Music, makan and mayhem – three things to look out for in Fried Rice Paradise, Mediacorp’s adaption of Dick Lee’s iconic stage musical, premiering June 25 on Toggle.
The new version of Fried Rice Paradise had its launch party at Zouk on Thursday (June 20), is part of the ‘Lights. Camera. Singapore’ showcase. The event was attended by Lee and the cast of the 13-part series which was filmed in Malaysia.
Lee's musical has been staged twice — in 1991 and 2010 — with different narratives. The TV-incarnation is based on the 2010 version and follows Choo Bee Lean (Fang Rong) who dreams of opening a restaurant with cuisines based on her late mother's recipes.
But before she can do that, she has to find out who killed her mother. The whodunit element is new to the Fried Rice Paradise storyline; in the original, Bee’s mother isn’t in the picture.
“For 13 episodes, you got to have more than just a neighbour story,” Dick Lee, 62, tells 8 DAYS. “So the happy little street — Jalan Calamansi — becomes a little bit sinister.”
The 1986-set drama also stars Carmen Soo, Peter Yu, Sebastian Tan, Suhaimi Yusof, and Malaysian singer Uriah See. The show will also feature Lee’s songs from that era. But the TV series isn’t a traditional musical where “the character sits alone and sings.” Instead, his music is used to colour the period.”
Lee adds, “In the ’80s, I released eight albums and these albums are basically lost because all the masters were lost in a warehouse fire. I still have those albums and I digitalised all of them. The songs are very 80s-sounding and the style of writing is also quite nostalgic and retro.”
For folks who don’t know anything about Fried Rice Paradise, what can they learn from the TV series?
“It’s a slice of Singapore culture, or pop culture, at least,” says Lee. “I think the story is well-written and it’s good enough to keep you hooked. You’ll definitely know [more about] my music and the title song which only makes one appearance. But the show is not really about the song anymore; it’s more about food and neighbourliness. It’s a Singaporean drama.”
Even before its June 25 premiere, there’s already talk of a sequel. “In fact, the first version of the musical is set way in the future when Bee Lian is retiring. So there’s another story to be told.”
Is there another Dick Lee musical that Lee would like to make into a TV series? “If I had my way, I would do Hot Pants, which is set against a talent contest in the 1970s.”
“I [grew up] in the ‘70s — the '70s is wilder,” says Lee.
Fried Rice Paradise – The Drama Series premieres June 25 on Toggle. It subsequently airs Tuesdays (starting from July 2), Ch 5, 9.30pm. Know of a joint serving up fried rice that would rival Bee Lean's? Join our search for Singapore favourite fried rice by nominating your personal paradise via this link.
Photos: Bryan Lim (8DAYS)/Mark Lee