Last night, C, her friend CT and I watched possibly the funniest and most enjoyable (comedy) production I’ve seen all year, Chestnuts Does Christmas: Like a Hard Candy Virgin. It was uproariously hilarious, naughty, with wicked and spot-on impressions of characters, including some of Singapore’s most infamous ones this year (think leopard preens). I was literally alternating between grabbing my sides and trying to stifle my guffaws the whole time.
Here’s the interview Youth.Sg did with the director and principal actor, Jonathan Lim:
Youth.SG: It’s been an exciting year for STAGES—Dark Knuts: Welcome to Avenue Quantum, H is for Hantu and now Chestnuts Does Christmas: Like a Hard Candy Virgin. How do you see 2010 for STAGES?
Jonathan: It’ll be a challenging year. We hope to consolidate some of the successful explorations of 2009. Broadway 4 Suakus was such a hit that we really want to bring it back again. And H is for Hantu is something we’re really proud of and we want to share it with more people! On top of all that, we really hope to develop some new writing—I have a few small but impactful projects I want to write and direct for next year—but it’s still hush-hush for now.
Can you remember the first ever Chestnuts staged at Jubilee Hall? How is it different from the current production?
It’ll take a whole essay to answer this question! But most significantly, the level of sophistication of the humour has grown a lot since 1996! The audience has been exposed to so much more and is now savvier, and we have grown too. The material is so much bolder today—sexually and politically—we would never have dared write like this back then!
Technically Chestnuts has truly advanced too—in projection, lighting, sound design, sound engineering, costuming etc—to keep up with the higher-level spoofs we’re doing these days. BUT some of the sketches in this year’s Xmas show deliberately hark back to the old days, when it was just two men onstage with a live piano. There was something pure and liberating about those simple sketches! So we’re glad to offer you a taste of those! And the live accompaniment—we haven’t had that since the 90s and its great to have Julian Wong recreate the magic of early Chestnuts with us!
And Jubilee Hall being such a cosy venue, we used to interact a lot more with the audience – and we are definitely taking advantage of that again this time! Get ready to get involved!
What would you say is the highlight for Chestnuts Does Christmas: Like a Hard Candy Virgin?
Ooh so many! Depends on your taste, I guess! For some it will no doubt be the Nativity Play told through Madonna songs. Others will die laughing at this year’s Pondan News Asia, where a certain dethroned beauty queen will teach the audience to sing a song! Yet others will adore the china girls who don’t speak any English (last seen working in the sex shop) but who have landed a job in a posh restaurant for Xmas! There’s so much madcap xmassy nonsense this year—it should tickle everyone differently!
My personal soft spot is for our Christmas Carol spoof. It was first written and performed for the 1996 show and I’ve totally revamped it and updated it! And ooh, there’s a singalong segment for the audience that, the last time we did it for an Christmas show, really had the audience jellified with laughter! Watch out! This year, we also celebrate sheer quantity. There are three of us plus 13 guests! That’s the biggest Chestnuts cast ever—and they’re all fellow actors who love the show and were so eager to come play with us!
What would you like the veteran Chestnuts viewers and first time viewers to take away respectively?
Veterans will probably enjoy some of the moments that hark back to the earlier Chestnuts days – in particular the unique two-man dynamics we had between Sean Yeo and I, and later Hossan and I. Our Christmas Carol spoof will revive that 2-man dynamic, with Tan Shouchen playing Scrooge and me playing all the other characters, living and dead!
Newer fans will be in for a real treat too. If you thought Chestnuts could only spoof movies and media stuff, you’ll be surprised.
In many ways, this year’s show is a departure from our usual Chestnuts style. But we hope ALL audiences will walk away with the same feeling that we get each time we’ve been rehearsing with our guests—that Christmas is truly a time to celebrate friendship and spread joy.
From the title, can we expect an elaborate spoof of our beloved Queen of Pop?
Of course she makes her appearance! We’ve long been fascinated by the correlations between the Virgin Mary and the Like a Virgin Madonna—so we’ve created a musical sketch that really indulges that fantasy to the max! Guest-starring [are] Joakim Gomez as the Angel Gabriel and Suria’s Hatta Said as one of the 3 Wise Men! (So brush up on your Madonna hits, both old and new!)
So… why should people go watch Chestnuts Does Christmas: Like a Hard Candy Virgin?
Because if not, three ghosts will visit you, the Ghosts of Chestnuts Past, Present and Yet-To-Come. And when they do, not even SISTIC can save you then….