Walking With Dinosaurs: The Man Who Brings A Life-Sized Baby T-Rex To Life

Neal Holmes (left) in costume as Baby T-Rex at the Walking with Dinosaurs press conference in Singapore.

I still remember the goosebumps I had when I first saw the animated yet so realistic-looking dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster hit, Jurassic Park. So when there was a chance to meet and interview the man behind the Baby T-Rex from Walking With DinosaursThe Live Experience (WWD), I didn’t hesitate to say yes!

Based on the 1999 acclaimed BBC TV documentary series of the same name, the US$20 million (S$27.7m) live arena spectacular originated in Australia in 2007 and went on to become “the biggest and best dinosaur show in the world”. Last here nine years ago, Walking With DinosaursThe Live Experience will run at the Singapore Indoor Stadium from August 29 to September 8, 2019.

Musings on the M49 was thus chuffed to be invited to the Walking With Dinosaurs media conference held at Capitol Theatre, where a life-sized Baby T-Rex, operated by British performer Neal Holmes, was the featured star.

ON THE FLOOR WITH A BABY DINOSAUR

Baby T-Rex mingling with the audience at the WWD press call!

The baby Tyrannosaurus Rex—to give its scientific name in full—is but one of the 18 life-sized dinosaurs, operated by skilled performers via animatronics and physical puppetry, featured in the highly successful Walking with Dinosaurs arena show. Using state-of-the-art technology, lighting effects and projection, the 100-minute show is presented as a theatrical story of the prehistoric creatures’ 200-million-year existence on Earth.

Nine species from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods will be represented. You can expect Mama T-Rex to be super huge, but it will not be the biggest dinosaur on show — that honor goes to the Brachiosaurus which measures at 11 metres tall and 17 metres from nose to tail!

WWD resident director Ian Waller introducing the Baby T-Rex.

After introducing Baby-T—as it is affectionately called—WWD resident director Ian Waller filled us in with details of what the young critter is like, what went into the production of the show, and what we can expect from the live performance.

As he was talking, Baby T continued to strut around, doing its own thing as what you’d expect an inquisitive creature would do. Truth be told, puppeteer Neal Holmes’ movements were so realistic that at times you simply forgot that it is just a human being in a fancy costume!

One of the lucky kids who got to pose with the Baby T-Rex!

Highlight for everyone was without doubt the photo op with Baby T in all its glory. Many of the kids in attendance were thrilled; one even came clad in a green dinosaur head costume! “Generally, kids love dinosaurs,” Holmes would confirm later during the interview session. Most adults were thrilled to bits too (especially yours truly)!

TALKING WITH THE MAN IN THE DINOSAUR SUIT

The man who makes Baby T-Rex comes to life!

It was exactly 10 years ago when Briton Neal Holmes, then a fitness instructor, went for an audition in London, not knowing exactly what was required, and ended up with an agent plus a full-time job as a dinosaur puppeteer all within a week.

With the Baby T-Rex costume weighing about 35-40kg, the job is needless to say, physically demanding but the now 35-year-old, who has a background in acrobatics and parkour, takes it all in his stride. Not only does he have to walk and run like a dinosaur, Holmes also controls other movements of the “baby” creature from the eyes to the tail.

Revealing that he can’t really see much out of the suit, one key thing Holmes has learnt to be extra mindful of while performing is to “not bump into things, or run into other dinosaurs”. Depending on demand, performances could be as many as three shows a day, or nine shows during weekends.

Neal Holmes speaking to the media at the WWD press call.

When Musings on the M49 asked whether has anything gone wrong for him during performances, Holmes admitted that “the worst is falling over.”

He elaborated: “I’ve never been injured, but it could be due to a slippery stage or just an error. ‘Cos with big dinosaur feet, it could happen when you cross your legs. It’s quite difficult to get out of. That’s probably the silliest thing I’ve ever done.”

But there’s help when such mishaps occur. “Stage people will look out for you and rush out to pick you up. If you are okay and not injured, and the suit is okay, you just continue from where you left off.”

After a decade as a dinosaur puppeteer, Holmes also realizes that “less is more” when it comes to performing.

