By Joan Ang (17A01B) and Serafina Siow (17A13A)
Photos by Raffles Photographic Society
The Broadway Babies are nothing short of a miracle — having started out as a small Lit Night act of approximately 10 members, they have grown tremendously into a full musical troupe complete with ensemble and live orchestra, with over 40 members.
It is definitely no surprise, then, that their flagship production, No Day But Today, drew crowds of people to witness their pure talent and sold out three shows. The audience’s time was well-spent — this labour of love was excellent all around, showcasing both gorgeous singing and gorgeous production. Each Broadway tune was given a fresh twist, combining unique settings with familiar melodies. With a mix of ensemble pieces and solo acts, as well as a phenomenal live orchestra, the performances were absolutely stunning.
One of the most striking pieces by far was Cell Block Tango, from the musical Chicago. Unlike in the original, the six merry murderesses of the Cook County Jail were swapped out for a mix of male and female vocalists, but they told their cruel tales with no less fervour, traversing the set with stomps that shook the grounds of the TSD and adding flavour to the emotionally charged song.
What perhaps was the most notable adaptation, however, was the translation of the Hungarian character’s (Hunyak) dialogue into Mandarin Chinese, with Zheng Yaxuan (17S07A) taking the role instead. This made it significantly easier for the audience to understand and appreciate — localising the segment, which would otherwise have been unfamiliar to them.
Rent’s crowd-pleasing number, La Vie Boheme, was also a standout piece of the night, as the entire cast ran onto stage shouting and cheering, pulling two tables to centre stage. What may have surprised the audience, however, was that the act began with a rap rather than the accustomed melody — as Isabelle Yang (17S03B) began to rap part of Aaron Burr, Sir from Hamilton, and Marcus Devakishan (17S06Q) beatboxed.
The fun was cut short when Choo Ian Kang (17A13A), and one of the creative directors of the show, cameoed by striding in to deliver an eviction notice for “rowdiness”. Jeers from the ensemble ensued, which cued the orchestra to begin to play the opening chords of La Vie Boheme itself. The pure exuberance of the cast was contagious, pairing perfectly timed choreography with vocal precision.
Another particularly comedic piece was Company’s Little Things We Do Together, which featured Tan Xin Hwee (17A13A) and Izzul Irfan (17A01E) tussling with each other using martial arts moves, as a mortified Isabelle watched from the sidelines. The song itself was led by Saw Man Lin (17S06G) during freezes in the skit, and her vocals were almost effortlessly smooth. Man Lin’s deadpan performance throughout the skit, made the audience roar with laughter, and maintained the rich energy of the previous acts.
Ensemble numbers aside, the solo acts were also top-notch, both as vocalists and performers. Broadway acts are renowned not just for their high energy, showstopping numbers, but their incredible technical difficulty to master as well. Every soloist, however, performed their pieces with finesse — no mean feat, especially given their youth.
One of the most sensitive performances throughout the entire revue was the iconic On My Own from Les Miserables, performed by Kavya Sundar (17S03D). Exploring the pain of loving someone who would never love her back, Kavya’s solo was haunting. Every note was laced with heartbreaking emotion. For Kavya, “it was exhilarating, terrifying, painful and beautiful all at once.”
While the cast was mostly composed of Year 6s, the junior batch was not left out. Tara Teo (18A01E) and Timothy Chin (18S03B) performed a duet piece, the Oscar award-winning City of Stars from the musical film, La La Land. Here was yet another example of the sheer creativity of the production team: the song was reimagined in an airport, where a chance meeting between a businessman hurrying away on a flight and a waitress took place in a dream sequence.
Although the two actors had little experience with Broadway prior to No Day But Today this did not hold them back from their best efforts. Simple choreography accompanied their singing, making their chemistry both charming and engaging.
However, as the actors themselves acknowledged, it was not completely natural. Their first meetings had been incredibly awkward. Nevertheless the final product did not seem to reflect this initial nervousness at all, with audience member Jeanne Tan (17A01B) even remarking that they were “better than the original.”
The final solo act was a stunning performance of She Used To Be Mine from Waitress by Su Ying (17A01B). A song about a lost sense of self, the raw emotion that was conveyed through Su Ying’s dulcet tones brought a tear to many an audience member’s eye, including the two sitting behind one of our reporters. The song was bittersweet: a fitting end to the official set list of the production.
The sheer talent and skill of both cast and crew had made itself clear to the audience, and the colossal effort invested into the production had clearly paid off. The most memorable part of the entire experience were the short clips shown between performances, detailing the journey of the Broadway Babies.
As cast and crew members recounted their experiences joining the production, as well as their histories acting in previous musical productions in their secondary school days, one could not help but be proud of the group, and how far they had come. One particularly noteworthy anecdote was from MR Dramafeste 2014, where Marc Tham (17A03A) crossdressed as “Princess Beauty” in a musical directed by Choo Ian Kang (17A13A) and Samuel Ho (17A13A). “Ian Kang braided my hair,” Marc recalled, as both Samuel and Ian Kang burst out laughing.
Despite the hijinks of the ensemble members, their devotion to their art was admirable. Tan Xin Hwee (17A13A), Jessica Wong (17S03B) and Vicki Ong (17S03F) recalled the difficulties of their piece, Hamilton’s The Schuyler Sisters. “At each harmony, we would be singing three different things!” Xin Hwee exclaimed. There was a clear sense of camaraderie between the three, and among the rest of the cast as well: over the course of the production, they had become one big family.
After the curtain call, the entire cast began a round of Seasons of Love from Rent — one of the first songs that the Broadway Babies had performed at Lit Night, bringing it back to where they had first begun.
Quoth Isabelle, the creative director of the entire revue, “my feelings towards the cast and crew are basically just immense gratitude because I never even thought putting up something like this would be possible. I’ve said it so many times but I’ll say it again — they’ve made my dreams come true.”
In particular, she thanked the core production team (Ian Kang, Samuel, Alison Tan (17A13A), Mahirah Abdul Latiff (17S03B) and herself) for forming the backbone of the “crazy” production, as well as the orchestra, whom she deemed “extremely talented” and “gave her reassurance that the music would be absolutely amazing”. “I am supremely humbled by working with all of them,” Isabelle said.
From its fledgling days of singing Broadway tunes to the sky at Raja block to the final harried rehearsals, the entire production had been almost surreal. What the Broadway Babies have proved, nonetheless, is that with enough determination and passion, to chase your dreams, there is no better day but today.