Multitalented, dynamite, classyNo mid-life crisis for the Music and Drama Company as it celebrates 45 years of entertaining Singaporeans and soldiers with bigger and better performances.
// Story benita teo
// PHOTOS Kenneth lin (main photo), PIONEER photographers & courtesy of MDC
Past 40 and over the hill? No way, says the Music and Drama Company (MDC) as it celebrates its 45th birthday.
In fact, it's proving that life begins at 45 with the latest technologies, viral entertainment trends and "triple-threat" talents who can do it all.
Meet some of the talents behind the new MDC, and get to know them before they pop up on your social media feed or hit a big screen near you.
Rae of sunshine
Saleha Jubir (Rae), 25, Artiste
She may look pint-sized but her personality’s larger than life — enough for all her onstage roles. This multitalented performer sings, dances, hosts and acts, and is currently dabbling in radio DJ-ing!
Together with three fellow MDC artistes, Saleha starred in a colourful remake of Singapore Town (mindef.sg/sgtown), taking viewers on “a little trip around Singapore town” to iconic locations like the famous Toa Payoh dragon playground.
Since the music video was uploaded four months ago, it has garnered close to 100,000 views on various online platforms, and found fans locally and overseas.
“It was all over Singapore, (even on the) big screens in neighbourhood plazas. I even received a message from my friend in Australia — they were showing it during the National Day celebrations there! I was shocked but thankful that it did so well.”
Beauty queen to dancing queen
Kimberly Woon, 28, Artiste
No stranger to Recruits’ Night, she’s wowed audiences for six years with her singing and dancing.
But did you know Kimberly came on board MDC with little more than a passion for performing?
“Before this, I was a beauty therapist who couldn’t even do simple sidesteps. My first performance was Recruits’ Night, and I only had one week to rehearse for a four-night show. So it was very stressful!”
Today, she has a musical under her belt — We Are Singapore, a special piece written for this year’s Ministry of Defence’s National Day Observation Ceremonies (mindef.sg/wearesingapore).
“It was a very new and fresh experience for us. We had a professional (theatre practitioner Dwayne Lau) to script and direct it.”
Dominic Chin, 23, Artiste
You might know Dominic as the Full-time National Serviceman (NSF) who penned and arranged We’ll Carry On, the title track of the special NS50 album produced by MDC last year.
In October, he signed on as a full-time artiste.
“Coming to MDC, there’s so much I can create that can generate gratitude and appreciation. For instance, when working on We’ll Carry On, I realised that it’s bigger than just writing songs.
“It’s about our generation of youths and NSFs giving thanks to all those who came before us. And that’s very fulfilling.”
And even though he has become the unofficial resident composer, he’s working hard to master other skills as well.
“I’ve been exposed to dance, and to writing songs for a specific purpose. I want to hone my skills in singing and performing, and I look forward to being even more versatile.”
Dance dance revolution
Ryan Tan, 45, Artistic Manager
A veteran in the local dance scene, MDC’s resident choreographer was a judge on the 2015 dance competition The Dance Floor. And he wants to use his two decades of experience to bring the company’s performances to greater heights.
“For example, I’m getting the dancers to work on character development so they don’t just dance or sing, but portray a particular character. My expertise is in the commercial world, and I want to bring the latest back here for them to try.”
Most recently at the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus Gala Dinner in October, Ryan choreographed a show (mindef.sg/admmdh) with MDC artistes, child dancers, and one special “performer” — an interactive screen that reacted to the different movements made by the dancers!
“It wasn’t just a dance show, but a story that carried through three acts. It was exciting to choreograph because once you understand how the screen works, you can design the movements (to complement the effects onscreen).”
“My expertise is in the commercial world, and I want to bring the latest back here for them to try.”
Sound of music
Felix Phang, 35, Deputy Head, Content (Live Engagement)
You may not have seen him before, but you've certainly heard him. Music producer Felix was the one-man percussion section in the Singapore Town music video.
On top of arranging the music, he also played the bells, rattles, shakers and caxixi (an African instrument) to accompany the singing. So what makes a hit song that can go viral?
“It has to be very sing-able, for both the performers and audience. I always ask myself: can this song be sung around a campfire? If it can, then it’s a good song for the mass audience. Everybody can sing along too.”
He also produced the songs for the We Are Singapore musical, working with seasoned theatre practitioners to train the artistes in singing and emoting.
And now, he’s working towards forming a special MDC multi-ethnic band, and helping the performers pick up new instruments for it.
“Our full-time musicians can pick a folk instrument and we’ll give them the training to pursue their interest. We’re developing our training programme to get the artistes and musicians more equipped and raise their capabilities and skills.”
“I always ask myself: can this song be sung around a campfire? If it can, then it’s a good song for the mass audience.”