“It is easy to do too much in puppetry, so I’m careful in not going too crazy like a puppy dog (when portraying a baby T-Rex), but to allow for moments of stillness. The (dinosaur) suit itself looks amazing just standing still, so to just allow those moments to happen ‘cos there are so much other things going on,” he explained.

Walking With Dinosaurs – The Live Experience is on Aug 29 to Sept 8, 2019 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Performances : Tue-Fri 7pm; Sat-Sun: 10.30am, 2:30pm and 6:30pm. Tickets from $78 from http://www.sportshubtix.sg.

All photos by Marguerita Tan. No text or images from this post are to be used without the blog author’s permission.

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Casa del Mar @ Langkawi

Having been to Malacca and Penang for my last two short-haul breaks, I opted for Langkawi as my next Malaysian holiday destination as (1) friends who’d been there liked it, and (2) it was also where a few key scenes of the global hit, Crazy Rich Asians, were shot. That’s how I ended up at the lovely Mediterranean-style boutique hotel, Casa del Mar Langkawi.

All I wanted was a cosy beach resort with a nice pool, scenic beachfront views, and good grub and grog. A pal hence suggested Casa del Mar and what a good recommendation it was. It was strategically located in the popular Pantai Cenang beach town, right on the edge of the white sands of Cenang beach.

Cab from Langkawi airport to the hotel (MYR30/SGD10) took only 15 minutes and as I was a tad early for check-in, the front desk staff ensured that I was comfortable with a chilled welcome drink and towel. I even had the opportunity to see them celebrating the birthday of another guest who was also checking in that afternoon.

For a 4-star hotel, Casa del Mar projects all the traits expected of a 5-star establishment. Staff was chirpy and helpful, and I always love hotels that make the effort to remember your name. I was given a tour of the facilities close to the lobby before being taken to my room, and even there, Enlyn patiently went through practically every amenity in the room with me.

THE ROOM

My seaview room was on the second floor of the main building, which includes a balcony with deck chairs, beach umbrella and drying rack. Pleasantly decorated, the spacious room was fully-furnished with all the necessaries such as free Wi-Fi, safe, bathrobes, slippers, and TV (with movie DVDs available at front desk). Extra perks—which are very much appreciated—include a coffee machine, complimentary fruits/ biscuits/ peanuts, and even bath salts. The king-sized bed was super comfy with four pillows at your disposal.

THE POOL

There are actually tons of things one can do in Langkawi and the hotel actually provides guests upon arrival with an extensive list of payable activities available ranging from island hopping to jungle trekking, jet skiing to yacht dinner cruises. Alas, I was only there to chill and the Casa del Mar pool already had me at hello.

With beach towels readily available in your room, the captivating pool was where I spent most of my time and, more often than not, I had it all to myself including the jacuzzi. (Which is why it is always good to travel during off-peak periods and during weekdays!) Pool service was also quite exquisite – as long as you are on a sun lounger, staff will periodically serve you iced water or fruits. A really lovely touch.

THE BEACH AND OCEAN VIEWS

A big draw of Casa del Mar is the fact that it is located right on the popular Pantai Cenang beach, which is the longest and most popular beach in Langkawi. The beachfront views here are breathtaking – picturesque clean white sands, clear blue skies, and warm blue seas. It was also cool that the area facing the resort is considered private and hardly crowded with people though there are still some activities as the beach is a watersports haven.

The sandy stretch on the right of Casa del Mar’s beachfront is also considered private, so really, if you laze at the hotel’s sun lounges, what you get is beautifully unblocked scenic views with cool breezes keeping you cool even when under a blazing hot sun. If I was not at the pool, I would just park myself for a good long time on a sun lounger that faces the amazing beach expanse.

BREAKFAST

My friend told me that the food at Casa del Mar was good and she wasn’t wrong. Complimentary breakfast came with the room and though the buffet selection wasn’t extensive—understandably as the hotel only has 34 guestrooms—it has the usual suspects of breads, cereals, sandwiches, cheeses, and a local favorite that is nasi lemak (Malay fragrant rice dish). Add to that, each guest can choose an item from the a la carte menu such as omelette or pancakes and it will be served a la minute to you. Cool, that.

