Musical Spooktacular!

By Dylan Tan
Business Times
Published March 18, 2011

WHILE the musical comedy H is for Hantu may be filled with a bag of laughs, one of the characters was inspired by writer-director Jonathan Lim’s personal brush with the supernatural.

‘I had a near-encounter with what I believe was a ‘Hantu Penanggalan’ during my NSF days, at the old Beach Road Camp; it was a floating head spirit I saw at pre-dawn,’ says Lim.

‘The memory lingered horribly in my mind, and it is very cathartic to be able to turn that into a very lovable Miss P who now only makes me laugh,’ he adds, referring to one of the many madcap ghouls who appear in the show.

First staged in 2009, H is for Hantu charmed the young and old alike with its mix of puppetry, comedy and music. Its story about urban development as the inhabitants – both living and dead – of Singapore’s last kampung are forced to leave, is one which is deeply rooted in local culture.

H is for Hantu’s re-run is one that Lim says should be a common practice here.

‘A really good musical that is going to stand the test of time requires several stages of development and testing before it really comes into its own,’ he explains. ‘Our industry has become too used to disposable theatre-making – creating shows quickly, running them briefly and then discarding them. It takes years of testing and re-testing, revisiting and refining.’

Several changes have been made and audiences are in for new surprises, including meatier roles for the puppets created by Frankie Malachi.

‘Getting to know the puppets so much better after the first run, we’ve been able to be more ambitious with them and they now come to life so much more thrillingly,’ Lim says. ‘For example, the charming Hantu Batu (Stone Spirit) was a bit of a cameo in the previous show, but now it shows up more prominently – challenging the puppeteer but also adding a new hantu sidekick to the story!’

Lim is touched by how quickly local audiences have taken to H is for Hantu and reveals it won’t be the end of the road for this musical spook-tacular after it completes this run.

‘There is a sequel in the works… This is probably the most honest and sincere work I’ve ever written, and I am happy to learn that the audience appreciates it.’

H is for Hantu runs from March 23 to April 3 at Gallery Theatre, National Museum. Showtimes are at 3pm and 8pm.

Tickets at $35 from Sistic

Kampung capers: The musical comedy H is for Hantu (left) , which was first staged in 2009 to rave reviews, makes a comeback with meatier roles for the ghouls, ghosts and assorted blood-suckers.

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