Thursday, June 18, 2015

Singapura: The Musical - World Premiere!


I have not been to a musical for a very long time so it got me excited when I heard about Singapura: The Musical for several reasons. I have never been to a musical that relates to Singapore's history because I felt like I know quite a lot about it from the textbook. Duh, so Singaporean. Everything seems to be on the book. Which is why to learn history in the rendition of musical could be an exciting alternative. Also, I am elated to be able to watch the musical about Singapore in conjunction with SG50, in one of most historical theatres in Singapore - Capitol Theatre!


I know right, there's so many hoo-haas and hype about SG50. In case you are out of touch with this little island, this republic will turn fifty since independence!


Capitol Theatre is beautiful! It's so modern and chic, with lots of vintage touch to it. It is a combination of Rococo, and Bickford-Smith's inspired designs in The Great Gatsby.


Singapura: The Musical, what is it all about?

This world premiere takes the audience through a journey of love, hope, and new beginnings while exploring the strength of the human spirit during the formative years of Singapore’s history from 1955 to 1965. Through the eyes of ordinary men and women, audiences will witness how hope and youthful determination transcend the struggles of everyday life during this time period as Singaporeans strive towards a better future for themselves and their loved ones. Their passion and drive sees them dreaming, hoping and creating – against all odds – a place where they can truly call home.


I read some reviews about the musical before going and it was hard to decide if I should even go.

I just went for it though because it's been awhile since I met one of my friends. Like finally we met after so long? It was unfortunate our timing was usually never right. Since both of us were available, I said, why not? If the show was going to be terrible and sluggish I could either walk out (which is rude to do), or fall asleep (lesser of two evils). Turns out, I did not walk out until intermission, and I did not fall asleep! I can't do them anyway, the show was not on me! Haha!

The musical was interesting but not all for good reason.

There were several reasons why I was awake. Otherwise I wouldn't be here sharing with you everything I am thinking about the musical.


The musical hugely portrays our history which an expected turn of chronological events so when it comes to that, reading would suffice. I expected it to be more theatrical for its dramatic appeal. Perhaps, we can have one of them harnessed up in the air as a metaphor she's dead? Rather than having her "dead character" literally walk up the a la scaffolding prop. Doesn't it add more symbolism and metaphor to the message? Not saying it should be anywhere close to a circus performance with trapeze and stunts but with a USD$2 million production cost, how expensive can that harness and its insurance be?

I would give the benefit of the doubt given Capitol Theatre being newly refurbished, and considerably small for a musical like this. The three huge a la scaffolding props are taking up a lot of space like they're right in your face. Wouldn't be much of a problem if it's a wider stage.


Casting wise, I would give an A for effort in terms non-skin picking attempt for diversity. Is it really diverse though? I have no opinion on that. Performance wise, I would give a C. Word has it they have a mix of Singaporeans and overseas casts. Sure they can sing and it can only be better if their character can be seen as naturally Singaporean. I think as actors, one should really be in the mood and living it up to the character. Which means to say you have to speak our pidgins or Singlish well, not just right! Haha! I don't think it would be Superman movie if he holds on to a Mjolnir would it, because the disparity in the act just won't add up.


The accent and assimilation to the character's language I feel is so important in setting the mood because it portrays the literal Singapore identity. This probably say two things about the casts. It's either they are not well assimilated to the Singaporean culture to live up to it in the act, or they're just not well taught by the Singaporeans who are part of the production. Shrugs.

Nevertheless, there's always a first!

Other than that, the musical could have had a better focus, can be improved or tweaked over time before it sets on world tour. It is applaudable that Singapore is a red dot on the world map, and they will be dotting the show all over the globe soon.

Despite all those, I would still recommend my friends to watch Singapura: The Musical because it covers certain aspect of very personal and touchy issues of that time. While portrayal of Hock Lee bus riots and the 1964 race riots was integral in Singapore's history, the rendering of reaction towards inter-racial relationship, and how some families provided asylum to people of different races during that period gives a broader viewpoint about how the political game can affect people's sentiment towards other races. If only they had dived deeper into that in the musical.

It is also heartwarming to know that Ed Gathcalian, the composer of this musical made an attempt to understand history through his art. It is applaudable for a non-Singaporean to have an interest in Singapore's history, something a true born Singaporean should learn from.


Since it's the June holidays for most of us, it's a good time to go and get cultured!

Thank you Elf for the wonderful invitation! It's been a long time since we met!

Click here to book your tickets.


The event is held at:
Capitol Theatre
17 Stamford Road
Singapore 178907

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