Directed by Steven Dexter, Forbidden City was performed to acclaim in 2002 and 2003. This year, the red curtains are once again unveiled for this musical. Kit Chan, who plays the leading role Empress Dowager, chats about her role in the production, her favorite moments on stage, and her new book.
Is it boring playing the same role the third time round? Has your role been reworked?
Not a chance of it being boring, especially since it’s been a while since I last played it. Empress Cixi is such a complex character, and I have so much material to work on that I see this time round as another opportunity to refine and to improve on my performance. Scenes have been added or restaged to make the relationships between the characters even clearer.
What is your most unforgettable moment on stage?
Quite a few…I love the first moment when the walls of the Forbidden City are thrown open to the audience. I always get goose bumps. And there’s my big number, “Why Dream of Love” which is so absolutely tragic in epic proportions.
What are some difficulties when playing the role of Cixi?
Things like having to progressively age with Cixi in the space of two-and-a-half-hours. I had to work out a subtle transformation in my singing and speaking voice, as well as my demeanor and body language. It’s all in the details, and in picking the right moments to make those transformations.
So what is it like working with Hossan Leong, Sebastian Tan and Cynthia Lee?
Crazy, funny buggers! One is a chili padi, small and potent; one is hilarious when inebriated; and the other one is very sexy, and has an extremely healthy body image! Work out who’s who for yourself!?
OK, do you prefer performing in musicals or singing songs and producing albums?
The adrenaline rush of performing on the musical stage is addictive, but it does take a lot out of me. I need to be disciplined. It is a much more relaxing and creative process in the recording studio. You can afford to make mistakes, try out stuff and just chill and hang out. However, the “extra-curricular” activities (album promotional tours) of the pop music industry are things I absolutely detest. That’s why I’m laying off it completely for the time being.
What are you busy with currently then?
I have no life outside of Forbidden City. I am indeed living the life of the Empress Dowager Cixi, being trapped “within these walls of gilt and gold….” OK, I’m getting mental now. There’s my newly released book co-authored with my best friend Yong Siew Fern called Cathy & Jodie: the Princess and the Flea! It’s available in all major bookstores as well as at Flowers In The Attic at The Heeren. It’s a book that celebrates friendship, music, movies, and food, and the embarrassingly loud ’80s!