I went to the 32nd and final performance of this musical held on 29 May 2016, Sunday, at the Genting Resort Theatre.
Ge Tai, literally translated to “Song Stage”, is an annual event held on the seven month, or ghost month of the lunar calendar. These temporary operas or concert are entertainment meant for the brothers (term respectfully addressed to the ghosts) during their one-month release from the other world.
Ge Tais are ubiquitous in most heartlands in Singapore during this time. The singers, in their extravagant costumes, move from heartland to heartland for that fifteen minutes of performance. Some have become so famous that they have fans who follow them around.
This musical is based loosely on the last days of famous Ge Tai pioneer, Chen Jin Lang, or Brother Jin as he is known in the circle. Red Star Ge Tai, which Jin Ge (in the script) owns is raising fund for his medical bill. The singers are unhappy that a newcomer from Taiwanese is upstaging them and bully him. They are then reminded by the emcee on how they were once newbies as well and given a chance by Jin Ge.
Weak story line aside, the musical is entertaining to the silver-haired audience with the golden oldies belted out, the lewd jokes, the dialects as well as the outrageous costumes. One singer actually came out with the back of a white stallion attached to his bottom.
We were filled with nostalgia by the appearance of veteran singer Qing Shan, who entertained us with his hits. In his seventies, his stage presence is still captivating. A weak link is the real ge tai singer from some association who sang with a recording, highlighting to us the glaring difference singing in front of live and recorded music.
The stage was glitzy, with flash backs to the ge tais of the 80’s by the coupon parking signages – car parks where the singers relaxed.
I have never been to a real ge-tai. My grandparents, members of the Orchard Market Hawker Association, used to have Teochew Operas along Cuppage Road in the 60s/70s for seventh month, until these were taken over by ge tais in HDB heartlands, more popular because of the scantily-clad sultry singers and dancers prancing about on stage.
It was certainly more enjoyable sitting in velvet seats, air-conditioned comfort than standing at the car park of a HDB estates. So yes, I thoroughly enjoyed myself on Sunday.