Hello Goodbye: Safe And Predictable Romantic Comedy

Hello Goodbye proves that a man and woman should never be left alone in an apartment.

Singapore Repertory Theatre presents Hello Goodbye, the first romantic comedy staged in 15 years not since 2001’s Barefoot in the Park. The play will be staged at the DBS Arts Centre from 2 to 26 September 2015. Hello Goodbye is written by Peter Souter and directed by Lisa Spirling.

“Who the freezing fuck are you?” exclaimed the vulgar damsel upon discovery of a man in her supposed newly rented apartment. Gold 905 radio DJ Denise Tan plays outspoken and fiesty Juliet whose life is in a mess while heartthrob Shane Mardjuki plays introverted toy collector Alex whose life is about to become one.

PHOTO: SRT

PHOTO: SRT

Turns out, there has been a mistake on the side of the side of Juliet’s property agent, leaving her in distress. However, our heroine is not be outdone, exchanging snappy banter and witty one-liners in an attempt to lay claim on the apartment as her rightful birthright.

Despite being threatened that a beating by Juliet’s muscular boyfriend ensures should he not vacate the apartment, Alex doesn’t buy it. The two begins a narrative exposition where Juliet reveals she is in a crisis after being caught red-handed for a serious case of infidelity with her flatmate’s husband-to-be on the wedding day itself.

Temperatures rising as Juliet takes off her top and makes out (and proceeded onto you-know-what) with Alex who in an earlier moment, swore off being interested in the former. Fast forward by 10 years, the duo is filing for divorce. Old and new issues surfaced in one climatic scene that unsurprisingly does not derail the narrative which ends with a happily-ever-after.

A romantic comedy that runs on the typical Hollywood-prescribed formula, it’s difficult to dislike Hello Goodbye. But I’m not saying that it is the ‘Romantic Comedy Play of the year’. The dialogue overladen with witty banter and wordplay was well-thought-out and funny on many occasions. Eg. “The moment I drop my front (meaning her emotional barrier), you’ll want to see my front (meaning her chest).” Yet I find myself grasping for air – and for something different for a change – by the end of the first act.

PHOTO: SRT

PHOTO: SRT

Tan did a stellar job with Juliet but I would reckon that audiences find it hard to sympathise with the female protagonist. Her infidelity becomes a recurring topic in the play as was the case with us audiences since she did indeed have an affair with her flatmate’s husband and later with some dude who drives a Aston Martin behind Alex’s back.

Although Tan and Mardjuki had great chemistry on stage, it was a stretch to find any compatibility at all between Juliet and Alex other than the fact that they are both warm-blooded and they both enjoy a good sex. The narrative was advanced through dialogue a tad too recklessly as both went from complete strangers and mortal enemies, to can’t-take-my-lips-off-yours lovers in a matter of 40, or 39 minutes to be exact. Blame the pheromones!

There were some sweet moments in the play though. I liked the part where soon-to-be-single Alex hands Juliet a piece of bubble wrap because she loves to “pop the bubbles” and when she discovers that the locked chest actually contains a collection of all things Juliet – including her passport?

But the story plot goes critically thin when issues like Juliet’s desire to have babies, Alex’s lack of verbal affection is brought out again after 10 years. A newlywed’s honeymoon phase would have worn out by a year and those issues should have surfaced 10 months into marriage and not 10 years after.

However, if you get logic out of the way, Hello Goodbye is every bit of the feel-good romantic comedy that it positions itself to be. Both Tan and Mardjuki did a wonderful job in their roles. In the end, Hello Goodbye leaves you feeling everything is going to work out just right – if the baby comes. RW

Many thanks to SRT for the media passes.

Hello Goodbye

DBS Arts Centre

Opens 2 to 26 September 2015

After a sell-out run at the Hampstead Theatre in London, SRT is delighted to bring Hello Goodbye, the hottest romantic comedy of the year to Singapore. Featuring a star cast including Shane Mardjuki (Shakespeare in the Park – Twelfth Night, Unlucky Plaza) and Denise Tan (Dim Sum Dollies, Gold 90.5FM DJ).

Ticket Pricing: $15 – $60

Web Link: Hello Goodbye

Exclusive: Interview with Dick Lee The Mad Chinaman

Reuelwrites speaks to the Mad Chinaman himself in an exclusive email interview.

Reviving his legendary show, The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman, the one-night only concert to be performed at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 22 September will see Dick Lee bringing back his sold out show.

