Saturday, April 07, 2012

Happy in the end

We took our final photos with the witches backdrop and picked out souvenirs. And then we went to pick up our swag, which happened to be an ultra wicked baseball cap with "Wicked" on the front and "VIP" embroidered in green on the back. Caps aren't my thing, but this one's an exception. The black and green design is right up my alley.

After that, we had to coordinate with Rat and J-Sizzle to figure out where we were going to meet up.

"We're at the Sands" Rat messaged. "We walked here from Raffles."

"OK, meet us outside the theatre" I messaged back.

"Where is that? We're under the Flower", Rat said.

"Under the Flower...?" I turned to Yaya quizzically.

"The ArtScience Museum!" we yelled at the same time. And there we found them, J-Sizzle flat out on his back watching the sky, and Rat sitting next to him. They seemed to have had a nice night too.

As it turns out, they really had walked from Raffles to the Sands, the Rat in 3-inch heels and having picked up a blister along the way. But they had also meandered and checked out the sights along the way, which to me seemed like a great way to pass the night as they waited for us. We decided to head back to the hotel (by cab - no walking!) and get into something more comfortable before going out for supper.

We ended up at Clarke Quay, with a table by the river, attempting shots of melted Mars bars and something called a La Cucaracha. The shots were suspiciously ineffectual, up to a point where we began to wonder if there was any alcohol involved even. Then we sat around and talked and talked about topics as eclectic as they could get. Finally deciding that there was no point in pursuing more shots, we cleared up for the night and headed back to the hotel, as happy as clams.

As far as nights go, that was easily up there among my favourites. The music of Wicked has been playing continuously in my head that I'm beginning to wonder if it will ever leave. I'm not even sure I want it to. I have chattered incessantly about it to Monkey, and he has sweetly indulged me. I know I would definitely catch it again at the next chance. And who knows, it might even be at the Gershwin someday. If there's anything to be learned from that time I first painted the witch, it's that nothing's ever quite as out of reach as it seems.

Labels: , ,

Friday, April 06, 2012


There were people everywhere. Programs were being sold and we snapped up one each, with that oh so recognizable two witches on the cover. The bar was right by the stairs that led down to the theatre doors. We had complementary drinks vouchers and decided to hold on till the intermission before getting them. "I don't want to be taking care of a glass of wine during the show" I told Yaya and she agreed. Excitement, I was sure, might cause me to spill some on my really cute white outfit.

We didn't have much time to hang around the foyer, and were soon ushered down the stairs and through, ahem, Door 1. Yaya and I squealed excitedly at each other about that. "Door ONE!!" I looked around, determined to remember every last detail. The orchestra was warming up as we walked in, the familiar muted plinks and hoots, the sound of last minute tunings. Our seats were close to the stage, a few rows behind the orchestra pit, but not too close so that we got quite a good view of everything. Above us was the impressive Dragon Time Clock, a dragon with moving parts made of metal sheets and red glowing eyes. It would come to life 3 times during the show, moving its head from side to side and spewing smoke.

The "curtain" was an old-style brown parchment map of Oz, with the Emerald City at the center, lit by shimmering faerie light from behind. It gave off the feeling that something magical was about to take place. The set around the stage, up the sides and towards the Dragon were made to look like the vines of old trees, twisting and snaking through cogs and wheels. Each side had spiral stairs leading up to towers from which certain scenes would play out.

There was a little time to spare as we waited for the show to begin. I flipped through the program absentmindedly, knowing quite well that I wouldn't be able to absorb anything from it at that moment. There were Royal boxes up on either sides of the theatre for those who wanted an even more VIP sort of treatment (it involved champagne and macaroons). I remembered wanting to get those seats, but they were sold in batches of 4, and since Yaya and I didn't have anyone else in mind to join us, or anyone who wanted to, we went for the next best thing, the Emerald Experience. We were to get great close-up seats in the center, free drinks, and a piece of souvenir. Not a bad deal at all. Now, if only we could relocate those 2 amorous couples in front of us to another location...

The Dragon Time Clock began the show as the opening act boomed to life. The map rolled up, the music hit like a solid wall of sound, the scene was larger than life and very much in my face. "Good news! She's dead!" they cried. I was enthralled, the widest grin ever. Every expression and breathless gasp of the characters was discernible from where we sat. The greenness of the musical's theme was prevalent everywhere, interwoven in clever ways from the subtle green pin stripes on a costume to the hidden green spotlights that flooded the stage. And the sets were layered so well to simulate an extremely 3-dimensional atmosphere. When all the lights came on suddenly during the ballroom scene, there was a collective gasp from the audience at the grandeur of it all.

