TV adaptation of Dick Lee's Fried Rice Paradise musical to stay true to its 1980s vibe

SINGAPORE – For home-grown musician and playwright Dick Lee, the drama series adaptation of his popular stage musical Fried Rice Paradise is a chance for him to reboot the past.

At the launch of the 13-parter series on Thursday (June 20) at nightclub Zouk, he told The Straits Times that the series will not only stay true to its 1980s aesthetic and sound, it will feature his own songs from the same time period.

The 62-year-old says: “I released seven albums in the 1980s that are not available anymore because the record company lost the master tapes in a fire. So I’m excited to be bringing all these songs back.”

The new Fried Rice Paradise is part of Mediacorp’s ongoing Lights. Camera. Singapore initiative, which will rework familiar Singapore stories, as well as air popular Singapore films on streaming service Toggle and Channel 5.

Fried Rice Paradise – The Drama Series will be available from June 25 on Toggle and will air every Tuesday from July 2 at 9.30pm on Channel 5.

Lee’s musical had two runs on stage – in 1991 and 2010 – with different stories.

The drama series is based on the 2010 stage version and follows protagonist Choo Bee Lean, also known as Bee, who wants to open a restaurant with dishes based on her late mother’s recipes.

On the differences between the stage and television productions, Lee, who created one new song for the show, says he was inspired by his favourite genre of entertainment – mystery.

“In the stage version, Bee’s mother is mentioned only in passing, that she died. So I thought incorporating the mystery of how she died and what happened is the solution to flashing out a two-hour musical into a 13-hour story,” he says.

Playing Bee is Mediacorp actress Foo Fang Rong, who was in Lee’s 2017 biopic Wonder Boy.

While this is not her debut musical – the 23-year-old was in television musical School House Rockz (2008) as a child star – this is her first leading role.

“I normally sing in the shower and maybe play a little of the guitar but, unlike a lot of the cast, I’m not professionally trained. I’m very thankful that they took time to guide me and help me,” she says.

One of her very first scenes during filming was a kissing scene with up-and-coming Malaysian pop singer Uriah See, who plays Bee’s love interest.

Uriah See plays Foo Fang Rong’s love interest in Fried Rice Paradise – The Drama Series. PHOTO: MEDIACORP

She recalls with a laugh. “It was a bit awkward, mostly for me. Uriah was very reassuring and, after our first take, the director told him he looked great and was very charismatic. But he told me: ‘Fang Rong, you look very stressed.'”

The drama, which took three months to film on location in Malaysia, also stars Malaysian actress Carmen Soo and local actor Peter Yu as Bee’s parents, and Sebastian Tan as a mercenary magnate.

While she had strong vocals and supportive castmates, Foo still had one hurdle to overcome in playing Bee – cooking.

She says: “I don’t know how to cook. I had to take lessons for about a month to run through every dish I’m supposed to make in the show.”

Fried Rice Paradise – The Drama Series will be available from June 25 on Toggle and will air every Tuesday from July 2 at 9.30pm on Channel 5.

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