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11 Apr 2006

let me entertain you with darius tan

Featuring songs from a myriad Broadway and Off-Broadway musicals, Darius Tan promises audiences a night of riveting, risqu and raunchy theatre at the Play Den at the Arts House from April 12 to 15.

Though Liza Minnelli occupies the sacred and immutable position within the queer imagination as its uncontended icon of Cabaret Chic, one must never forget the impending threats that lurk just around the corner, given how showbiz progresses at such unforgiving speed with an equally cruel capriciousness to match. If anything can be said for it, Catherine's Chicago windfall was such an indication. Fortunately, she's Welsh and not yet a Dame.

Darius Tan: a well-known figure in the local theatre scene. A reliable performer, music fanatic and recent cabaret convert. We met up a few afternoons ago to talk about the one-man cabaret show that he will be staging at The Arts House from April 12th to the 15th. Darius, I must say, is quite a character.

"It is going to be all in the spirit of fun and nonsense! I'm quite excited about it."

According to Darius, Let Me Entertain You is a devised performance combining the talents of many well-known faces in the local theatre scene. Joining Darius on stage during the actual peformances will be veterans the likes of recent L!fe Theatre Awards Best Actor Gerald Chew, Gani Karim, and Hatta Said, amongst others. Darius, of course, will remain the sole proprietor of centrestage, its divaesque occupant.

"The cabaret will feature a string of characters: the various stereotypical characters one encounters in the theatre industry."

Concieved about a year ago, Darius began to put his thoughts on paper earlier this year. The script - his first attempt at writing his own show - was completed soon after the pen was held. However, through a series of humbling consultations amongst friends, the original script was thought to be overly excessive. What Darius had in mind, in his "tribute," was a humongous cast of thirteen characters. After paring down, one could at last count the personas without having to resort to a third hand.

"Changes were made without much difficulty or reluctance on my part, surprisingly. All the characters I'll be portraying form my tribute to them, and the wonderful years I've spent in the theatre scene, years that were made wonderful because of these interesting characters I met along the way. Stereotypical? Yes. But not as a form of disrespect - that has to be established."

Just what will be in stall for the audience?

"I really love these characters. Some of them can be really off-putting in real life, like the dancer-who-can't-dance or the annoying child actor who simply won't go away. But interesting characters nonetheless. My favourite is the Diva, but of course. One doesn't become a Diva overnight. It takes years of hard work. Of course, having talent helps too."

A rather telling answer one might add. And understandly so. Having injured his left shoulder while performing in a recent revival of Army Daze, Darius seemed unfazed by the accident. On the contrary, he seemed more energised than anything else - despite the pain. Trust an artist to sing for his dinner. Darius is simply brimming with wide-eyed enthusiasm, eager to share his passion for music, theatre and performance. A self-proclaimed enthusiast of Stephen Sondheim, Darius Tan has this to say for local theatre: "It has reached a standstill! And yes, you can quote me on that!"
Just what is bugging this actor and first-time dramaturge?

"I've noticed that more and more often, local theatre companies - certain theatre companies - are relying upon putting up one revival after another, instead of coming up with something new and original. The recent Army Daze, for example. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong in putting up revivals. In fact, when it comes to artistic choices, there isn't a "right or wrong" to it - it is not necessarily a gauge of the production's quality. But, as a theatre practitioner, one wishes there could be more opportunities to witness, or take part in something that hasn't been done before. Something new and exciting."

So why a cabaret?

"First of all, a cabaret has an intimate feel to it. It has nothing to do with the spectacle that Crazy Horse is. I want the audience to experience the magic of song and dance through this proximity. Cabaret is in essence a kind of irreverent celebration of life that is both fun and funny. That is what appeals to me. My friends have been very supportive along the way. In fact, they were the ones who first suggested I ought to do a song and dance kind of thing, considering my 'big' voice and the crazy love I have for music, especially the music of Stephen Sondheim. That man's a genius!"

"Ultimately I just want to have fun when I perform. I think this philosophy applies to many actors as well. Sure, I want the audience to have a great time at the show, that is what entertainment is all about. But at the same time I want them to walk away with a sense of having learned something. This is why I have chosen to showcase all the various characters in my show. It's not just tapping on my experience in the circle, I truly want the audience to know what theatre is all about."

Having no formal training in theatre, Darius has certainly come a long way in the theatre business. A many-splendoured individual, his bubbly, perky exterior belies a love for theatre that is both deep and firm. This much was revealed to me as we spent the rest of the afternoon chatting about the all-and-sundry of life, and some more.

"The entire process of putting up this show has been a great experience for myself. My friends have been a tremendous help to me. I can't thank them enough for their kindness and generosity. It's going to be a fun, entertaining, and very Camp!"

With regards to Camp, Sontag has this to say: "it responds to "instant character," is not stirred by the sense of development of character. Character, in Camp taste, is understood as a state of continual incandesence - a person being one, very intense thing." Let us hope the flame of Darius Tan burns equally bright.

Let Me Entertain You! (16/18 years and above)
Directed by Loretta Chen
Starring Darius Tan
April 12-15
Show times: 12 and 13 April - 8.00 pm / 14 and 15 April - 7.30 pm, 9:30pm*
(*SERIOUSLY Raunchy Late Night Shows, 18 years and above)
Play Den at the Arts House, Old Parliament House
Price: $25.00
*Special price of $22.00 for Fridae members

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