Singapore’s favourite singing sensation is a name befitting the music juggernaut known as Dick Lee. Lee first gained regional prominence when his 1989 album The Mad Chinaman achieved platinum status in Singapore. Lee chalked up accolades after accolades since then.

Lee composed songs for Asia’s top singing talents such as Jackie Cheung, Andy Lau, Sammi Cheng, Anita Mui and Stephanie Sun. Lee was also the brains behind the tunes for sellout musicals like Beauty World (1988), Fried Rice Paradise (1991, 2010), Forbidden City (2003) to name a few.THE MAD CHINAMAN

It was also the Cultural Medallion recipient who composed the heart-stirring 1998 National Day Parade song, Home (家) performed by local singer, Kit Chan. The song remains as Singaporeans’ top favourite NDP song of all times, with it being sung most recently by Chan at the SG50 National Day Parade. Lee also composed the songs for the 2015 sold-out show, The LKY Musical starring Adrian Pang and Sharon Au.

The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman was first performed in 2011. The concert performance recounts his incredible musical journey from his childhood in the ‘60s to the debut of his 1989 alter ego, The Mad Chinaman. Reuniting with renowned director Jonathan Lim from the show’s debut staging, the upsized version will be greater and grander than ever before.

Check out my interview with the man himself below. RW

PHOTO: Joel Low Photography

PHOTO: Joel Low Photography

Hi Dick,

It’s a pleasure to interview you. Before we proceed further, I would like to extend a big CONGRATULATIONS to you for a resoundingly successful The LKY Musical! The music scores were a perfect fit for the musical.

  1. Dick, we have seen you as a singer, composer, songwriter and even a playwright. You’re a man of many talents. But if you could only choose one ‘talent’, which would you choose and why?

The first three you named are all linked to music, so I’d say music, as its my first love, and my most reliable means of expressing myself.

  1. Tell me something about you which nobody knows about.

I can’t ride a bicycle.

  1. The adventures of the Mad Chinaman was first staged in 2011. What has changed since then? What other adventures did the ‘Mad Chinaman’ go through in the past 4 years?

The first production ended in 1990 when I went to Japan, but this year’s show goes further to reveal my exploits in Japan and Hong Kong. I still end the show at around the late nineties so that I have more material for my next run.

  1. You started this musical journey since the 60s – way before many of us yappies were even born – and came up with the alter-ego ‘The Mad Chinaman’ in 1989. How did the idea of ‘The Mad Chinaman’ came about?

The whole show is about how that came to be, so I suggest you watch the concert to find out. (You can also read my autobiography upon which the show is based). Anyway, the Mad Chinaman is the name of my breakthrough album released in 1989.

  1. Tell me about one production you were involved in which you felt was the ‘defining moment’ in your career. What was your role in that production?

The release of ‘The Mad Chinaman’ was the turning point in my career. After its success, I was able to go full-time into music (I ran an events company prior to that), and it also launched my career in Asia.

  1. 40 years is a long time. Were there any moments that you felt unsure about this career path? Where would you be if you haven’t pursue music?

There have been several moments in my career when I was unsure if music was the right choice for me. However, these moments forced me to re-invent myself, and opened up new doors and broadened my experience.

  1. Finally, what can we expect from this Upsized, musical version of your life story? (raw, personal, intimate, etc)

The 2011 production was very intimate as it was held in a much smaller venue. This time, I need to fill the Esplanade Concert Hall with my songs and story, and I have a nine-piece band to help me with the music. But as for the story-telling part- well, I’ll just have to rely on my personality to pull it off.

Dick Lee The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman Upsized

Esplanade Concert Hall

Opens 3 September 2015 (One day only)

Dick Lee brings back his sold out show which recounts his musical journey from his childhood in the 60s to the debut of his alter-ego The Mad Chinaman in 1989. Illustrating his story with songs from his 40-year career, the UPSIZED version features a band of Singapore’s top musicians and an extended storyline which includes his adventures in Asia as The Mad Chinaman.

Ticket Pricing: $38 – $78 (Discounts available – visit the web link)

Web Link: Dick Lee The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman Upsized

[VISIT] Singapore Night Festival 2015: Be Spellbound By Local and International Acts

Ready your caffeine and Red Bulls because the Singapore Night Festival is back!

