Set in the tumultuous ’50s, Toy Factory’s popoular Chinese musical December Rains – last staged in 2010 – tells the story of a couple who try to make their relationship work despite the worrying political turmoil and parental objections. We talk to Sugie Phua, who plays Ming Li, a friend of the couple who’s secretly in love with the female lead.
'Ming Li has a dark and quiet side that’s very appealing.'
Phua is a bundle of energy in real life, but his character, Ming Li, is an introvert.
'My character forsakes everything for love even if his feelings for [the female lead] Li Qing is unrequited. Although quiet, his presence is felt in the most subtle way.'
His biggest challenge is to understand his character’s psyche.
'Ming Li has a slight stutter and that in itself is a challenge to master and portray naturally. Plus, I have to express his emotions and make his presence felt without speaking too much.'
He’s drawn to the role because it’s so different.
'I’ve been cast in productions where I’m very "beng", energetic, bubbly – all very extroverted types. Ming Li has a dark and quiet side that’s very appealing.'
His favourite lyrics from the show are from a solo, ‘Little Me’.
'There’s one line in the chorus that goes, “When the time comes and if I disappear, will anyone still think of me?" I have never thought of myself as “small” in any way – even if I am small by stature – given my big personality. It took me some time to go through and understand the song fully.'
Despite the political overtones in the plot, Phua believes that December Rains is a love story.
'Ming Li chose love above everything else, even putting aside the revolution. To him – and to me – this is definitely a love story.'