By Juliet Jacobs
She’s done ‘Sepi’ and ‘Fawzia’ and even parodied some Broadway ditties in between. Now Doreen Tang takes on Paris, the Princess that is, in KLPac’s psychedelic “Aladdin – the Pantomime”.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Petaling Jaya, in a close-knit family and studied at various institutions — Methodist Primary, Assunta Secondary, Stamford College and State University of New York in Buffalo. I still live in Petaling Jaya.
What first sparked your love for the performing arts?
I’ve always been mesmerized by musicals — I adore the energy and the excitement.
Do you have a day job?
Kind of. I teach vocals on a private basis, and do voice-overs or corporate gigs sometimes. The hours can be a little odd, sometimes on weekends or at night. So it’s not a 9-to-5 type job.
You’ve been involved in quite a few productions — “M! The Opera” and “Broadway Parodies Lah” just to name a few — what was the experience of working on those like for you?
Each has been different. I guess it’s all been good. We’ve got such a variety of shows available: musicals, plays, pantomimes, hodge-podge; and many themes to choose from – thought-provoking, sad, hilarious, scary even! Not to mention playing a different character each time — I’ve learnt a lot in each production, which is crucial.
And now you’re performing in “Aladdin the Pantomime” — how did you get the part?
“Aladdin’s” director, Paul Loosley, approached me a couple of months ago and asked if I’d like to play Princess Jasmine. Later when I got the script, I learned this Jasmine had taken on the persona of a certain “Paris”!
Tell us more about your role, Princess Paris.
Ha ha! I’m afraid to actually. It’s umm, like Paris. You know. Dum-dee-dum-dee-dum…
We hear of suspicious undergarments and ill-mannered electrical appliances, amongst other things, in this production. This is not quite the Disney version, is it? Tell us more about the story and show.
You’ve been well-informed. Instead of a straight, Disney-styled production, this is a hilarious version of the same story. There is an Aladdin (played by a girl!), a wicked wizard Abanaza, a Genie, a Princess, a Magic Lamp, and all the bells and whistles you can imagine.
Paul did a fine job (despite not being Malaysian) of “localizing” concepts in ways that can be both sophisticated yet simple.
Finally, if you’re looking for a concert to bring your kids to, but worry they’ll make too much noise, bring them to watch “Aladdin”. There’s no such thing as too much noise here. The pantomime’s perfect for children, since there’s lots of audience participation needed.
We also hear that the Beatles will be making their presence felt? Tell us more about the music in the show.
“OH-YES!” They will. Mervyn Peters, who’s our Choral Master, has been rehearsing quite a few Beatles songs with us. Admittedly they’re not all done 100% in their original style, but close enough, perhaps. We’ve taken measures to try and maintain the feel and mood of the pieces. Most importantly, the cast and musicians alike seem to have a blast with the tunes.
You’ve got a stellar cast working with you, with the likes of Indi Nadarajah and Joanna Bessey, just to name a couple. Tell us more about your co-stars. What was it like working with them? Did anyone try to bully you?
The cast is so strong, sometimes I feel like the stage is on fire! No kidding. Without naming names, some are superb ad-libbers. This is such an advantage for a show like this, where we feed off the audience’s response and energy.
To be able to throw in lines that correspond directly to the situation at hand, that’s just magic in a pantomime. It makes our show special.
No one has bullied me so far, except that wicked wizard Abanaza who keeps carrying me off the stage… as part of the story, though.
Care to share some of your co-stars quirks with us? Who’s the biggest troublemaker?
If I spilled the beans now, I probably will get bullied the next time round…
What’s a typical rehearsal like?
Dominique our Breathing Master would start us on some breathing exercises for roughly 20 minutes. It’d become evident who just had dinner, from their burps!
Pat Chan, who’s our Dance Choreographer, would then usually get us to do a rigorous physical warm-up, followed by some vocal exercises led by any willing member of the group.
Then for the rest of the time we’d be rehearsing proper, doing scenes or songs. During the last two months we rehearsed some 4-6 times a week.
This is your first time working with Paul Loosley, yes? Is he a slave driver? What has it been like, working with him?
Paul’s very dedicated to the show. He’s also pretty detailed in sharing how he thinks certain scenes or ideas should work, but he’s still open to different opinions. For example, he’ll allow us to experiment with various ways of working a particular scene, before deciding on something.
What I also appreciate about him is the way he watches and listens during our rehearsals, before giving his advice. Although I’m sure he has plenty of ideas about how to do things, he generally gives his performers the benefit of the doubt.
Any funny or bizarre stories from this production to share?
There’s always plenty of things to laugh about during the course of a production! From embarrassing costume malfunctions to taking your bow during a wrong cue, “Aladdin” has been, like other productions, a lot of fun for many of us.
What’s irony to you?
At the moment I can’t think of something profound, but I can tell you of a rather silly situation. The run of “Tunku” the musical (Aug – Sept 2007) coincided with the nation’s 50th anniversary of Independence. We were busy gearing up to be as big a part of that as we could, by performing every night.
Constant reminders on TV, radio, and during rehearsals went in one ear and out the other. Time flew.
Then one day in September I heard a radio jockey talk about how memorable the celebrations had been for this year’s Merdeka. And then suddenly it occurred to me that the day had passed. I had been in a musical to commemorate the nation’s 50th anniversary, but was so busy doing that, that I forgot to celebrate it.
What are you up to next?
In terms of productions, so far I have “DanSing Through Broadway” in 2008, which is a charity musical by Farah Sulaiman.
Your wish for 2008?
Well I’m not sure about my wish, but I think my resolution should probably be to stop having supper so late at night!
“Aladdin – the Pantomime” will be staged at KLPac’s Pentas 1 from Mon, 17 Dec 2007 until Sun, 6 Jan 2008 (Tue – Sat: 8.30pm; Sun: 3pm; New Year’s Day: 5pm; No show on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve & on Mondays. Tickets cost RM100 / RM80 / RM60 / RM40 (concessions)
First Published: 20.12.2007 on Kakiseni