Interview with the cast behind Emperor's New Clothes

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by Chong Zhi Hao

With the upcoming production Emperor’s New Clothes by Wild Rice coming up soon, we speak to Singapore Idol alumni, Sezairi Sezali and Ben Kheng of Sam Willows to know more about his role, and his thoughts about acting while playing a musical instrument in this quirky rendition of the well-known classic!

Sezairi Sezali:

1. Can you share a bit more about your role?

I’m playing Khai, part of a designer duo with his brother Nate.

2. What were some of the challenges that you faced when preparing for this role?

I think the challenge in this production, really is the multi-tasking, I’ve done all of them separately, but never playing an instrument, singing, acting and doing choreography, all at once!

3. Were there any memorable moments that you had when preparing for this role?

A lot of the scenes I’m doing are with my brother played by Benjamin Kheng, and I guess it helps that we’re good friends in real life. Basically everyday is spent rehearsing and getting to hang out with your friend, getting to know the cast members and eventually becoming really good friends with them, helps make everything easier and more memorable.

4. I understand that “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is a classic tale, and W!LD Rice has given it a local twist in this musical. Can you share about the local elements that have been put into the story that audiences can expect to see in the musical?

Most of the plot revolves around the similarities between our SG50 celebrations and the emperor’s festivities. To a certain extent, that’s as localized as we can get. 

5. I also understand that you’ll be playing musical instruments, would you like to tell us what instruments we can expect to see on stage for the musical?

I’ll mostly be playing the guitar 😉

6. How does music help to tell the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”?

First off, let me just say that the music in ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ are simply breathtaking. I think it makes the story easily relatable and to understand for any age group and it really sets the tone for the story from start to end.

7. Lastly, do you have any future plans from here?

I always have a few plans. An English album is ready for release; a wedding is being (or supposed to be) planned. And who knows, maybe another musical in the year 2016?


Ben Kheng:

1. Can you share a bit more about your role?

I’m playing one half of the tailor duo (alongside Sezairi). We’re responsible for sowing the Emperor’s magnificent gown. We sing, play our instruments, dance around and occasionally make clothes, so pretty much our average Tuesday in real life.

2. What were some of the challenges that you faced when preparing for this role?

The biggest challenge coming in would be overcoming the “WHAT THE HECK” sentiment upon seeing the scores, choreography, complex instrumental arrangements, vocal parts and trying to string everything together. We’re all playing our respective instruments on top of everything else, so there’s that added technical element. We’re loving the challenge. 

3. Were there any memorable moments that you had when preparing for this role?

So many – the script and music take you on such an emotional ride. There are moments where we can’t rehearse, because we’re too busy laughing, or too busy crying, or too busy being confused out of our mind by the arrangement. Julian Wong has done a mind-bending job with this score. We can’t get enough of it.

4. I understand that “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is a classic fairy tale, and W!LD Rice has given it a local twist in this musical. Can you share about the local elements that have been put into the story that audiences can expect to see in the musical?

There are so many incredible elements that I’d rather not spoil for you, but in this musical, we parody everything from soapy Channel 8 dramas to fashion faux pas, to every conceivable SG50 campaign out there in this wonderfully patriotic year.

5. I also understand that you’ll be playing musical instruments, would you like to tell us what instruments we can expect to see on stage for the musical?

I won’t tell you who plays what, but you can expect to see lots of guitars, percussion, pianos, possibly a flute, trumpet, angklongs, violins, and a very convincing mouth trumpet.

6. How does music help to tell the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”?

In every musical, the songs are the vehicles of the narrative. I’d dare say Julian Wong is one of the finest composers we have in Singapore, and this project should be a testament to his ability. But more than that – this show is about music, the playing of music, and how it can be a catalyst of change in so many ways.  

7. Lastly, do you have any future plans from here?

When this is all over, I plan to have a very long and satisfying nap.

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