Singaporean Drama Review: The Little Nyonya

I first came across “The Little Nyonya” on Dramafever. It is the first Singaporean drama I have ever watched (the only one so far), and it did pleasantly surprise me. I was first interested because of the poster. I thought the costumes in the poster were very nice, so I looked up a synopsis, and became really interested because it was historical. After that I began watching, and right from the very beginning I was impressed at how “movie-like” it was at the beginning.

The characters at the beginning, the grandaughter of the main character and her friend, were very poorly acted. It was very elementary and just bad. However, I was not too turned off by this since I knew that they were not the main characters nor were they a pivotal part of the story, so I continued.

The story is told through the eyes of the main character, who is, at the time the story is being told, in her sixties, to her granddaughter who wants to learn about all of the “Peranakan” culture. The parts where it shows the granddaughter are uninteresting. I still watched them, but they really don’t have much to do with the story, so you can certainly skip them and not miss anything having to do with the main storyline.

So, we go back in time and are introduced to the main character, for the time being, Huang Ju Xiang. This character is a  stubborn, deaf, and mute, 18-year old woman, and is wonderfully acted by Jeanette Aw. Ju Xiang and her mother are persecuted by a rich Peranakan family to whom they are servants (even though Ju Xiang is the daughter of the head of that household). Jeanette Aw acted Ju Xiang very well. It is not easy to act as a deaf-mute person and actually be believable, but she was just that. I actually found myself believing that she was deaf and mute in real life, even though I knew she really wasn’t. I also thought that it was impressive that she was able to act out a deaf-mute character with some emotion. I’ve seen a few other actors try to tackle a role like this, and they were always either emotionless or too innocent. Aw’s Ju Xiang was not this way. She was headstrong and not afraid to stand up to the people persecuting her, her mother, and a servant girl.

The woman who played Ju Xiang’s mother, Xiang Yun, was not very good. I did not find her very believable in her part, and her character began to be very annoying as it neared the end of the drama.

The man who played Ju Xiang’s husband, Dai Yang Tian, did an okay job with his role. It wasn’t spectacular, but it wasn’t bad either. I did enjoy watching his and Ju Xiang’s little romance. I enjoyed how they didn’t really marry for love, but they were very in love as their marriage continued.

Another character that plays a key role in both the first and second part of the drama ( the first part is about Ju Xiang, and the second part, the majority of the drama, is about Ju Xiang’s daughter, Yue Niang) is Chen Sheng, acted by Pierre Png. He acted his role very well. Yes, very well indeed. He was also my favorite character. His character was so loving to Ju Xiang and her daughter, Yue Niang, yet he was so helpless as how to help them. You could see how much he wanted to stop all the injustice being done to them, but he didn’t have the power to do that. His character really broke my heart.

Jeanette Aw also acted out Yue Niang, Ju Xiang’s daughter, but was not as good in the role of the daughter as she was in the mother. Her acting seemed a bit unnatural. The character of Yue Niang as a little girl and then as a woman is quite contrasting. As a little girl, she is strong-willed and does not stand for any injustice. As a woman, however, she loses those characteristics and becomes weak, never standing up to the people wh0, essentially, are putting her through hell. It is quite annoying, actually.

Qi Yu Wu played Chen Xi, Yue Niang’s love interest. He did quite well in his part and the chemistry between he and Jeanette Aw was very good. His character was another one of my favorites, just because he was so much like his uncle, Cheng Sheng.The love between Chen Xi and Yue Niang is, in the beginning cute, but in the end becomes beautiful and tragic.

Joanne Peh played Huang Yu Zhu, a daughter of one of the “Nyonya’s” living in the household. She also played her part very well, though I believe she deserved more screen-time. Yu Zhu’s story is the most tragic of all the characters because the audience grows to love her immensely because she is so beautiful, sweet, and caring.

The two creeps of the show Charlie Zhang and his son, Robert Zhang, were great! The actors, Desmond Sim and Zzen Zhang, acted their parts perfectly. Although both characters are supposed to be alike in almost every way, “Like father like son…,” each actor added his own flare to the character, making each character distinguished. Charlie Zhang is creepy, sadistic, and perverted, while Robert Zhang is also sadistic, but also handsome and cunning. These two weren’t even the main antagonists of the show, but they almost completely stole the show from the other antagonists.

For the most part, everyone acted their parts well in this drama. Some of it, especially from the main aristocratic family, was a bit exaggerated, but overall it was good.

The music was very pretty. Every theme skillfully manipulated the emotions.

The ending of this drama was sad, a bit disappointing, and about as realistic as it was unrealistic (You’ll just have to watch the drama to understand what I’m trying to say here). I must say that this drama did leave quite a big impact on me, because after I watched the ending, which, I’ll admit it, greatly disappointed me, I just couldn’t get over it. One of the most beautiful themes would play in my head, and I would want to start crying because I was so sad that the drama ended the way it did. I just felt like I had become so close to the characters. Even now, when I listen to the opening theme, Ru Yan, by Olivia Ong, I get a sad feeling just thinking back on the drama.

In conclusion, even though the ending is a bit disappointing, because the drama is long (34 episodes, I believe), it would not be a waste of time to watch the drama. In fact, I would recommend this to any Asian drama lover, because the characters were well-written, the acting was good, and the music was beautiful.