DATE:
Friday 21 & Saturday 22 August 2015

Friday 28 & Saturday 29 August 2015

PLACE & TIME:
7pm to 2am Bras Basah.Bugis Precinct

If you’re not a crowds kind of person, it would be best to avoid Bras Basah this Friday and Saturday, and the next Friday and Saturday as well. But if you don’t want to miss out on all the action, head out. Coinciding with Singapore’s Jubilee month, Singapore Night Festival is back to delight all with their ‘iconic alternative night-time extravaganza of spectacular performances and light art installations’ in the heart of the city.

This year’s festival promises an festival experience like no other with crowd-pulling acts like Alchemy and Garden of Angels. Visit specially commissioned light projection and installations (The Annoki Celebrate Singapore, The Garden of Fire and Light and Hanami) or catch our very own drag queen Kumar and Becca D’Bus in action. Running out of steam? Catch a breather and a performance or two at the Singapore Night Festival Village.

I think running a festival of this scale in the city center is an incredible feat in itself, and a very big win for Singapore’s art scene. ‘Singapore has a vibrant arts community‘ says the Government, these words can be difficult to grasp by the locals but Singapore Night Festival presents all with an opportunity to get acquainted with the arts through critically acclaimed local and international acts.

If you attended last year’s festival, I found it rather endearing to watch William Close’s ‘Earth Harp’ performance together with everyone else. Despite perspiring due to the heat and being in close proximity with thousands of audiences, it’s not everyday that you get to enjoy free international performances with your fellow locals and foreigners altogether.

Sleep can wait for these four nights. I will see you at the Singapore Night Festival! RW

My Top Picks for the Festival

Photos and information from Singapore Night Festival. For more information, visit Singapore Night Festival official webpage.

GARDEN OF ANGELS | THEATER TOL (BELGIUM)

Armenian Street (Free)
Friday 28 & Saturday 29 August 2015
8pm (Parade duration: 30 min)

National Museum of Singapore, Front Lawn (Free)
28 & Saturday 29 August 2015
9pm, 11pm (Performance duration: 25 min)

Inspired by the paintings of Marc Chagall, Theater Tol’s latest performance merges the realms of nature, people and fantasy into one. A vibrant parade starting from Armenian Street brings to life a surreal world of dancers, musicians, dancing flowers and animals that take to the streets and enliven with revelry. The parade culminates at the National Museum of Singapore, with a spectacular aerial carousel of angels descending from the heavens and showering gifts over everyone.

ALCHEMY | STARLIGHT ALCHEMY (SINGAPORE)

Singapore Art Museum, Front Lawn (Free)
Friday 21 & Saturday 22 August 2015
8pm, 9:30pm, 11pm (Duration: 25 min)

Don’t miss the heart thumping journey of reconciliation between Apollo, from the world of Ethereal Light and Nuri, from the world of Eternal Flame, told through three 25 minute segments during the night. Be mesmerized by Starlight Alchemy’s spectacular showcase of its multi-disciplinary flow arts, combining a variety of aerial and large custom-made fire props, and LED technology performance props.

KUMAR’S CABARET – QUEEN OF GLAMOUR | BY KUMAR (SINGAPORE)

House of Glamour, Opposite Cathay ($15)
Friday 21, Saturday 22, Friday 28 & Saturday 29 August 2015
10pm – 10.45pm

Kumar is probably Singapore’s most famous stand-up comedian and drag queen. Having spent nearly two decades as an entertainer, he has amassed a string of television, stage, and film credits. For the House of Glamour at the Singapore Night Festival, Kumar will bring glitz and glamour to the stage with his dazzling outfits and back-up dancers. Get ready for Kumar’s brand of zappy humour that will leave you in stitches.

BETWEEN YOU & ME (A JOURNEY IN THREE PARTS)

The Substation, Random Room
Friday 21 and Saturday 22 August 2015
7.30 – 11.00pm

This interactive performance is a look at our journey through life using the story of Charon, the ferryman of Hades. It is a series of one-to-one encounters, including one with real-life taxi driver Tony the Cowboy. During this time, participants will visit Waiting Room (The Substation, Random Room), The Taxi (a taxi), and the Spacious Room (The Substation, Classroom 1).