Breakfast and lunch, provided by the hotel’s La Sal Restaurant, are served outdoors albeit under shade. Luckily, the heat during my stay was bearable and it’s tad cooler if you chose a table along the wall-length water feature. The restaurant prides itself in producing “homemade” items including a variety of breads, pastries, and an incredible range of jams including pineapple, watermelon and chocolate hazel! And yes, I tried all the jams as you can see in the previous photo. 🙂

LUNCH

On arrival, I was in time for lunch but as I browsed the menu, an afternoon tea for two caught my eye. When I asked if I can have just a set for a single person, the waitress Adila said certainly and it was charged at half the price of the original set. Which was simply brilliant, as you can see above. Love it when establishments are willing to be flexible.

Dinner & Sunset Watch

If you are into sunsets, La Sal at Casa del Mar is actually one of the best places in Langkawi to catch one. For dinner, the restaurant set up their tables right up to the edge of the beach and guests will have a bird-eye’s view of the sun setting. Early reservations have to be made though, even for live-in guests, as tables are limited. (Walk-ins are welcome only if seating permits.)

So, even though one can find cheaper food fare elsewhere in Pantai Cenang—and there are loads of alternatives from burger joints to Chinese-style seafood restaurants throughout the town as well as along the beach—I opted to have dinner at La Sal on both the nights I was there as it provided me not only with a great view of the sun setting over the horizon, but also of people having fun either on the beach or paragliding in the air as dusk falls. And oh yes, the food was good too. As was the grog from the pool bar (especially the free beer courtesy of the management on Tuesday nights!)

The Spa

Almost forgot: If you are on a chill trip, not only the resort should have a good pool, it also should have a good spa. Housed on the second floor in a secluded wing of Casa del Mar (in the midst of guestrooms), Satkara Spa may be small, but it nonetheless offers a good range of treatments and therapies. I chose a massage-and-facial combo which they kindly allowed me to split into two one-hour sessions on separate days (as I rather spent most of daylight time at the pool). The treatment rooms were cosy and relaxing, and the therapists top-notch. Best to make reservations early if you plan to spend time here.

HOME BY THE SEA, GREAT PLACE TO CHILL

The unique “Clean My Room” door sign at Casa del Mar.
The eyes are closed for “Do Not Disturb”.

All in all, I had an absolute great time at Casa del Mar. Kinda regretted not staying longer. For its brilliant service, facilities and location, it was definitely worth the price. Would definitely patronise it again if finances permit!

Casa del Mar Langkawi is at Jalan Pantai Cenang, Mukim Kedawang, 07000 Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia.

Langkawi: Sun, Sand & Sea @ Pantai Cenang

All Photos by Marguerita Tan

When in Langkawi: If you are into sun, sand and sea, the offshore island(s) district of Kedah, Malaysia will be right up your alley. Located off the northwestern coast of West Malaysia, the 99-island archipelago is well known for its many great beaches, of which Pantai Cenang is one of the most popular especially for swimming and water sports.

I personally am a lounge-by-the-pool lizard myself but if a holiday resort has great access to a nice beach, I’m all for it. It was thus why I opted for Casa del Mar which is strategically located at a relatively quiet section of the 2km-long Pantai Cenang, said to be the longest beach in Langkawi.

One of things I loved doing during my stay was walking up and down the pristine beach via a cosy boardwalk that seemingly starts from Casa del Mar, all the way southwards to a spot where you will find the rainbow-colored “Pantai Chenang” sign (see main picture) and where the beach is arguably at its most crowded.

Views From A Boardwalk

Clean white sands, clear blue sky, warm sea, and idyllic islands on the horizon – that will be the first things that take your breath away on Pantai Cenang. Even if not on the private beaches of the fancier resorts, the elements are still wonderful sights to behold.

Walking along the stretch also allows you to check out the other beach accommodations available, many of which are rustic chalets such as this…

…and there were even beachfront tree houses such as this cool one here! There are also resorts which have swimming pools right alongside the beach.

