I’ve known Hossan Leong for quite a while now. I really admire his determination and his passion, both on and off stage/screen. When it was announced that he’d be directing a Dream Academy production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company, I was really thrilled. I’m a big musical theatre fan and Stephen Sondheim is my all-time favourite composer-lyricist. Company is opening here in Singapore on 1 November 2012 and will run until 11 November (please, please, please support Hossan and Dream Academy and buy tickets for this show). Hossan was kind enough to chat with me a bit about Company, Sondheim and French food.
Hossan, can you please tell us a little bit about the musical you are directing, Company?
Company is a musical comedy written by the legendary Stephen Sondheim. I’m a great fan of his, I think every theatre-goer and any Singaporean, actually will be able to appreciate his work. This musical was written in the 70s. It’s about Bobby, a single man surrounded by his married friends. All of them want him to get married too. Sound familiar?
The musical explores some pretty adult themes. What do you hope your audience will take away after watching the show?
Adult themes? Well its about love and friendship – very universal topics that anyone can identify with. The beauty of this musical is that audiences can come out thinking completely different things about the outcome of our hero, but I always hope that they feel the love our cast has given to this work. But the main theme is LOVE and that is what I hope the audience will walk away with, along with lots of laughter.
Are there any stand-out songs that people will recognize?
Yes, definitely! The finale song, “Being Alive” has been performed by Barbra Streisand, Lea Salonga and Patti LuPone. Almost all these numbers are note-worthy, so its like choosing a favourite child.
I know you’re a huge Sondheim fan. Can you tell when you first heard a Sondheim song or watched one of his productions?
My most memorable Sondheim encounter was during the 2006 Broadway Revival of Company. In that production, not only did the cast sing, dance and act, but they also did the accompaniment on the different instruments! And they memorised all their lines perfectly, I felt so stressed for them.
What’s your all-time favourite Sondheim song and why?
Definitely “Send in the Clowns”! The song has so many emotions and it draws the audience and brings them to places. And I can accompany myself on the piano when I perform it.
It’s great that you’re directing this. Do you often find that people only think of you as a stand-up comic and not for all the different things you do in theatre?
I did get my start in comedy, so people will naturally recognize me for that. I’m just happy that I have fans who support me and come watch me do pretty much everything.
You’re also well-known as a Francophile. This is a little tangential, but do you have a favourite French restaurant in town? And what do you always order when you’re there?
I have too many restaurants I love! There’s La Brasserie Gavroche or there’s Les Amis or St. Julien. I love variety so it depends on what I feel like eating that day!
And what’s your favourite local dish? What can’t you live without?
Chicken rice! With two roasted chicken drumsticks. No bones. And soup.
Getting back to theatre, how has the scene here changed since you first started out? And has it changed for the better or worse?
There’s a lot I can say about theatre local or imported that¹s another essay topic for another day. Definitely for the better…but with the fiasco of Ken’s film being banned… I’m just lifting one eyebrow now.
Finally, if you could change one thing about Singapore, what would it be?
More air-conditioning. Singapore must CHILL a bit more.