RIOT! | BECCA D’BUS (SINGAPORE)

House of Glamour, Opposite Cathay ($15)
Friday 28 & 29 August 2015
1am

When you let drag queens create exactly the show they want to create, what do you get? World peace? Aim lower. A lot lower. A drag revue boiling over with passion, and inciting the basest instincts, RIOT! sits at the junction of opulence and poor taste, high jinx and low morals, deep belly laughs and the shallowest of vanity. It’s a very good time, with very bad girls.

FAT KIDS ARE HARDER TO KIDNAP | HOW DRAMA (SINGAPORE)

House of Glamour, Opposite Cathay ($15)
Friday 28 & Saturday 29 August 2015
11.30pm

Just back from our exciting performance in the United States, Fat Kids Are Harder To Kidnap is returning to the Night Festival and all set to entertain audiences with some news plays and some of our familiar favourites. We will try to fit 20 plays in 30 minutes, but as usual, you decide the order!

SINGAPORE NIGHT FESTIVAL VILLAGE

SMU Green
Friday 21, Saturday 22, Friday 28 & Saturday 29 August 2015
7pm – 2am

The Singapore Night Festival Village returns bigger and better than before! Located at the Singapore Management University Green, this year the Festival Village shines the limelight on our own local busking heroes. Catch musical buskers such as The Lost Hat, The Glad Stones, HubbaBubbas, The Lorong Boys and popular Malay singer-songwriter Awi Rafael, as they strut their stuff on the Festival Village stage. Indulge in specially curated epicurean and shopping experiences, and also catch film screenings and sensational dance and performances, right here at the Festival Village!

NIGHT LIGHTS

Various locations
Friday 21, Saturday 22, Friday 28 & Saturday 29 August 2015 7:30pm – 2am
Sunday 23 – Thursday 27 August 2015 | 7.30pm – 11pm

Embark on a nocturnal adventure of discovery with light installations that will challenge your perception of reality with Night Lights, an eagerly anticipated annual fixture of the Singapore Night Festival.

THE ANOOKI CELEBRATE SINGAPORE | DAVID PASSEGAND & MOETU BATLLE (FRANCE)

National Museum of Singapore, Façade

The world’s smallest Inuits, the Anooki are here to spread joy and a contagiously upbeat mood in the Lion City. Watch them come alive and run riot as they explore and Page 8 of 12 climb all over the façade of the National Museum and get ready to dance and sing along to their irresistible tune.

THE GARDEN OF FIRE AND LIGHT | STARLIGHT ALCHEMY (SINGAPORE)

Singapore Art Museum, Front Lawn

During Starlight Alchemy’s fiery performance, three fire and light art installations will take shape and will remain for viewing throughout the Night Festival. Titled the Net, the Helix and the Garden, these are Starlight Alchemy first-ever installations and signal the group’s departure from the ephemeral medium of performance to that of visual art. Don’t miss these installations when they come alive each night with fire and light.

HANAMI | CIE MASTOC PRODUCTION (FRANCE)

Armenian Church

This light installation is inspired by Hanami, the Japanese tradition of celebrating the transient beauty of cherry blossoms each spring. Stroll down a path dotted with miniature cherry trees adorned with shimmering chandeliers that create a sparkling constellation of lights.

Singapore Night FestivalSingapore Night Festival 2015

Various locations along Dhoby Ghaut through to City Hall

Opens 21 to 29 August 2015

Two weekends in late August, the Singapore Night Festival will take place at various locations throughout cultural venues such as the National Museum of Singapore, the Peranakan Museum and the Singapore Art Museum. The event is a nocturnal extravaganza with a spectacular interactive light performances and installations. There will also be dance, music and installation artworks by local talents.

Ticket Pricing: Free / Varies 

NANYANG, The Musical: More Melodic Than Artistic

NANYANG, The Musical tells the story of Nanyang artists through music and lyrics.

This year’s Singapore International Festival of Arts opens with director Alec Tok’s NANYANG, The Musical. The musical marks Tok’s return to the Singapore stage after 15 years spent making theatre abroad and is loosely based on the lives of pioneering Nanyang artists. The musical is staged at the Drama Centre Theatre from August 6-8, in conjunction with Singapore’s jubilant celebrations.

Background of Nanyang artists under 1 minute: Singapore was known as Nanyang or 南洋 (Southern Seas in literal translation) in the late 18th century (artyii, 2011). Seeking their fortunes in the British colony, many Chinese immigrants made the arduous journey to Nanyang. Among the migrants were the Nanyang artists. Nanyang artists are Chinese painters schooled in both Western and Chinese painting art styles and whom were not concerned with embracing Western painting techniques to improve their craft. Thus, the Nanyang style was created. The four pioneering Nanyang artists were Cheong Soo Pieng, Chen Chong Swee, Chen Wen Hsi and Liu Kang.

