A queen crab, otter and salt- water crocodile - familiar sights at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve - will make their appearance in unfamiliar territory at the Marina Bay Sands' Sands Theatre on Nov 8.
They are characters in A Nation In Concert 2014: A Wetlands Adventure, a musical extravaganza starring more than 100 differently abled performers and supported by a volunteer cast of 14 theatre professionals, including funnywoman Patricia Mok and theatre veteran Nora Samosir.
Acting in the fourth edition of the musical will be a first for the two actresses. They were approached by show director Jonathan Lim, who runs the popular parody sketch show Chestnuts.
Theatre actors Haryani Othman, Faizal Abdullah and Pierre Goh will be part of the cast too.
Samosir watched the edition in 2008 and was impressed by how the production was able to bring together theatre professionals and performers from the Association for Persons with Special Needs, Handicaps Welfare Association, the Singapore Association for the Deaf and Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped.
She says: "Despite the fact that this is a different working environment from what I am used to, I've been heartened by the various groups and the high level of dedication they have demonstrated."
Ranging in age from 10 to over 50, the differently abled actors will accompany the theatre actors by playing percussion instruments to the tune of Shakira's Waka Waka (This Time For Africa), perform a Latin dance in wheelchairs and another dance by signing the lyrics to Miley Cyrus' The Climb.
Lim says: "It's the only show I know of that is not about sympathy and making concessions to them because they are differently abled. The whole point is that they are different and that's awesome. They can do things we can't. It is about celebrating diversity."
The first show began in 2005 with the aim to empower the disabled performers and debunk perceived notions by society, says founding producer Jerry Siah.
This was followed by productions in 2006 and 2008. After a six-year hiatus, the musical has returned with the help of the Rotary Club of Pandan Valley, which will present it this year.
The previous edition of the musical left such "an indelible impression" on its club president Elsie Chua that she approached Siah to revive it. The upcoming 21/2-hour musical will address the topic of "us versus them" in Singapore in a lighthearted manner, using the creatures that live in Sungei Buloh and migratory birds, Lim says.
Mok, who plays the leader of the birds, says the experience has been "an eye- opener" and adds that she "will not simply volunteer for the sake of it".
She is full of praise for the hardworking bunch and has learnt some hardhitting life lessons from watching them in action during rehearsals. "I was reminded that it is a privilege to work on the stage and not to take things for granted. This musical is about them, not us, the professionals. They have talent that deserves a chance to be celebrated," she says.
All proceeds from ticket sales will go to the participating voluntary welfare organisations.
A NATION IN CONCERT 2014: A WETLANDS ADVENTURE
Where: Sands Theatre, MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands
When: Nov 8, 3 and 7.30pm
Admission: Tickets from $35 to $100 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
Info: Go to www.anationinconcert.com
This article was first published on Oct 27, 2014.
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