BEAUTY World may be 20 years old, but the old gal is reinventing herself with a cast and story that's been 'new-improved' to appeal to a whole new generation.
And who better than the likes of Project Superstar II winner Daren Tan to headline a fresh-faced cast? asks Beauty World's playwright, Michael Chiang.
Chiang, a pioneer of the local theatre scene with his now classic works like Army Daze and Private Parts, is excited over the choice of Tan as Ah Hock, the love interest of Ivy, a young girl from Malaysia who comes to Singapore in the 1960s and finds musical adventure in the cabaret known as Beauty World.
Known for his powerful rocker-style vocals, he's also impressed Chiang with his acting prowess. It's always been tough to find singers who can act or actors who can sing, but 'this time round, the whole cast can sing, and they are strong actors as well', says Chiang.
Of course, there was also an additional motive in casting Tan, says Chiang. The idea was to draw young people aged between 18 and 24 who are more familiar with TV personalities away from the goggle box and into the theatre.
Chiang adds that it was a 'no-brainer' to choose fresh theatre grad Elena Wang, 20, for the role of Ivy, the main character.
Being young and fresh, Elena brings in all the qualities that her stage character requires, Chiang says.
For this much-anticipated 20th anniversary revival of Singapore's landmark musical, Chiang boasts a 'cream of the crop' cast and a complete rewrite of the original script.
He says that the rewrite was necessary as this revival is not a mere re-staging with updates on references. 'I want to tell the story differently,' he says.
This time, the musical will not open with a little girl listening to the radio but with a grown-up Ivy in the cabaret with the time references emerging through the musical.
'Some things that we felt we needed to do 20 years ago, we don't need to do now,' Chiang says.
In the new production, the set design is clearer, the motivations and relationships between the leads are more obvious too. Even though some things are simplified in the musical, the new version is actually longer, with more scenes and songs.
Beauty World toured Japan in 1994 and was performed by students in the United States in 2006.
Chiang feels the new version can travel further than Asia and reveals that there have been discussions to turn the musical into a movie.
Directed by Wild Rice artistic director Ivan Heng, this new 20th anniversary production is set to dazzle with $2.2 million pumped in.
For those who have watched the previous runs of Beauty World and are considering whether to catch this new one, Chiang has this to say: 'Don't contemplate, just buy a ticket. You will not regret it.'
Beauty World plays at the Esplanade Theatre from Jan 3 to 19 at 8pm with 2.30pm weekend matinees. Tickets from $25 to $125 from Sistic (www.sistic.com.sg, tel: 6348-5555).