Being a TV/movie/theatre star, Caleb Goh has played many parts since returning from his 11-year work stint in the States last June. He's played a 16 year-old student, a WWII Japanese soldier, a glamorous drag artist, and an overbearing father, just to name a few. This time however, he takes on a totally different role: He is the director of LaSalle College of the Arts (LaSalle) Musical Theatre's production of ‘Lucky Stiff’.
“I have directed several productions before, but this is my directing debut since returning to Singapore,” muses an eloquent Goh. “The process has been very, very exciting. The show itself is wonderful, as are the performers I'm working with.”
Based on the 1983 novel ‘The Man Who Broke the Bank’, the musical ‘Lucky Stiff’ which opens on 18 September,is a dark comedy about Harry, an unassuming clerk given a chance at the lavish life when a hitherto unknown uncle Anthony leaves him six million dollars in his will – provided Harry takes his corpse on a vacation to Monte Carlo to experience a detailed list of holiday activities. During the holiday, all manner of shady characters come out of the woodwork to thwart Harry and claim the money for themselves, eventually revealing how uncle Anthony died in the first place.
A MISH-MASH OF GENRES
A mish-mash of several challenging genres including comedy, musical theatre and whodunnits, this ambitious award-winning script and is arguably not the easiest piece to perform, especially for the student actors who star in Goh's production. Yet when asked if he is at all stressed, Goh replies with a surprised, “No.”
“I treat my cast here exactly as if they were working professionals,” said Goh, a lecturer/academic at LaSalle Musical Theatre, who is perhaps the only Master’s degree holder in musical theatre in Singapore and who is in the process of getting his doctorate in the same genre. “As a director you focus on what the piece needs, not who is in it.”
“And I have to say, this product is stellar because the students are so good. They are the graduating batch of LaSalle's musical theatre programme, the future Mina Kayes, the Linden Furnells, the Seong Hui Xuans,” he said, recalling programme alumni who have gone on to win awards and/or acclaim almost immediately after graduating.
A 'TYPE-A' DIRECTOR
“Also, I'm such a type-A director. I know exactly what I want from the show after planning and researching everything to a 'T'. ‘Lucky Stiff’may be a mix of genres, almost a comedic film noir, but I'm shaping the show so that it’s a love story at the root of everything, where two people defy all odds to come together.”
Goh is one of the few Singaporean directors that the multicultural Musical Theatre Program is exposed to, with other teacher/directors in the department being mostly from Australia or Europe. However, this doesn't mean he sees a need to create awkward localisations of the Western repertoire the international students generally study and perform.
“I'm honoured to be a rare Singaporean musical theatre director, but again, I direct according to what the piece requires, instead of forcing some kind of cultural stamp onto a work. Once rehearsals begin, I don't view myself as a Singaporean or American-influenced director, just hopefully a nurturing one.”
It’s a different story for Goh’s next LaSalle Musical Theatre production: ‘Singapore 60s’, which showcases songs from the legendary local artists that shook up Singapore’s music scene in the 1960s, including Naomi & The Boys, Veronica Young and the Crescendos. “I am passionate about celebrating local talent, and since we’re going into SG50 next year, LaSalle will be taking the chance to turn the spotlight onto Singapore,” he said gleefully.
Developing the Singapore scene is also one big reason why Goh loves working with students. “I am thankful for my teaching position at LaSalle where I get to nurture my talented students, and watch them blossom and grow. I’ve thrown them into ‘Lucky Stiff’, where I've seen them unlock even more parts of themselves, their comic timing. They know exactly what the show needs and give it to the audience, from motivation to humour, to romance. These young people have proven themselves super talented, and deserve wonderful careers in Singapore and beyond.”
Lucky Stiff | Date: 18-20 Sep | Time: 8pm (Thu-Sat), 2pm (Sat) | Venue: Creative Cube | Address: Lasalle College of The Arts, 1 McNally Street | Free; register on https://luckystiff.peatix.com/