Arts & Events, Lifestyle

10 Minutes With … Denise Tan – Tan Lili

MediaCorp Radio’s Gold 90FM DJ Denise Tan plays a loudmouthed, overbearing and oft-inebriated widowed mum in the upcoming Pangemomium production, “The Rise & Fall of Little Voice”. We speak to Denise to find out more about her role.

Denise Tan (second from left) plays the loudmouthed, overbearing mother of Little Voice (centre).

Denise Tan (second from left) plays the loudmouthed, overbearing mother of Little Voice (centre).

Set in 1974 when Singapore was still finding her own voice, “The Rise & Fall of Little Voice” tells the tale of LV (Mina Kaye). After her father passed away, LV finds solace in listening to his old records and doing incredible impersonations of divas like Edith Piaf and Judy Garland, while her overbearing mother Mari (Denise Tan) turns to alcohol for comfort. Sleazy “talent scout” Ray Ray (Adrian Pang), whom Mari is dating, hatches a scheme to make money out of LV, and starts grooming her for her stage debut. The shy LV, however, isn’t all that interested in the glitz and glamour; her heart is in Billy (Shane Mardjuki). Watch the drama unfold as LV gets ready for her debut performance – one that will involve you, the audience.

While the musical revolves around LV, her mother is the central figure in LV’s life. Is there more to Mari than her obnoxious, trashy facade? We speak to the actress playing her, to find out more.

Tell us more about your character Mari.

Mari is the larger-than-life, overbearing, non-stop-talking mother of Little Voice. She’s a widowed single mum, down-on-her-luck, good-time party girl who loves a drink or 10!

How did you prepare yourself for the role?

Easy – I got drunk. Not! Seriously though, I didn’t so much prepare for the role than just allow Mari to soak into my skin during rehearsals. I guess that means not sucking in my stomach and being willing to embrace ugliness physically and emotionally, because Mari really is a woman of loose morals and few social graces.

What’s the biggest challenge playing Mari?

The cursing and swearing – I wasn’t joking with the cast that I swore more on the first day of rehearsals than I ever have in my entire life! Also, because Mari is so loud and larger-than-life and talks all the time, it’s a challenge to tread that fine line between stereotypical cariacature and fleshing her out to be a real, believable person.

In what aspects of Mari’s character do you find yourself relating to?

I think this is something most people can relate to – using words, a lot of words, to conceal how you really feel deep down inside. Using words as a wall, as a defense for your insecurities, using words as weapons to protect yourself.

Plus, I do enjoy a cocktail every so often too.

Underneath all that raucous and trashy behaviour, Mari appears to be a lonely, lost and fragile woman desperate for love. Do you think this makes her a misunderstood character worthy of sympathy?

I think all that simply makes Mari human. There’s nothing to misunderstand; she is all of those things – raucous, trashy, lonely, lost and fragile. I don’t know if that makes anyone worthy of sympathy, but I certainly hope that even though with Mari, all the emotions and actions are heightened, the audience can still relate and empathise, because they recognize something of themselves in her.

What are some lessons the audience can take away from “The Rise & Fall Of Little Voice”?

Everyone is at some point or another clamouring to be heard – people need to express themselves, their opinions, their thoughts, their feelings, people want to talk, want to speak, but how often do we stop to LISTEN? That’s really what communication is about, isn’t it? Not just to find your voice and speak up, but also when to use it. Sometimes it’s about being silent and hearing what someone else has to say for a change. Little Voice brings these lessons to the fore – there’s a time to talk and there’s a time to listen.

“The Rise & Fall of Little Voice” opens May 2 and runs until May 18 at the Drama Centre Theatre. Tickets, from $30 each, are available at Sistic.

Pangemonium will be offering exclusive 2-seater and 4-seater, priced at $275 and $550 respectively. Each patron will also be entitled to two glasses of bubbly that would be served during the show. For cabaret table enquiries or to buy cabaret tickets, please email Debbie Andrade at

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as (now, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.