PHOTO: Kevin Lee

PHOTO: Kevin Lee

The musical begins in 1930s Shanghai. Young artist extraordinaire, Chen Kang (Roy Huang) arrives at Xinhua Art Academy to improve his craft where he meets teacher Zhang Wen (Trev Neo) and fellow talented artists; Li Ying (Seong Hui Xuan), Yue Ping (Andrea Xing XiYu) and Ren Hao (Dennis Heng). Cupid’s arrow struck Chen Kang, and he falls in love with Li Ying. But Li Ying has to travel to America to be with her sick father. No sooner has he arrived, Shanghai becomes increasingly unstable with war, prompting the teacher and his artists friends to travel to Paris. There, the artists sought to support the Motherland’s war efforts against the Japanese by selling off their artworks.

The group reunited with Li Ying in Nazi-occupied Paris, and the auction was a success but love takes a hit as Chen Kang realises that Li Ying is in love with their teacher. The group make their way to Bali to get some inspiration where they learnt upon arriving that their esteemed teacher has secrets of his own – a wife and child. They finally made their way to Nanyang (conquered by the Japanese in the mise en scène) where they faced the death in the group.

PHOTO: Kevin Lee

PHOTO: Kevin Lee

There is nothing un-musical about NANYANG, The Musical. In fact, the music and its lyrics was its medium of choice to paint the story. With award-winning lyricist Xiaohan and composer Eric Ng – the powerhouse songwriting duo behind hit musicals “Liao Zhai Rocks” and “Lao Jiu”, and career-defining hits for A-Mei, Sandy Lam, Stefanie Sun, Tanya Chua and others – in the creative team, soulful tunes and stirring lyrics were unsurprisingly expected. In the opening scene, Roy Huang performs a song ‘Gun and paintbrush, which is tougher?‘ that broods over the spirit of the times.

I was very impressed by the musical’s intricate set by set designer Izmir Ickbal. The use of canvases and projectors to tell the story of the times in-between the transition of scenes was also clever.

PHOTO: Kevin Lee

PHOTO: Kevin Lee

What was unexpected was how unrepresentative it was as a supposed ode to Nanyang artists. Where the song and dance was thick in layers, the plot felt thin and underdeveloped.

Because the Nanyang artists were the cornerstone to Singapore and the region’s art movement, I was looking for visual cues of their struggles and endeavours through the lives of the made-up onscreen characters. Instead, the artists’ backstories were trivialised to that of simply, song and dance, love and passion. Nothing wrong with that if that’s what you are looking for.

PHOTO: Kevin Lee

PHOTO: Kevin Lee

The gratification I was looking for was kind of satisfied in the form of a martyred character, revisiting the musical’s opening theme song; ‘Gun or Paintbrush is stronger?’ Maybe I was misguided to have longed for a more granular and perhaps, coarse portrayal of Nanyang artists, but the vanilla musical is not the type of performance SIFA should be known for – pushing the envelope of society and culture.

Overall, NANYANG, The Musical isn’t the bold musical about the Nanyang artists and their art styles but you will still enjoy this pop-musical joy ride that it has successfully sought to be. RW

SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS 2015nanyang-1.png
NANYANG, The Musical

Drama Centre Theatre

Opens 6 to 8 August 2015

A stirring performance capturing the spirit and passion of our pioneer artists, NANYANG, The Musical marks director Alec Tok’s return to the Singapore stage after 15 years spent making theatre abroad. This soulful production reunites award-winning lyricist Xiaohan and composer Eric Ng – the powerhouse songwriting team behind hit musicals such as “Liao Zhai Rocks” and “Lao Jiu”, who have also created career-defining hits for A-Mei, Sandy Lam, Stefanie Sun, Tanya Chua and more. Together, they create a musical soundscape of passion and wonder, all exquisitely arranged by Goh Kheng Long.

Ticket Pricing: $25 – $75

Web Link: NANYANG, The Musical

The LKY Musical: A Bold Account of Singapore’s Founding Father

Lee Kuan Yew is human after all. His is the story of personal triumphs, insecurities, moral struggles and setbacks much like every other Singaporean.

