do not. “As a producer, I feel it is so important to empower our artists and provide a stage, and whenever people see Mina sing in a show, people always ask why isn’t she doing more?” says Derrick. “So in a way, the concert is my way of putting her out there again.”

“One of the most important things about the concert is that Mina will be telling stories in between numbers, and explain the reason she chose certain songs and what they mean to her,” says Joanne. “When a performer connects with the material, it helps them connect to the audience because it’s clear how much it means to them, and in turn also helps myself and the band to bring out those emotions in the music.”

“The key to a good concert is to communicate well with your audience and bridging that gap, and all the songs I’ve chosen have meaning, either having sung them before or it means something special to me,” explains Mina. “It’s a rare chance for me to be vulnerable and the way I’ll be doing it is talking about my background and my journey in the musical theatre world, with the ups and downs of how to get through certain obstacles. In a way it’s like a mentoring session that I do with my students, except on the big stage.”

As much as Mina is headlining the concert, it is ultimately a shared effort that hinges on the entire team. Lucky for her, the people she’s working with happen to all be some of her closest friends who she’s known for ages. “The friendship between us is so important. I tell Mina and (Seong) Hui Xuan that anytime they need something, please just sound off. Our friendship goes so far back, to the point we were still completely new to the scene, and nothing to do with our careers, but coming from a genuine place of connection,” says Joanne. “I know theatre is often all about the glamour and lights and applause, but when you strip that away, what’s left? Just the relationships that you have – we are nothing without each other, it is these bonds we go back to at the best and worst of times.”

Even between Derrick and Mina, their friendship stretches back years, which allows her to put so much trust in him once again for this show. “It’s been so amazing to see her grow over the years, and how she remains so humble and real, and that needs to be championed and celebrated,” he says. “In this show, Mina will be touching on themes of love and vulnerability that can only be shared through this platform, to reach out to people who have watched Mina, audiences who saw her work, and from there reach out to even more people to tell her story.”

“I’ve learnt that it takes a village and community to make anything happen, and to survive, it’s all about forming good relationships with other people,” says Mina. “Back in Lasalle, I remember having put up so many walls around me, and the teachers helped me strip them down and made me realise it’s ok to be vulnerable. It’s a harsh industry, and the truth needs to be put out there that everyone is working hard to put on a good show, and we have to go with the flow, as we continue to entertain the crowd, while connecting with them.”

“I don’t see my ability as something out of the ordinary, so when people put you on a pedestal, it surprises me. I tend to just go with the flow, and my thanks really lies with people like Derrick and Joanne who believe me and support me, and if they didn’t suggest this, I wouldn’t be doing this at all!” Mina concludes. “In all honesty, I do feel I’ve been acknowledged many times already, and I don’t ever seek validation or fame. You can’t chase that, or you’re going to have the wrong intention. What you should be doing instead is to do it because you love doing it, and that joy will naturally spread to other people if you enjoy what you do.”

Mina Kaye: Live In Concert plays on 18th November 2022 at the Drama Centre Theatre. Tickets available from SISTIC

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