Food and drink outlets are in abundance in Pantai Cenang too – along the beach, such as the popular Kalut Bar, and especially along the main road of Jalan Pantai Cenang.

Needless to say, al fresco wining and dining is very popular on the beach (as long as you don’t dirty the surroundings)…

Water sports is also very big here – you can go jet skiing, paragliding, kayaking, sailing on a banana or longboat, or even parasailing on a “flying machine”. It’s fun just to watch brave souls taking to the skies in various contraptions.

Colorful jet skis of various shapes and sizes can be seen parked, as well as in action, up and down the beach.

Loads of boats too… including signs to please “keep clean our island”. And I have to say, Pantai Cenang is one of the cleanest beaches I’ve ever been to in all my travels.

As mentioned, you will find food and drink options aplenty up and down the beach, with signs to direct you if you aren’t quite sure of where to go…

Random beach bars and “discos” do pop up on the sands which is really cool…

There is even an artistic compound, complete with cool graffiti art and tree swing…

Last but by no means least, Pantai Cenang is a great place to catch sunsets. Many people would gather around the Pantai Chenang sign—it’s directly opposite Cenang Mal—and just catch the sunset every evening (usually between 7.15-7.40pm). Or you can watch it while having dinner at any of the eateries or bars along the stretch.

There are actually lots more things one can do in Langkawi, but if you are happy with just sun, sand and sea, Pantai Cenang is one beach worth visiting once in your lifetime.

Langkawi: Sunset Over Pantai Cenang Beach

Photo by Marguerita Tan

When in Langkawi: Sunsets in the Malaysian 99-island archipelago are usually between 7.20pm and 7.45pm. In end July, it’s roughly 7.35-7.40pm and if you are on the western shoreline of the island district of Kedah, the best spot to catch one in full glory is to seat yourself anywhere along the 2km pristine white sands of Pantai Cenang beach.

I knew staying at the Casa del Mar Langkawi resort would plonk me right in the midst of the popular beach, but I didn’t realised that the hotel restaurant La Sal actually placed their al fresco dinner tables right by the edge of the sands so that guests—if they are seated at the right time⁠—will be able to enjoy the full course of the sun setting over one of Langkawi’s mini islands on the horizon.

So, as I sipped my chilled pre-dinner beer, it was blissfully joyful to watch the sun lighting the clear blue sky, from glaring whitish gold to a lovely golden-orange yellow hue, as it slowly disappeared behind the island on the horizon.

Definitely one of my favorite sunset watch in recent times…

Photo by Marguerita Tan

Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ The Musical – 8 Reasons To See The Show

If you are a fan of Disney’s Aladdin, 2019 has been a good year.

On the week that the 2019 live-action adaptation of the beloved 1992 animated film crossed the magical US$1 billion (S$1.36b) mark at the global box office, the hit Broadway adaptation made its debut in Singapore and is entertaining audiences in a whole new way.

Boasting energizing song-and-dance sequences, amazing sets and effects, and stunning costumes, Aladdin the musical—which is based on the 1992 Oscar-winning film—premiered on Broadway in 2014 with book by playwright Chad Beguelin, music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Beguelin. Singapore will be the only Asian stop and final run for this Aladdin tour.

Musings on the M49 was chuffed to be invited to the official opening night at Sands Theatre in Marina Bay Sands. Here are eight reasons why Aladdin the musical is a must-see, especially if you are a fan of the Disney films or musicals in general. (Aladdin Photos Credit: Base Entertainment Asia)

1. “Friend Like Me”

The Genie’s signature song in the treasure-hoarding Cave of Wonders is a spectacular 14-minute showstopper comprising breath-taking choreography and cool magical effects. The scene-stealer was without question Gareth Jacobs whose creative genius as the Genie made the vibrant and pulsating sequence an absolute joy to watch.

2. “A Whole New World”

The Oscar-winning song is a timeless classic and watching Aladdin (Graeme Isaako) and Princess Jasmine (Shubshri Kandiah) singing it while seemingly flying on a magic carpet for real on stage is simply a thrill – even though you know it is manoeuvred by a special albeit well-hidden contraption. Easily the show’s second top highlight, drawing lots of oohs and aahs from the audience.

