So You Want to be a Nurse
Music by Kenneth Lyen, Book and Lyrics by Justin Kan
When Mr Yong Keng Kwang, director of Nursing Service, stood up from the audience stalls and protested about the threatened closure of the show at the half-way point, saying "The show must go on!" the entire audience roared with laughter, clapping in agreement. This is a show that everybody watching cared for, and did not want it to stop.
Tonight's musical is one of those rare shows that verges on genius. Stacy, brilliantly played by Faith Hwang, is the final challenger to 20-time winner, Nurse Choo (Eric Koh), in the game show "So You Wanna be a Nurse", hosted by Mad Stanley (Ezekiel Kok). To beat Nurse Choo, she has to win three rounds of trials set in a hospital, where she has to look after patients while at the same time trying to please her fellow nurses. The first round involves young Cici (Angielou Tinasas) who suffers from cancer. When Cici's mother (Mynelle Salas) is called away to talk to the doctor, Stacy volunteers to stay and look after Cici. The nurse is told that mother promised Cici she will become a ballerina when she grows up. While Cici sings her song, a ballerina (Priscilla Fu) appears and dances beautifully. Cici's mother returns to the room informing Stacy of the bad news. Unfortunately Nurse Choo enters at the same time, and discovers that Stacy is still with Cici, neglecting her other patients. He admonished her, saying that the central tenet of being a nurse is to be efficient, totally efficient. Stacy loses round one.
At this point, one should mention the three M's: Maggie (Mabelline Caneda), Mimi (Sui Sui), and Marnie (Wendy Goh), who provide the counterpoint to Stacy. They serve as the rogue trio, as they believe in Nurse Choo's efficiency philosophy, and they like to shirk their duty by passing the buck, piling on extra work for Stacy. Three other supporting cast that needs to be mentioned are Harnesh Kaur, Nur Farhana, and Taufik Othman.
In round two, Stacy has to look after two feuding elderly patients, played by Muhammad Afif and Kim Min Hwa, This pair stole the show with their irritating demand for nursing attention, their bickering, their perfect comic timing, and their eventual falling in love. When Stacy offers to take the old man down for a walk, he trips and falls, injuring himself. At this very moment, Nurse Choo enters, and accuses Stacy of causing the accident and spending too much time on these two patients. Stacy also learns that Cici has just passed away.
Unable to take it any more, she decides to quit the show as well as nursing, This is the moment that Mr Yong Keng Kwang stands up to protest.
Game show host Mad Stanley sends a nurse (Taufiq Othman) to look for Stacy. In the meantime he tells some feeble jokes to quell the audience. When Stacy is found outside Tan Tock Seng Hospital, he tries to persuade her to return to nursing. They are able to witness Cici's funeral where the mother sings a eulogy. Once again ballerina Priscilla Fu comes out to dance. There was not a single dry eye in the audience. Cici's mother thanks Stacy for spending time with her daughter during her last moments. After the funeral, old man Muhammad Afif, pushed in a wheelchair by old woman Kim Min Hwa, shows up, saying they wanted to inform Stacy that they are being discharged home. They thanked Stacy for looking after them, and tells her that she was instrumental in bringing them together. They wished there were more nurses like her.
Buoyed up by all these kind words, Stacy changes her mind, and decides that she will return to nursing and the game show.
The last round is the most challenging. The contestants have to go through a set of curtains, behind which are patients suffering from a deadly infection. There is no guarantee that they will survive the ordeal. Nurse Choo immediately throws in the towel, and thereby forfeits the game. In contrast, Stacy volunteers to look after these patients. When she opens up the curtain, to her surprise, game show host Mad Stanley steps out and announces that Stacy is the winner because of her courage and commitment. Nurse Choo has known this all along, and Stacy goes and embraces him.
Overall the performance is excellent, and the entire cast are triple threats, able to sing, dance, and act.
Director Marcus Lim has forged a show which brings out the best in everyone. He has tweaked the script so that it is taut, and he has pulled all the right emotional strings, ranging from laugh-out-loud hilarious to tear-jerking sadness. Although there are no sets, the use of hospital curtains, hospital beds, and bedpans are put to effective use. The back projection of scenes from Tan Tock Seng Hospital are nostalgic and evocative.
Fifi Leong’s music arrangement is most sensitive and enhances the mood changes. The styles range from pop, to jazz, to tango, to classical. It is truly remarkable.
Trevelyan Neo’s choreography is fresh and exciting. The dancers are well-synchronized and energetic.
Eliel Tan’s choral direction is outstanding, and the singers harmonize well.
The make-up designer is Alice Tan, the light designer Sim ChenXing, sound engineer Seow YiZhe, stage manager Chong MeiTing. All four have done well.
The production team comprises Jasmine Huang, Rozana Arshad, and Rena Yu. They are an incredible team, working tirelessly and with absolute dedication.
The other producer and music director is Desmond Moey who has whipped everybody into shape. Superbly.
Last but not least, the book and lyrics were written by Justin Kan, who has written a highly original and powerful script. The music is composed by Kenneth Lyen.
“So You Wanna be a Nurse” is a landmark musical that will be remembered for a very long time!
12 October 2012