Roax Tan, lead actor in KLPaC’s new musical Paper Crane, tells Aref Omar about his passion
CHANCES are you’ve seen his hilarious misadventures with the English language on Astro’s new sitcom Oh My English. Or perhaps you’ve come across the fresh faced actor who’s appeared in many TV commercials from Honda and HP to Proton.
Although always open to new acting opportunities, 25-year-old Roax Tan confesses that theatre is simply where his heart is. “It’s where the biggest challenge is, which is to continuously sustain a character through a two- or three-hour play from start to end,” says a jovial Tan in an interviewat the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPaC).
A graduate from New Era College’s Drama and Visual Arts Department, he has been plying his trade as an actor since 2008. Along the way he’s appeared in Musical on Stage’s Prince Siddharta The Musical, Dama Orchestra’s Glitz & Glamour and I Have a Date with Spring, which also toured to Perth, Australia.
But Tan faces his biggest challenge yet in the upcoming production by The Actors Studio Seni Teater Rakyat, titled Paper Crane The Musical, where he takes on the role of lead character Ah Kit.
The epic tale that spans 40 years follows Ah Kit’s rise as a Cantonese Opera star, his love for Fei Mui (Lee Elaine) and his dramatic rivalry with established stage star Fui Koh (Colin Kirton).
Paper Crane will also star Patrick Teoh, in his first role in a musical, as Fei Mui’s father and manager of the famed troupe, who hired both Ah Kit and Fui Koh.
Tan explains that although it’s set in the 1970s, Paper Crane is still a modern-day musical that will appeal to a diverse audience.
“It’s not a traditional Chinese Opera tale although there are a few minor scenes just to give the younger generation a little peak into that particular culture,” says Tan of the musical, written by Lim Chuang Yik and Teng Ky-Gan, who were responsible for other award-winning musicals such as Broken Bridges and Ismail: The Last Days.
Directed by Joe Hasham, Paper Crane will feature an ensemble cast of 18 supporting actors and a band of seven musicians performing around 17 original music pieces live.
Choreographed by Lex Lakshman Balakrishnan with musical direction from Mervyn Peters, the musical will also showcase original costume designs by Shingo Tokihiro.
Dialogue will be in Cantonese and English, with written explanations in printed handouts.
Tan recalls fond memories of accompanying his grandmother to watch Chinese Opera performances in the streets of his hometown in Butterworth.
“Audience numbers have dropped since then,” notes Tan, who has worked on many KLPaC productions including I Am Not My Pimples and Paper House.
He confesses that his ambition to be an actor harks back to his primary schooldays, where he would enthusiastically take part in the annual year end performances.
“I remember writing actor in all three columns of a blue ’What I Want To Be When I Grow Up’ card. My other friends wrote lawyer, doctor, teacher and other stuff,” he says with a smile.
Recalling his love for cartoons, the young Tan would make sure he was in front of the TV by 5pm to catch his favourite shows on RTM. “The cartoon characters had many expressions, gestures and funny movements, which influenced me a lot. I wanted to make people happy and laugh,” he says.
His dream to become an actor didn’t sit well with his parents though.
“They didn’t support me initially, so I had to prove that I could do it,” he says, adding that he took on TV roles and commercials so that they would see what he was doing.
“My dad always told me acting wasn’t a good job but when he saw me on TV, he’d get excited and tell all his friends about it,” says Tan with a laugh.
Winning the Best Actor Award at the 9th ADA Drama Award (for Big Head & Potato Head) and the Best Actor Award at Short+Sweet Theatre Malaysia 2011 (for Joy of Solitude) also helped in proving to his parents that he was serious.
“Since Paper Crane will be staged in Penang as well, my parents can now come and see me in action,” he says happily.
To broaden his singing abilities early on, he went on a talent search and was signed to Halo Music for a one-year contract.
“They trained me to be a singer and I got to perform too so it was a good experience,” he says.
Tan, who attends lots of auditions, confesses that he feels very lucky to have acting jobs lined up for the year.
“Every performance is different. I’ve got lots of things to learn, and improve, but that’s the fun part,” he says with a smile.
Paper Crane The Musical
When Until Aug 19 (Tuesday-Saturday: 8.30pm, Sunday: 3pm)
Where Pentas 1, KLPaC, Sentul Park, Jalan Strachan (off Jalan Ipoh), KL
Admission RM40-RM100 & RM32-RM80* (Tuesday-Thursday); RM50-RM110 & RM40-RM88* (Friday-Sunday)
* The Actors Studio (TAS) cardholders, students, disabled and senior citizens
Call 03-4047 9000 (KLPaC), 03-2142 2009 (TAS@Lot10) or visit www.klpac.org
When Aug 25-Sept 2 (Tuesday-Saturday: 8.30pm, Sunday: 3pm)
Where Stage 1, PenangPaC, Level 3A, Quay 1, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong, Penang
Admission RM40-RM60 & RM30 (TAS cardholders, students, disabled and senior citizens)
Call 04-899 1722/2722 (PenangPaC) or visit www.penangpac.org