3. A Genie Like No Other

He’s not blue (except for his costume) and does not appear vaporizing from a lamp, but Gareth Jacobs’ Genie totally stole the show from the word go. He sang and danced with gusto, and his wisecracking had the audiences in stitches. His shout-outs to Singapore at appropriate times was a nice touch as well.

4. Classic And New Tunes Combo
Besides the unforgettable tunes from the 1992 film such as “Arabian Nights”, “One Jump Ahead” and “Prince Ali”, fans can savor seven new songs in the musical. Menken and Beguelin wrote four tunes specially for the stage production and these are “These Palace Walls”, “A Million Miles Away”, “Diamond in the Rough” and “Somebody’s Got Your Back”. Also included are three songs by Menken and Ashman that were cut from the original film – “Proud of Your Boy”, “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim” and “High Adventure”. Let’s hope for future productions, they will consider adding “Speechless”, Princess Jasmine’s empowering anthem from the 2019 megahit, too!

5. Stunning Set Design

From the colorful mythical city of Agrabah, to the Sultan and Princess Jasmine’s luxurious palace, to the gold-glittering Cave of Wonders, the show’s 500 captivating sets, props and backdrops are to be lauded. The audience is easily transported to every location in a blink of an eye, whether it is a Middle Eastern-influenced marketplace or a cave in a dark, isolated desert.

6. Shining, Shimmering, Splendid Costumes

The costumes in Aladdin have to be one of the most vibrant and sparkling set of outfits I’ve ever seen in a musical. And this is thanks to some 1000 fabrics and half a million Swarovski crystals that were used to make and decorate the 300+ costumes in the show. There was so much sparkle, they should have warned us to wear shades…

7. Incredible Special Effects
Besides a believable flying magic carpet, the show also employs a great number of whoa-inducing magical effects on stage such as slide of hand tricks, disappearing box acts, and quick change illusions, some of which were even executed effortlessly during song sequences.

8. Funny Bytes Galore
Thanks to some great one-liners and hilarious ad-libs, there were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments that didn’t just materializes out of the Genie, but also from supporting characters such as Jafar (Patrick R Brown) and his scheming sidekick, Iago (Doron Chester). I would arguably say there were more laughs generated from the musical than from the cinematic version!

All in all, Aladdin the musical is great fun, a spectacular that is easily enjoyed by both young and old. Though the first half felt a tad draggy (though understandably having to introduce every key character), the show nonetheless does present a whole new world of Disney’s Aladdin that is truly worth a watch.

Rewind: At the Aladdin Red Carpet
Attending stage shows, it is always fun to see people dress up for the occasion or are game to participate in entertaining activities. Prior to the show’s start on opening night, we witnessed a few folks who shook a tail feather or two on the “purple” carpet! (Photos by Marguerita Tan)

For starters, you always want to give a thumb’s up when theatre goers take the trouble to dress up according to the theme of the show!

And from the young to the young-at-heart, a few were sporting enough to sing ‘A Whole New World’ in front of cameras!

And here’s some of the famous faces spotted: 2009 Singapore Idol Sezairi Sazali (left) and author/humor writer Sylvia Toh Paik Choo (far right)

Aladdin the Broadway musical plays at the Sands Theatre in Marina Bay Sands, Singapore till Sept 1, 2019. Performances: Tue to Fri, 7.30pm; Sat 2pm & 7.30pm; and Sun 1pm & 6.30pm. Tickets from $68++ from www.sistic.com and www.marinabaysands.com/ticketing.

Read also:
* Top 10 Songs by Disney Princesses – From “Let It Go” to “Speechless”

Rooftop Bar @ 1919 Waterboat House

A pal and I have always wanted to dine at 1919 Waterboat House but when the time came, we decided to check out its rooftop bar first. Considering the hot/wet and humid weather Singapore been having of late, it was rather brave of us to attempt The Rooftop even for a Friday evening. But praise be to God as not only there was no rain, there were cool breezes aplenty although that didn’t quite stop the sweat from flowing. Also, the panoramic views at the bar – which spread from Marina Bay Sands to the Esplanade, from the Padang to Fullerton Hotel – made it worth the visit.