And so we sat, listening to the story of how the witches of Oz came to be, watching them from their youth to adulthood, the choices that were made that finally left us with the Good Witch of the North, the Wicked Witch of the East and her ruby slippers, the Wicked Witch of the West (the star really, as this was her story), the flying monkeys, the Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodman, and Scarecrow. The Wizard's mask was another impressive piece of mechanical masterpiece. As each piece clicked into place, I couldn't help but marvel at the creativity of the talents behind the production, and their cleverness at being able to give history that made sense to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as was first written by L. Frank Baum, and then prequeled by Gregory Maguire when he told the story of the Wicked Witch in his book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Was she really wicked? Things weren't all they appeared to be.

The most thrilling scene came at the close of Act 1 when the Wicked Witch learned to fly for the first time. As she rose up, singing Defying Gravity, dramatic lighting criss-crossing and wind blowing into her against a pitch black sky, I was glad I wasn't up in the Royal box. The view, I was sure, couldn't be as grand and terrifying from up there as it was from down here. Everyone was craning their necks as she slowly ascended, and as she sang the final note, broke out in a standing ovation for a good minute or more. The lights came up for intermission and people were still clapping surrounded by Dragon smoke. "O-M-G" I mouthed to Yaya. "I've got goosebumps!" she said. "Me too!"

OMG, indeed. We didn't want to leave, even though it was for a 15 minute intermission, but there were free drinks to be had. We had wine, of course, which we took back to our seats. The second act started soon after and we were treated to a final hour of spectacle that matched the first act in all ways, the defining scene for this one being, in my opinion, when the Wicked Witch pronounces herself to be "Wicked". There were many twists and turns to the story, the final one of which a secret was revealed about the Wizard himself. All in all a very emotional, intellectual experience that I was very glad to have had.

I did tip over the empty wine glass in the end, and a drop or two splashed into the folds of my skirts. It took me 2 days get it out, but it didn't matter. It reminded me of that night of adrenaline, having just watched one of the greatest musicals of all time.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, April 05, 2012

One Short Night in the Emerald City

We made the 6:45 deadline, across the hotel lobby which was scattered with other people dressed to the nines. We were going to different events, or probably some even to the same one, it didn't matter. There was excitement in the air. Our cab arrived right on time (it wasn't a Wicked cab though!), and soon we were on our way. The 5 minutes stretched to about 20 as we inched along the front of the Sands, waiting to make our U-turn. Our anticipation turned into slight nerves as we each kept glancing at our watches, hoping this wouldn't take much longer. Yaya had pre-booked our tickets and we had to be early enough to pick them up.

At last we pulled up in front of one of the buildings... was it the right one out of the three? There was no time to tell. The impatient traffic guard was waving the cab along, and we were just about able to quickly pay our driver and tumble out of the cab, trying to escape the wrath of the guard. Then we walked into the building and looked around... was this the right tower?

No, it wasn't. After figuring out we were on the wrong end, and with little time to spare, it was Yaya's turn to stress out as she took great strides towards the other end, my nice leisurely pace, purposeful but carelessly careful, all thrown out the window. Turned into a harried stork, trying to stay upright, I valiantly kept right behind her. Once in a while she would check on me. "Am I too fast?"

it was actually higher than that"Um no, keep going." I was keeping up, and more importantly, so were my awesome shoes. Carefully, carefully, I repeated silently in my head while trying to be useful and help find the theatre at the same time. Then, another funny feeling; the awesome burger was making me feel not so awesome. Not in a bad way, no. More in a I-think-I-ate-too-much kind of way. My belt felt like it was cinching my waist a little too unnaturally much. Never in my life have I had an issue of too-tight anything. If anything I've always actively tried to gain some and it has always, always, been a herculean effort. But of all nights, tonight? Really?

I was glad to note the floor wasn't a slippery marble, that is until we took the escalator up and then there was marble. As I negotiated the path, I was relieved when we almost immediately reached... The Theatre. And from that point on we were treated like the VIPs we had paid to be treated like.
oh yeah!

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

What is this Feeling?

The view from the 51st floor was amazing. The Marina Bay Sands area was just off to the right and it was a sight to say the least. As the others lounged around, glasses in hand, I busied myself unpacking the getup I had planned to wear to the show, including the 5-inch stilettos that were the only pair of shoes I could see myself walking in without killing my feet. Shoes have different abuse capabilities:

1. One type could be the sort that cut into your toes or back of the heels.
2. Another could be the sort that didn't fully support the arches and cause discomfort.
3. The third sort could have inadequate soles with no grip.

