Translating Musicals, Trolls and More: an Interview with Anthony Drewe and George Stiles

If you are a fan of children’s theater in Singapore, odds are pretty good that you’re already familiar with the work on Anthony Drewe and George Stiles. In the upcoming 2015 The Little Company season, you will have the chance to catch TWO Drewe/Stiles musicals: 金发姑娘和三只熊  Goldilocks and the Three Bears in Mandarin (March 11-29) and The Three Billy Goats Gruff  (April 2-May 1).  In past seasons, you may have seen their production of The Three Little Pigs in English (2012) or Mandarin (2013), or the English production of Goldilocks and the Three Bears (2013).

A medley of songs from The Three Little Pigs

The Little Company recently gave me the opportunity to interview Mr. Drewe and Mr. Stiles.

What have you enjoyed most about mounting productions in Singapore? Do you have any great anecdotes about the experience?

We’ve enjoyed learning from the children in the audience because you can’t get away with anything with children; you know when they’re attentive, entertained, scared or bored. We were delighted to discover that Singaporean children are as vocal as British children when invited to participate by the characters on stage. We both get as much pleasure from watching the children’s faces as we do from watching the actors performing.

Anthony was once standing at the back of the auditorium and he saw a little girl being carried out of the theatre because she was scared of the Big Bad Wolf, even though Sebastian Tan played the role in a non-menacing way. When the three little pigs dispatched the Big Bad Wolf, the little girl was happy to be brought back to her seat.

3 bears eating no backgroundGoldilocks and the Three bears (credit: The Little Company 2013)

What are the challenges of adapting your musicals from English to Mandarin?

We have the advantage that the stories of each of the Trilogy shows are well known to children around the world. The challenge in translating them is really one that the translator has to deal with, particularly when it comes to the lyrics. As well as having to rhyme in Mandarin, the language has four tones which can transform the meaning of a word. Therefore they have to ensure the number of syllables fits with each line of music and the words are stressed correctly. Thankfully that’s not a job we have to do but we’re indebted to Danny Yeo for doing such an excellent job.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 12.41.40 amThe Three Billy Goats Gruff Sistic Page

My family is looking forward to The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  My daughter, Elanor (age 6) wants me to ask you “Who is your favorite character (in that show) and why and is the troll scary?”

Our favourite character is one that we’ve invented for the story – a little girl called Little Bo Frilly (the sister of Little Bo Peep). She is very keen to prove to her father that she is responsible enough to look after animals, in this case three billy goats. Although she admits to losing things and being forgetful like her sister, her passion for reading eventually saves the day.

The troll isn’t actually scary to children, but he is to goats – because he loves to eat them! In our story the troll bears a strong likeness to those found in Scandinavian folk law, rather than the cute little characters seen in the recent film Frozen. Our troll has a big secret which through her reading Little Bo Frilly discovers but you’ll have to come and see the show to discover what it is and how Little Bo Frilly saves her Billy Goats Gruff!

Many thanks to The Little Company, Anthony Drewe and George Stiles for this opportunity.

You can purchase tickets for 金发姑娘和三只熊 (Goldilocks in Mandarin) and The Three Billy Goats Gruff (in English) at Sistic.

金发姑娘和三只熊 (Goldilocks in Mandarin) promo video

Singapore Repertory Theatre’s The Little Company (TLC) is launching their 2015 season with a smorgasbord of five musicals and plays, promising a colourful array of classics for the family to choose from. We are proud to present the season’s two first exciting upcoming productions Goldilocks and the Three Bears (in Mandarin) in March followed by The Three Billy Goats Gruff in April.

Perfect for kids aged two to six, The Three Billy Goats Gruff is part of a trio series written by award-winning musical writers Anthony Drewe and George Stiles (Broadway’s Mary Poppins, Just So, and Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure). The musical is based on the classic Norwegian fairy tale, De tre bukkene Bruse, and tells the tale of three male goats that must find a way to escape the clutches of an evil troll in order to reach the other side of a river to find food.

The hugely successful Goldilocks and the Three Bears enjoyed sell-out houses with its English production in 2013. Now, TLC is introducing the Mandarin version of this classic story for bilingual children and budding linguists.

Featuring music and lyrics by the same dynamic duo, Anthony Drewe and George Stiles, this rendition of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is as classic as it gets, reminding the little ones of the importance of respecting the privacy and property of others.–From the press release

Full disclosure–I have accepted tickets in the past and for the upcoming production of The Three Billy Goats Gruff in exchange for honest reviews from The Little Company.  No compensation was offered or received for this interview.

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