Monday, December 23, 2019

A review: Cats the Musical

Cats the Musical is based on a 1939 poetry collection of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T S Eliot and has been written as a musical composed by the famous Andrew Lloyd Webber. It is a sung-through musical (meaning no dialogue) which depicts the story of a tribe of cats – the Jellicle cats. These cats were gathered at the annual Jellicle Ball to make a jellicle choice on which cat will ascend cat heaven (Heaviside Layer) and be reborn again into a new (hopefully better) life.

The production is a 2-hour performance of songs and dance with an intermission in between. The junkyard stage set is the same throughout the musical so do not expect fanciful props. However, there are loads to watch for and here's the kiddo's and my favourite parts of the show. 

1) Graceful and cat-like movements

When I first watched this musical, it was eons (and I do mean eons) ago when our local artiste Jacintha was cast as Grizabella in 1993 (in the South East Asian tour). I recall that the actors were around the foyer and seating area, really getting into their character as they came near to us for us to pat them.

For this round, we did not spot any, but the actors did an amazing job getting into their characters – their movements graceful and gestures deliberate and lifelike. 

Rehearsal photos

Check out the makeup and the movements
Photo credit: CATS Tour 2019 Photography by Alessandro Pinna

If you are lucky enough to be seated along the aisle (Dumpling did!) you will meet them close up and personal as they prowl along the steps where we could see the realistic makeup and even their contacts! 

Photo credit: CATS Tour 2019 Photography by Alessandro Pinna

2) Mr Mistoffelees the Magician

Oh, can this magician cat dance! His “solo” was frankly one of the highlights for me as he twirled, swirled and owned the stage. More than that, he has fur that lit up (bling bling!) and had a couple of magic tricks up his sleeve! (I shan’t say more so that there’s no spoiler) He was a clear crowd favorite judging from the applause he received.

Fun fact: Number of conjuring turns Mr Mistoffelees performs during his solo: a whopping 22!

Photo credit: CATS Tour 2019 Photography by Alessandro Pinna

3) Grizabella the Glamour Cat

And of course, not forgetting Grizabella. According to 
the "fandom" website, her name "griza" is derived from grey / disheveled and "bella" of course, means beauty. Hence as the name would suggest, it means grey beauty. 

When Grizabella first appeared on stage, she was indeed disheveled and “old”. Previously known as the Glamour Cat, part of the story is centered on this cat, a “has-been”, who has fallen hard on times and was trying to seek for the tribe’s forgiveness.

Photo credit: CATS Tour 2019 Photography by Alessandro Pinna

The vocal prowess and the actor’s portrayal of Grizabella did not disappoint. Dumpling and I could hear the despair and the loneliness as she first sang “Memory” and when she later reappeared and sang the reprise (of Memory), trying even harder to earn the acceptance of the tribe. Her desperation rang convincingly and true as the last notes faded in the theatre. 

Photo credit: CATS Tour 2019 Photography by Alessandro Pinna

Though I was originally unsure if the production was suited for Dumpling, she enjoyed herself (she’s just turned 11 recently) and could understand most of the play and the emotions behind it though there were some parts she had to google to understand the characters better. For me, it was a great night where I got to re-watch the musical at a different phase in life, and just enjoy the songs, dance and the feline antics. :) It is no wonder that CATS is one of the longest-running shows in West End and Broadway history, received its world premiere at the New London Theatre in 1981 where it played for 21 record-breaking years and almost 9,000 performances.