There are more, but these are the Big Three. These stilettos however were perfect. There was no cutting, arches were fully supported (despite the height), and there was good grip. I slipped it on immediately to get comfortable as I walked around hanging up outfits and setting out stuff in the bathroom.

Something felt wrong, however. After the fatigue of traveling and train riding in sensible shoes, my legs suddenly felt wobbly in those heels. I stood there worried, wondering how I was going to get to the theatre without taking a spill. This being my first live musical experience, I wanted it to be special, not to be looked back upon with embarrassment. Tripping had become quite the norm in my life lately. I was always almost falling over, getting my feet caught somewhere, and not just when I wore heels, but flats too. I was wearing the flattest flat slippers in Beijing when I almost tripped over walking by the side of a 6-lane highway (it might have been wider). My trippings have been wide and varied and international. I just felt it in my bones that tonight was going to add to my repertoire.

"I need new shoes" I announced, mildly panicked. "Can we get some downstairs? Do we have time?"

I got laughed at, of course. Yaya said soothingly that we most definitely could get shoes - and lunch at the same time. We were due to leave at 6pm for the show. My watched showed it was half 3 at that point. A quick calculation told me we could just about squeeze in both so that there would be time to shower and get dressed.

Down we went to find a restaurant that appealed to all. We ended up at Handburger, having the juiciest one-of-a-kind burgers there was to have, with a side of mushroom not-out-of-a-can soup. The caramelized onions on the patty and toasted with the bun were heavenly. It was just eat, eat, eat, all the way, and then a laze-about for a while as we sat around the table talking idly. Then I glanced at my watch and got into another panicked state; it was already half 5. I didn't know if we had enough time to rush upstairs and do everything we had to do before the cab came for us. Stress!

"We'll leave at 6:45, no problem" Yaya said, quick-solving as she always was.

"Will it be OK?" I asked worried. "I don't want to make us late."

"It's 5 minutes away!" she said with a laugh. Which to me, a non-Singaporean, meant I suddenly had all the time in the world to get ready: breathe sigh of relief.

Of course then we didn't have time to go shopping for sensible shoes. This alarmed me too, but then part of me did not want to wear sensible shoes. This was special. My outfit was special. It had to be special shoes. So I would make it work, I told myself firmly. Even if it meant I was going to look like a giraffe on stilts. Or an evil giraffe. By hook or by crook I was going to make this work. And I had a plan. I was going to walk at a nice leisurely pace, purposeful but carelessly careful at the same time.

As things go, though, we all know that plans and reality are two different things.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Arriving by Bubble

The day arrived, and by this time the traveling party had grown to include Rat and J-Sizzle. We were to meet Yaya at the hotel, and the plan was for Yaya and I to attend the show while Rat and J-Sizzle painted the town red. J-Sizzle had a gig to perform at the day after and so was lugging his precious guitar, Gibs, around the airport. He wasn't keen on checking "her" in; they had never been separated like that before and he had never entrusted her into the care of others. He was unconvinced they would keep her safe. Despite they sealing the case shut with a bold red "FRAGILE" sticker all around, he wasn't convinced. So we walked over to the over-sized baggage drop, me convincing him that she will be alright. He loaded Gibs carefully on the conveyor, and watched her being unloaded at the other end and disappearing into the bright sunlight out of view. I stood a few feet behind, trying to give him as much support as I could. Then we walked back together to where Rat was guarding the rest of our bags.

She stood there, unconcerned about the heart-tugging goodbye scene that had just taken place, legs crossed, busily tapping into her phone. "Are we all done?" she asked clinically, as if we were just another one of her patients. He branded her an emotionless-something and she returned it with a scowl.

As we got in line to scan our carry-on, J-Sizzle whispered to me that he had unwittingly packed a screwdriver and a pair of scissors in his back pack. Would he get caught? Then Rat confided, afraid, that she had bottles of all sizes in her bag. Would they confiscate them?

"Seriously, guys" I said  crossly, "you act as though this is your first foray out of the woods."

As it turns out, J-Sizzle was caught and had to unpack for the officers. They were curious about a bottle in his bag - which turned out to be cologne. So they waved him through. No one detected the weapons.

At Changi, the first thing he did after picking up Gibs was to lay her down on the ground, pulling out the scissors to rip around the "FRAGILE" sticker. Again, Rat who had no invested feelings in this undertaking lost herself in duty free perfumes, while I stood nervously by. I didn't want us being pounced upon for suspicious behaviour. He finally lifted the lid to reveal that Gibs had survived the journey. Both of us breathed a sigh of relief.

