Supernormal: The Musical
- Imperial Union Concert Hall
- 19th February 2022
Cleverly constructed by Imperial’s own Singapore Society members, ‘Supernormal: The Musical’ was a delight to witness. The premise is an original and effective one; time-skipping between past and present, a group of friends at university (Nicole, Jack, Klaire, and Larry) have a fallout, and while taking a much-needed time out Nicole is whisked out of reality to be told she is an ‘observer’. These so-called observers can step in and out of reality at will, tasked with helping others cope with their own ‘supernormal’ abilities. The idea is that everyone is supernormal – having a particular talent for something that affects the way they live. Examples in the musical include being right 90% of the time; being a ‘jack-of-all-trades’; and the ability to wilfully grow ingrown toenails (some graphic comic relief).
Eventually Nicole is drawn back to her circle of friends, who are now being faced with their own personal versions of supernormal; Jack is stuck in a teaching job with no hope for his desired promotion, Klaire longs for Jack (and others) to notice her for what she is, and Larry hasn’t seen the others in years – shunned for supposedly causing Nicole to disappear. Nicole’s job is not only to help them deal with the trials and tribulations of adult life but also find a way to reconcile with them and accept that she too needs the support that only friends can provide. The four are joined onstage by a fellow observer, Jack’s mother, colleagues at work, the Dean of Jack and Nicole’s school, and a crew of dedicated dancers, all of whom filled the show with extra antics for our enjoyment.
The musical showcased a range of creative talents outside of the academic sector, particularly regarding the musical numbers (dancing, singing, and orchestra). The main cast did an outstanding job of acting as both the younger and older versions of their characters, and their animation and emotion was admirable. While the speech took a moment to find the perfect pace and the mics were fuzzy at times, the script was delivered with clarity and the songs revealed impressive vocal ranges. The songs and dances were well-executed and gave us a glimpse of the contemporary hip-hop styles that are becoming increasingly popular in Asia; filled out with ensemble dancers and a backing choir. A small but talented accompanying orchestra swept the swift scene transitions along with fun melodies.
The dialogue was interspersed with jokes and musical numbers poking fun at the pressures and stresses of university and working life. Who knew the term ‘CV’ would ever make it into a song? Career-building and ‘friendly’ competition are other topics on the table, exploring what happens when friends are pitted against each other when looking for internships and other career opportunities. It is a light-hearted, yet profound commentary on how pressure in various areas of our lives can affect our friendships and relationships. The acting, while earnest, was comical; one hilarious scene had Larry sitting on a toilet in the office bathroom, with Nicole on the other side of the cubicle, awkwardly discussing her reappearance and Larry’s supernormal ability.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Singaporean event without some Asian touches; there were snippets of colloquialisms in the dialogue, and caricatures of the Asian student and parent stereotypes, but in the end the characters are just like everyone else. We saw recurring references to Korean dramas, beloved all over Asia for their dramatic romances, and freebies from sponsors ‘Yeos’ and ‘Biju’, with packet drinks from the former featuring in a dining scene near the beginning of the show. It also challenged the typical Asian parent expectations, to have a respectable (in their eyes) career – apparently ‘social worker’ is not one of them – and that any opposite-gender friend is potential dating material.
It was a performance well done, considering SingSoc has been writing, composing, directing, and rehearsing alongside their busy, lecture-filled schedules. Given more adequate time and resources, the show could have been in the leagues of drama school productions. I was pleasantly surprised by the uplifting story, which circled back to the four friends having dinner together in the ‘present day’, finding serenity among their everyday worries and unrest. It was an unexpectedly enjoyable way to spend my Saturday evening, taking a break from my own work-related stresses, and I’d love to see what they manage to put together for next year’s showcase.