Here's more fun facts to share:
  • The word JELLICLE is mentioned 138 times in the show
  • The production tours 9 full shipping containers 
  • The production tours 116 wigs
  • The musical has toured 20 cities so far this year
  • 50kg of ice is used for ice baths for the actors at the end of a hard week 

:: PERFORMANCE TIMES (From 17 December)

Tuesday to Friday: 8:00pm
Saturday: 2:00pm and 8:00pm
Sunday: 1:00pm and 6:00pm

From 50 SGD*
*Excludes the booking fee of 4 SGD per ticket

+65 6688 8826

Marina Bay Sands Box Offices
(Museum, Theatre, SkyPark, Retail Mall and Hotel Tower 1 Lobby)
For more information please log onto

Disclaimer: We were invited by Base Entertainment to the Gala night so that we can give our opinions about the musical. We are not compensated for the post. All opinions expressed are entirely ours. 

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Sunday, December 8, 2019

Her netball journey - a year of tears, pain, sweat and joy

On the 31st Jan this year, I received a call from a teary Dumpling crying into the phone that she was not selected for the school team. It was the first time she’s ever called me to seek comfort over the phone, through tears.

With a sinking heart, I tried my best to keep her calm and give her assuring words, but this decision did not come as a surprise. It was because a few weeks just before the announcement I had a conversation with a teacher from the school who told me that while Dumpling did very well as a defender, they were not looking for one. I was stumped and asked why. The reply that I was given was that “defenders do not need thinking skills”. I then asked what support has then been given to Dumpling to hone her attacking skills, but my question was brushed aside. And at that moment, I knew that Dumpling had next to zilch chance in getting into the team. More than that, I did wonder about the leadership of the team if person has such skewed thoughts about the role of defenders.

This was where things got frustrating for me because Dumpling would return home, telling me about the drill work that she did and who she was paired with, and there were many instances where she was not given the chance to work with weight belts, etc as compared to some of the other girls. Hence, it seems that the choices were already made way prior and that the school was spending the time and the effort on those who will be selected.

Dumpling told me that on the announcement day, they were informed that the choices were made based on “attendance”, “grades” and "ball skills". Of which, in terms of the 1st 2 criteria, factually (by this I mean statistically) Dumpling would have been in the top percentile. As for ball skills, this would be very subjective since there’s no official sets / criteria. Dumpling was sharp enough to know that and asked me then on what basis was she not chosen since she made the mark based on the first 2 criteria and this was something that I could not answer to. Additionally, there was a player in that list (who was chosen) whose attendance and the attitude have been known to be bad.

I did ask one teacher, but she could not answer me. Shockingly, this same player (with the bad attitude) stole (by this I actually referred online to the meaning of the word and here it is: "take another person's property without permission or legal right and without intending to return it."*) from Dumpling some months later where Dumpling found her item in this girl’s bag and the girl admitted to it. The matter was brought up to the school and yet, this girl remains as part of the team, donning on the netball dress representing the institute which I sent my child to, in hopes of my child being educated not just in terms of book knowledge but also in values. What an irony. There were also many dramatic incidents amongst the players which I feel did not show that the team was building up to be one which has strong camaraderie and with the right focus.

When Dumpling did not make the final cut, one of the things we spoke about was if she intended to stay on in this CCA and be part of the recreational team and she told me “no”. I asked her for her reason, and to be honest, if she were to tell me because it was “too hard” I would not have agreed to it, Surprisingly, she shared that the recreational team does not have exposure to friendly games as opposed to the competitive team and if that were the case, she will never learn more and improve. I was very surprised by her thought process and maturity and hence, we transferred her out of that CCA which she was part of since P2.

On 2 Feb, I put up this photo of her trying out new shoes on her new journey in my personal FB page. And I recall encouraging her to continue on with her passion and that maybe one of these days, we can share her journey with some of you readers where it would encourage you and your children but I did not think that I would actually be able to share about her journey within the same year. 

After she left the team, she then began to train with a club outside where she forged new friendships and I dare say, more respectful ones too. The players all played for one thing – “team success”, not for individual glory. They built on each other’s skills and encouraged each other during games with assuring words like “you can do it!”, “good job”, “really well done”, etc., and even when mistakes were made (very unlike her school experience), encouragement such as "it's ok, good try!" were dished out.