Yaya had messaged by this point asking where we were. She wanted to plan the time and place to meet. I told the rest we were traveling by cab, but J-Sizzle wanted to make an adventure out of it and take the MRT. Yaya and Monkey both thought we were crazy. "Do you know how long that's going to take??" they both texted one after the other. "But we're not Singaporeans. Half an hour is really very short to us!" I said. This was the funny thing about Singaporeans; they were used to walkable distances being drivable only and short distances being a very long commute. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but it supports the point I'm trying to make. It's an affectionate quirk of theirs.

We finally met up with her, and she had brilliantly stocked up the room with snacks and serious drinks of spiritual nature. And then something happened.

Labels: , ,

Monday, April 02, 2012

Who Knew

Who knew that when this happened I would someday actually get to watch the real deal? The world of Broadway and West End seemed almost unattainable, at least in the near future then. There was never a doubt that I would actually make it there someday, but it was a matter of how quickly? And when the time came, would Wicked still be playing? So it would figure that as I was drawn to the compelling poster of the two witches, I would naturally be tempted to try my artistic skills. I should say at this point that the words "my" and "artistic skills" in the same sentence is a shining example of what an oxymoron is. The final official pronouncement of my standing in the artistic world was a resounding D. To that, all I can say is, thank goodness it did not add into my aggregate.

Painting in recent years has been a therapeutic escape. I never enjoyed it in the past when there were so many other distractions to be experienced, but the time came for when I needed to draw back and just do things solo for a bit. To my surprise, I found that I could actually make sense with brush strokes and colours, albeit technically imperfectly. I wasn't quite the failure my art teachers had made me out to be. I painted a few things, and out of the meagre lot, the Wicked one was my favourite. I don't know why. Sometimes I scared myself when I walked into the room and felt "something" smirking at me. She had a name; I didn't even know what it was. But she grew on me.

Years later I remember reading a poll from one of Singapore's entertainment channels online asking the public which act should be the next to perform in the island. I don't remember what the other choices were, but I remember reading "Wicked" as one of them. Oh nice, I thought absentmindedly, I would watch that. And then promptly forgot about it. The results were announced and I had no clue. It just wasn't on my radar what with all other crazies happening. Then one day, and I forget how, I knew about it. So Wicked was going to play in Singapore. Again, in true blase fashion, I poked around the ticket prices and told myself that should I attend this, I would pick the biggest, baddest ticket out there. And once again, forgot all about it. I think I was unconsciously still holding out for Broadway or West End.

Then came the year end where some of us headed down to Universal Studios, had a blazingly good time, had dinner with Yaya, and returned home. It had been a sudden and extravagant affair that I did not consider going back to Singapore for a little while after that. I can't even explain how, out of the blue, I sent Yaya a text: "Have u watched Wicked?" and she replied immediately that she had not and there had been no one to go with. "You want!?!" Her excitement was infectious. And I realized that, ooh, I want!!! But still not knowing how much the whole affair was going to add up to, I went on to research the best deal.

"Do you want the Emerald Experience?" I texted her. "It comes with swag."
"Omg !!! I want swag I want swag!!! Let's do it!!!"

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day!

Leap Days always remind me of frogs for obvious reasons. And frogs always remind me of "Green Grow the Rushes O", not the Christianity-affiliated version but rather the Sesame Street one. When our grandmother had returned from a holiday in Perth back in the days when traveling overseas was a Very Big Deal, she brought Rat and I a VHS crammed with Sesame Street episodes that had aired in Oz while she was there.

It wasn't as if we could not get Sesame Street episodes here, but there was a novelty to the fact that we were watching Aussie TV! And the one segment that stood out for the both of us was "Green Grow the Rushes O" that was meant to teach kids to count till 5 forward and backward. Particularly entertaining was the banjo-playing tortoise who sang lead and the chorus of children that sang the titular phrase. Rat and I would take turns being the tortoise or the chorus.

But the funniest bit to us came at the end when the tortoise ends with "One is one and all alone and evermore shall... beeee... soooo", swooping down an entire octave. At this point, Rat and I would both sing the tortoise part, exaggerating the bass voice, then clutch each other and laugh helplessly at the ridiculousness of it all.

We're years and years older now, but all one of us has to do is start with "I'll sing you one, O", before we're transformed back into the giggly kids of our childhood. It's been a while since we sang it. Perhaps tonight, in celebration of Leap Day.