So it was good that there was nice chilled beer available (albeit there’s only three choices and you have to drink fast before it gets warm depending on the time you are there.) The Rooftop has a simple drinks menu comprising mainly of cocktails ($16), mojitos ($16-$18), twin shooters ($17/pair), champagne ($26/glass), wine and spirits ($16/glass). There’s also a separate wine menu. There’s also a cool 1-for-1 Sunset Happy Hour before 8pm, and for everyday, it’s 1-for-1 half pint beers for $12. So we started off with their main draught beer, Hofbrau Lager, which is a golden hued German Helles type beer that was light, hoppy and went very well with the food we ordered later.

The 1919 Rooftop Bar has a decent food menu and that was why we decide to check it out first rather than its main restaurant on the second level of the colonial heritage building. Items include Spanish Tapas ($8-$22), personal-sized pizzas ($18) and sharing platters ($38-$58).

A little problem was that, though the place is spacious, the tables are rather small and when the food came, they came in very big plates even for the tapas. Also, my clinical lab rat of a friend was rather miffed when the cutlery served was not up to par-there was a dirty spot on a plate, and a veggie thingie stuck to a fork. Thankfully, other that that, the serving staff was attentive in other ways and the evening went swimmingly.

First to arrive was the Truffle Fries ($10) served with truffle mayo which was a great treat. And if they could serve it in a small basket, it will save much space on the table.

Okay, we ordered a Chef’s Salad ($11) for the healthy bit but seriously, if you are going to have a drinking session, forego this as it just doesn’t go with the grog. The salad, akin to a Caesar, is decent actually (although with an over dosage of dressing) but no go as a pub grub.

With beer, you can’t go wrong with meat items and these spicy buffalo wings marinated with secret spice ($12 half dozen/$22) are da bomb. Juicy and spicy hot, it certainly made up for the soggy salad!

Crispy calamari ($14) should be another great grog grub but we suspected that the serving staff forgotten about it ‘cos it took a while to arrive and by the time it did, the items were cold. Add to that, the strips of squid were so miserably skinny, that all we ate were just batter, crispy as some may be. Pity as it looks good visually but we had to leave most of the dish aside.

Prior to 8pm, we went for our second round of Happy Hour half pint beer and this time we went for the Hofbrau Hefeweizen which is darker gold in hue and richer in taste. It is also more fruity and malty in flavor and a good way to end our evening.

Actually, we ended our evening by playing tourist and taking photos on all sides of the bar. Before Happy Hour ends, you can catch a beautiful sunset over Anderson Bridge at about 7.15pm.

When the manager saw us clicking away, he sweetly pointed us to the bar’s outer area where we could get better shots of landmarks such as Marina Bay Sands (without its laser show sadly) over Marina Bay…

… The sparkling Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay over Esplanade Drive…

… Lasers shooting from the Padang (later, we found out that a National Day Parade rehearsal was taking place…)

And last but not least, the majestic Fullerton Hotel that faces the front of the Fullerton Waterboat House and which is well lit after dark.

Overall, the 1919 Rooftop Bar is a nice drinking spot, perfect weather permitting. Bill came up to about $85 for two pax, which is decent for a Friday night session. Would consider coming again and will definitely check out 1919 the restaurant next.

The 1919 Rooftop Bar is 3 Fullerton Road, The Waterboathouse, #03-01, Singapore 049215. Opening Hours: Mon-Thu 5pm-12am; Fri & Sat 5pm-2am; closed on Sundays. Advisable to make a reservation first at +65 6538 9038.

First Look At Stars Of Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ The Musical @ Marina Bay Sands

Aladdin the Broadway musical will stage its first and only Asian stop in Singapore at
the Sands Theatre in July 2019. [Photo Credit: Base Entertainment Asia]

Good news if you are a fan of Disney’s Aladdin. This year, not only you will get to see the live-action adaptation of the 1992 Oscar-winning animated film in May, its hit Broadway theatrical production will also make its debut here in Singapore, its only stop in Asia, at Marina Bay Sands in July.

