Profile: Sugie Phua

Published on 25 November 2014

A fixture in Mandarin productions, Sugie Phua takes on his first English musical in Monkey Goes West.

BY jo tan

“I’ve often asked my directors, ‘Why, why, why me?’ I’m not professionally trained, I don’t have the height, I studied I.T. Why cast me as lead?” exclaims Sugie Phua. “I’m happy with being the sidekick who goes ‘ta-da’ and makes people laugh.”

The star of several award-winning Mandarin musicals is back in the spotlight playing the titular role in W!ld Rice’s Monkey Goes West (MGW), Alfian Sa’at’s Singaporean reinterpretation of Chinese classic Journey to the West.

Phua first caught the public eye when he sang his way to the finals of Project Superstar, charming TV audiences with his wit. After hosting and acting gigs with MediaCorp, he joined One Million Star, Taiwan’s popular singing contest, ending up in the Top 10.

In 2010, the livewire took to the stage in period-rock musical Liao Zhai Rocks. Next came lead roles in Maha Moggallana and the acclaimed Lao Jiu in 2012.

With MGW, Phua tackles his first English production. “I was so stressed because I couldn’t pronounce the English words clearly when I was singing. Plus, I find it harder to be funny in English.” And tapping on body language wasn’t easy in this role. “The Monkey King has to execute wushu moves, twirling and throwing a rod all the time!”

But challenges, physical or mental, have never stopped Phua from giving his all, and perhaps that’s the secret to this lovable star’s success. “I’m still not sure why people keep offering me opportunities,” he muses. “Maybe it’s because I don’t hold back. I may be scared, but whatever you need me to do, I’ll do it 100 per cent.”

(Photo:  Mark Teo)

Catch Sugie Phua in Monkey Goes West, Victoria Theatre, 21 Nov-13 Dec, 7.30pm, with Thu and weekend matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets available via Sistic.

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