Dama Asia returns to the stage with the golden age standards

Songbirds (from left) Kara Yee, Angie Cheah and Jojo Wong will adding the golden age glam in ‘All That Glitz And Glamour (On The Silver Screen)’ at PJPAC. Photo: Studio DL

Dama Asia’s All That Glitz And Glamour (On The Silver Screen) invites the audience to step back in time and experience the Mandarin Golden Oldies era.

Be transported to the magic of the silver screen and relive well-loved tunes popularised by Zhou Xuan, Bai Guang, Li Xianglan, Yao Lee, Lin Dai and Ge Lan.

The comeback show series is set to open at PJPAC, 1 Utama shopping centre in Petaling Jaya this Friday.

Produced by Khor Seng Chew (Dama's music director) and directed by Pun Kai Loon (Dama's artistic director), All That Glitz And Glamour promises a colourful journey through the popular music of 1930s Shanghai known as shidaiqu, all the way to the 1960s.

It is Dama Asia's first major stage show in three years.

All That Glitz And Glamour is a parade of the shidaiqu genre and an opportunity to relive the captivating entertainment enjoyed by the parents and grandparents of the present generation. This song-and-dance spectacle is an emotional ride with numbers that could wrench your heart one moment, and send you jiving the next. It features signature shidaiqu songs, made famous by some of the best-loved singing film stars of yesteryear,” says Khor.

With a new generation of music fans seeking out vintage records, buying vinyl reissues and discovering this hallowed era of Chinese film music, this upcoming Dama show is timely. It is the start of a busy year for Dama, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year. In August, Dama will be presenting In Perfect Harmony Too, a concert series to add Merdeka month feelgood at PJPAC.

First, the glitz and glam

The production showcases a selection of iconic songs from this era, including Rose, Rose I Love You from the movie Songstress Of The World, and Fishermen Ballad, a landmark film in the 1930s which details the struggle of the poorer class, in this case, a family of fishermen who are forced to sing on the streets in order to survive.

Fishermen Ballad won the honorary award at the Moscow International Film Festival in 1934, the first Chinese film to win an award internationally,” says Pun, adding that there are numerous pivotal points in the growth and development of shidaiqu.

“We also included songs like Candy Peddling Song and Shangri-la from Eternity and The Orioles Soar Over The Earth, respectively, that stimulate a sense of nationalism and hope during the warring period of the 1940s. There are the big band and jazz-influenced songs – Ode To Spring from The Truth and Don’t Rush from Misty Night Murder – to send your feet a-tapping.

"Ja Jambo from Wild Wild Rose will definitely send your pulse rising, and the eternal favourites Love Without End from the movie of the same title and Lover’s Tears from Skylark are undeniably tear-jerkers. From the movie The Joy Of Spring comes the heart-stopping and feet-pounding Happy Tonight, which aptly describes what is in store in Dama’s comeback showcase, after a three-year hiatus,” he adds.

All That Glitz And Glamour is alsoDama’s fund-raising production to help the company to bounce back after the pandemic.

Return to the stage

At PJPAC, the show will be set in a "movie studio" striving to make a docu-tainment on the rising popularity of shidaiqu with the advent of black-and-white films.

“Much of the early song-films had inserted songs with very little narrative function. They had no flamboyance like the later shidaiqu musical films. Not much glamour. And no glitz.

"The visuals were rather plain. Nonetheless, having songs in their movies sells. The quality of the music performances then was, however, inconsistent. It was left to the classically-trained Russian musicians to provide high-quality music recordings for some of the films," says Khor.

"But the musical films of the 1950s and 1960s – the final decade of the shidaiqu before the rise of Canto-pop – embraced much of Broadway style and incorporated pop music in their films, with heavy doses of glitz and glamour thrown in. The songs morphed to take on a more narrative role,” he adds.

Describing this production as a long-awaited return to the stage, he shares that it feels great to be working with people they have collaborated with over the past three decades, as well as new talent.

The singers in this show include Angie Cheah, Bui Yik Ling, Evelyn Toh, Joven Leong, Liow Jun Yi, Stefano Chen and yonlynn.

“There is much anticipation in the air and energy in our rehearsals, as we shape the feel and look of our All That Glitz And Glamour showcase.

"This fund-raising exercise is a moment we will remember for years to come, from being on the verge of giving it all up, to the decision of picking up the pieces and giving it our all with this comeback show. It is a lifeline for us, a restarting initiative to press forward. It also provides gainful employment for freelance theatre professionals and other creatives," says Pun.

Dama Asia, formerly known as Dama Orchestra, is a multiple award-winning bi-lingual theatre company, which was established in 1994.

All That Glitz And Glamour (On The Silver Screen) is on at Stage 1 Theatre, PJPac, 1Utama in Petaling Jaya in Selangor on April 7-9 and April 14-16. More info here.

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