New Dimsum Dolly agrees to join cast -- to fulfill Emma Yong's dying wish

3 December 2013 / 2 years 10 months ago

The two actresses were friends for more than 15 years.

While working on theatre productions and at parties, they chatted about clothes, jewellery and Louboutins, that sappy movie Twilight and the best food joints.

Whenever Denise Tan read something funny online, she would forward it to Emma Yong.

Yong died in May last year of stomach cancer.

Now, Tan is stepping into her shoes as the third member of the Dim Sum Dollies, one of Singapore's most well-loved cabaret acts.

Audiences will see them again next month at a year-end Christmas revue.

The trio will also make a full-length comeback in the second half of next year.

Says Tan, 38: "The last thing I ever want is to replace Emma. She can never be replaced."

Agreeing to come on board was not an easy decision, she adds.

"I thought on it for a month. I didn't want to step on anyone's toes, or take something that didn't belong to me.

"In the end, the deciding factor was that Emma wanted the Dollies to keep going."

Yong had apparently told one of the Dollies - Selena Tan - this before she died.

After Yong's death, the remaining two Dollies struggled with grief.

They fought back tears while performing a tribute to Yong's life at the Esplanade a month after her death.

Pam Oei, 41, recalls: "Being backstage again was very hard.

Those were the same dressing rooms where we laughed and played for (the) whole 10 years."

"I even 'threatened' to punch Selena if she cried on stage. It was the only way we could pull ourselves together to perform."

After the concert, the group went on hiatus. Selena Tan directed the National Day Parade, while Oei produced and acted in other theatre productions.

Says Oei: "At times, I thought we might call it a day, simply because we couldn't bring ourselves to do the act again."

But as early as a few months after Yong's death, fans began asking when the group would light up our stages once again.

Says Selena Tan, 40: "People missed the Dim Sum Dollies. Keeping the Dollies going is the right way of keeping the memory of Emma alive."

Oei agrees, saying: "If we didn't continue, it would mean cancer won."

Thus began the search for the third Dolly. There were three contenders, but Tan was a clear choice.

Firstly, she has the same singing range as Yong. She also replaced Yong at short notice two years ago for a performance, when the latter suffered a relapse.

The offer was made in a few months ago.

Tan recalls: "Initially, I was shocked. I thought the Dollies wouldn't continue without Emma. But I now believe it's important to continue this legacy."

She will use some of Yong's costumes and props from the group's wardrobe.

She says: "I will use (the props and costumes) with respect.

"I also always say a little prayer of thanks for the privilege."

The group assures that its heart and soul remains the same - bold, brave and extremely colourful. But Tan maintain s that there will be a difference: "Emma was elegant and poised. I'm a little kookier and off-centre.

"I also am a repository for useless trivia and pop music, so I guess that's what I'm bringing to the group," And as for Emma, she will continue to live through the Dollies.

Says Selena Tan: "I will always remember her 30th birthday in Dubai, along with all our precious moments of love, joy, pain, hate, anger, silliness and sisterhood."

Adds Oei: "Whenever we have parties at Selena's place, I still half-expect Emma to come walking in holding many packets of food."

What: Crazy Christmas: Ting Tong Belles
Where: Esplanade Theatre
When: Dec 11 to 22. Tuesdays to Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm, Sundays at 2pm and 6pm. No shows on Monday.
Tickets: $35 to $127 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or visit
Advisory: R18 for all shows except family-friendly matinee (2pm or 4pm) shows

Join in the talk