So it was a thrill when Musings on the M49 was invited to the media launch for Aladdin the musical for which its three leading stars–namely Gareth Jacobs (Genie), Graeme Isaako (Aladdin) and Shubshri Kandiah (Jasmine)–flew in specially to publicise the show.

The event was held at Sands Theatre at an auditorium behind the main stage. Besides drinks and canapés, there were also costumes from the show set up on site for guests to admire up close.

Aladdin, which tells the story of a street urchin who wins the heart of a princess with the help of a genie, promises to present the most lavish sets, vibrant costumes and
stunning special effects ever to be seen at the Sands Theatre.

The musical, which made its world premiere on Broadway in 2014 , will have over 330 glittering costumes, featuring more than 1000 fabrics and almost half a million Swarovski crystals. Its mega sets include the fantasy city of Agrabah, the Sultan’s palace, and the legendary Cave of Wonders.

Songs Maketh the Musical
And not forgetting of course, the Oscar-winning score and songs by Alan Menken with lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin (who also wrote the book). The musical features five songs from the beloved animated film including the all-time classic, ‘A Whole New World’, plus a few more written specially for the stage version.

The charming Graeme Isaako is Aladdin.

After opening addresses by the good people responsible for bringing in Aladdin, we were introduced first to the Sydney-born, New Zealand-raised Graeme Isaako who plays the titular character. Armed with a dazzling smile and “K-pop hair” (his words, not mine), the singer/dancer/actor spoke on how hard he had to work for the show, especially as Aladdin is a very energetic character for whom parkour skills are required, besides singing and dancing abilities. Issako, who made his musical debut in 2002, then showed off his smooth vocals when he performed ‘Proud Of Your Boy’, a ballad that was cut from the original film.

Shubshri Kandiah singing the cherished duet, ‘A Whole New World’,
with Graeme Isaako.

Next up was Shubshri Kandiah who hails from Queensland and who won the role of Jasmine in the Australian production of Aladdin straight after graduating from university in 2017. The radiant artiste disclosed how delighted she is to play a princess who is “feisty and independent” and “close to my heart”. After revealing that one of her favorite songs in the stage musical is ‘A Million Miles Away’, in which Jasmines sings about her dreams, she teamed up with Isaako to sing the all-time favorite, ‘A Whole New World’, which thrilled the audience no end.

Gareth Jacobs, who plays the Genie, performing the showstopper ‘Friend Like Me’ complete with backup singers.

Finally, we met with the Genie himself in the form of Gareth Jacobs who has led the Australian touring company in this role from Melbourne, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand. After revealing that Aladdin was the very first film he saw as a nine-year-old, Jacobs informed us that his favorite moments of doing the stage musical are performing the 15-minute showstopper, ‘Friend Like Me’; being shot out of a cannon; and improvising jokes. Most of all though, it was meeting his idol, composer Alan Menken, in person when he first took on the role.

Gareth Jacobs as Genie and Graeme Isaako as Aladdin in one of the big production numbers in Aladdin the musical. [Photo Credit: Base Entertainment Asia]

When asked if he will do anything exclusively for the Singapore show, Jacobs–who had previously lived and worked in Singapore for five years–affirmed that he (as the Genie) often tells some jokes that is relevant to the city the show is playing at and so local audiences here will have to “watch and find out!” He then ended his segment with a rousing performance of ‘Friend Like Me’ with the help of two sassy back-up singers.

Yours truly with the talented Aladdin cast
AND a magic lamp!

After a Q&A session, the cast generously posed for photos with almost everyone who was present, complete with magic lamp. Alas, I didn’t get a chance to rub it and make a wish, let alone wishes three. Still, I got to hold it and got close to a smiling genie, so that’s good enough for me!

Aladdin the Broadway musical plays at the Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore from July 21, 2019. Performances: Tue to Fri, 7.30pm; Sat 2pm & 7.30pm; and Sun 1pm & 6.30pm. Tickets from $68++ from www.marinabaysands.com/ticketing or www.sistic.com.

Unless stated, all photos by Marguerita Tan. No text or images from this post are to be used without the blog author’s permission.