She’s trained through rain (yup, they continue even in the rain if there’s no lightning alert), played through injuries and worked through personal obstacles. There were no tinted glasses when she joined the team (i.e. "defenders do not need thinking skills" type of opinions) and instead, she was given a fair chance to be exposed to, and nurtured in various positions where she started learning more about being an attacker too.
Playing and training through rain is quite a norm for us. In fact, I now have sets of towels, slippers, 2 hoodies and a change of clothes all the time in my car

Training through a hyper-extended knee and after being knocked down during a morning league game

And for this season, she's played through a few different leagues and committed to some sessions on Sunday too

Over the past few terms, she has rarely missed out on any training unless she was sick (I think twice) and has not missed out on any league matches which she has committed. She played through exam weeks, learnt to juggle that with her violin practice and after her weekly higher Chinese class, she would travel to a gym for her youth academy classes where she worked on being stronger to counter balance her hyper-mobility so she reduces the risk of injuries. And for all of that, she’s made me a proud mum – because she has shown resilience, maturity and commitment to improving herself.

And after (almost) a year of playing with the club, at an award presentation last evening, much to our surprise, she was given an award - "Most Improved Player" (U11, Year 2019).

An award which recognises her leapfrog in court and ball skills, good performance, great attitude and commitment to the sport and also to her team mates, and of course, her hard work.

She was a bit shell-shocked and was in disbelief.
Past year winners congratulating her and handing over the shield award & personal plaque to her

Where her name now is immortalised on the plaque for the "Most Improved Player" for U11 group in 2019. We get to keep this award at home for the whole year where she will hand it over to the next Most Improved Player for U11 in 2020! (How cool!)
And the personal one which we get to keep

Looking back, I would have to say that it was a very frustrating experience dealing with the school and with a teacher who did not seem to understand (let alone appreciate) the value of each position and how to groom / support each players' growth.

It was also heartbreaking as a parent to receive a call with your child crying over the phone, for the first time ever, and not having the power to make things better for her. It has also been arduous as we had to carve out (almost non-existent) pockets of time to do this outside of school hours so that she can train (on court and in gym) to become faster, stronger and better. There were many times on this journey that she was very discouraged by the plateau in her performance (and possibly me yelling on the side line, haha) and also by the "injustice" of the selection but the important thing is that we stayed on

From a parenting perspective, I did not try to soften the blow for her because hey, this is life and it is what it is. There will be moments in life where there are favourtism and when things do not go her way, where she will be struck down, so the only thing that I can do as a parent was to guide her to problem solve - discuss with her our next course of action, what we can do better and how she can bounce back; to encourage and support her in whatever areas that we can and to always assure her that we believe in her. 

And in the end, it was a sweet moment of small success, where she is recognised by her coaches for her effort and performance. Where she has grown to be more confident, make better decisions on court and importantly, I am most happy to see that she is smiling once again, during her training. 

Success begets success and she is so encouraged and so stoked that her coaches recognise her effort that she told me on the way home that she will train harder. So, well done Dumpling, I am so proud of you, that you rose above the challenges and the negativity and improved as a player, a team mate and a person. And as parents, if your child(ren) is/are facing challenges, stick by them, believe in them and continue to whisper words of affirmation. What Dumpling said to me last evening sums up her relationship with her team, "Mum, the girls were all very happy for me and they cheered me on as I collected my plaque. There were no snide remarks and bad attitude and many patted me on my back as I sat. They were so encouraging!" 

That my readers and friends, is what sportsmanship is about and what being a team means. And for that, I cannot be more pleased that she is with a club that lives and breathes that motto (first to arrive at leagues for warm ups, warm up as a group - no sprinters and personal glory, no snide / rude remarks to each other and to other teams), and that she is taught not just to be a better sportsperson BUT also a better being. Thank you Centaurs and my deepest gratitude to all the coaches who believe in her and are supporting her so that she can be the best version of herself.  

* source

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