Profile: Dim Sum Dollies

Published on 11 November 2014

Profile: Dim Sum Dollies

Their skits may be bite-sized fun, but the Dim Sum Dollies are definitely a scrumptious main course on anyone’s theatre menu.

BY pamela ho

From Sang Nila Utama to Samsui Women and Sarong Party Girls, the Dim Sum Dollies have dolled up and done it! For over a decade, they’ve entertained audiences with their bold satirical humour, daring to shine a spotlight on the idiosyncrasies of Singapore life and inviting us to laugh at ourselves.

Originally comprised of Selena Tan, Pam Oei and Emma Yong, the Dollies first appeared together in 2002 in A Single Woman, as part of the Esplanade’s fringe performances for its opening ceremony. “I wanted to do a cabaret piece and asked Pam and Emma. We’d been working on various productions for many years already,” shares Selena, who is also the founder of the theatre company, Dream Academy. “Our voices fit and we shared a great love for the theatre, the craft and the humour. It just worked!”

In 2003, the girls introduced themselves as the Dim Sum Dollies for the first time with Steaming! at the Raffles Hotel’s Jubilee Hall. They then went on to stage Singapore’s Most Wanted (2005), Little Shop of Horrors (2006), The History of Singapore (2007, 2008), and more – with each production boasting an original script and songs.

“The most difficult part is the script writing, and that falls on Selena’s shoulders,” says Pam. “I think she has a really good pulse on what will make an audience laugh. The Dollies then workshop the material, even at rehearsals.”

After Yong’s death from cancer in 2012, Denise Tan joined the fold for Dream Academy’s production, Crazy Christmas 2013: Ting Tong Belles. Come next month, the trio will stage a full-length production, The History of Singapore 2 – The Growing Up Years!

“There’s definitely pressure because I really want to honour Emma’s legacy,” Denise reveals. “But Pam and Selena have really gone to lengths to make me feel part of the team. I’ve worked with them for over 15 years, and whilst not as a Dolly, there’s that familiarity.”

Twelve years on, the Dim Sum Dollies have found their way into the hearts of Singaporeans, and even onto shopping bags, the backs of buses and MRT jingles. Says Selena, “Our shows may be very Singaporean, but instead of it being a barrier to foreigners, I think the local nature of the show is an attraction. It allows them an immediate insight to all things Singaporean.”

Emma Yong, Selena Tan and Pam Oei go to New York and overdose on Broadway shows, August 2007. (Photo: Pam Oei)

Catch the Dim Sum Dollies in The History of Singapore 2 – The Growing Up Years!, Esplanade Theatre, 11-23 Dec, 8pm, with weekend matinees at 3pm. Tickets available via Sistic.

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