Lee Kuan Yew. A three-syllable name that will either strike fear or invite forth countless praises depending on which side of the fence you’re on. But no matter. It’s applaudable (or downright foolish) of anyone to even attempt at telling the story of Singapore’s legendary statesman for it can only result in glorious success or epic disaster.

Metropolitan Productions takes on the gargantuan task of telling Mr Lee’s story. The LKY Musical follows his story from pre-war days as a student at Raffles Institution through his transformation into a powerful political leader struggling to win Singapore’s Independence. The musical is performed at the MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands from 21 July to 16 August 2015.

Here’s what I saw: Take away the theatrics and the singing (which was fantastic by the way), what the musical sought to do was to help audiences come to a realisation that Mr Lee was as human as everyone of us. He too, experienced the basic human emotions of happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust. The musical provides insights into Mr Lee’s (Adrian Pang) life through the events that shaped him, and his relationship with wife Mrs Lee (Sharon Au), Rickshaw Puller Koh Teong Koo (Sebastian Tan), and even political opponent Lim Chin Siong (Benjamin Chow).

Adrian Pang and Sharon Au in The LKY Musical (2015)

The Prime Minister’s First Love

The musical opens with Mrs Lee recounting her beating Mr Lee in Mathematics and Economics in Raffles College much to the dismay of Mr Lee. Back in school, Mrs Lee was the only entity that stood in his way in being Raffles’ top student. It was pretty funny to picture a very upset and jealous Mr Lee getting all angry over the defeat. The two will later meet again under the circumstances of the war and fall madly in love with each other but their love story was never really developed from there on.

For all the publicity and posters about Mr Lee and his love relationship with Mrs Lee, I was left disappointed perhaps more so with how the script was worked out than with Sharon’s performance. If the musical sought to portray Mrs Lee as the submissive ‘good Asian wife’ to Mr Lee, they certainly achieved their objective, if not too overly-excessive. But history knows Mrs Lee not to be a docile figure. Sharon just didn’t stood out. I couldn’t feel the firm presence of the strong-willed Woman behind Singapore’s most powerful Man. Sharon blended in like a fixture to the musical and I kind of feel bad for her because I thought that she was capable of doing better.

Also, Sharon could certainly use more singing classes when put on the same stage with actors to the likes of Adrian and Sebastian. I felt apprehensive for her as she was belting out the high notes. However, Sharon did had some redeeming moments in the musical. In the final scene where a downcast Mr Lee sat down in the sofa head-bent contemplating Singapore’s future in light of Separation, Sharon’s singing of the Singapore’s National Anthem was haunting and touching at the same time. Swept throughout the entire theatre was more of this burden and sense of fear than anticipation over Singapore’s future which Mr Lee carried on his tired shoulders. I was stirred almost to the point of tears.

Mr Lee’s Only Formidable Opponent

If there was one person who stood the chance to topple the immovable statesman, it had to be Lim Chin Siong. For all the existing State censorship over national media outlets on the former PAP leftwing leader, I thought that the story of Lim and Mr Lee was pretty objective and even more interesting than Mr Lee and Mrs Lee’s story.

Jet back to the 1950s, Lim’s passionate speeches and ability to rouse the crowd had left a deep (positive) impression in Mr Lee despite his concern on Lim’s communist tendencies. Such was Mr Lee’s admiration for Lim that he asks if Lim was ‘the better side of me?’ in song item Look at him there.

Forming the opposition party PAP which won the hearts and minds of Singaporeans, they were practically unstoppable. The two tangos through the scenes, each having a deep admiration while trying to best the other. But one stern warning from Mrs Lee reminds Mr Lee that he is playing a very dangerous game, one of which he could very well lose.

Young actor Benjamin Chow did an outstanding performance as Lim Chin Siong. You know you have made it if you could make your audience feel – fear. I was at the edge of my seat as I watch Benjamin transverse through the scenes and dialogue with Adrian. His stellar delivery of lines made us felt that he was indeed the worthy adversary who could very well defeat Mr Lee and PAP.

Kudos to the creative team for not reducing Lim to a mere villain and plot antagonist, instead giving layers to the controversial figure which was very, very refreshing.

Sebastian Tan and Vester Ng in The LKY Musical (2015)

The Rickshaw Puller Singapore is Indebted to

I must admit that I didn’t know much about Ricksaw Puller Koh Teong Koo and his relationship with Mr Lee, so much of what was reenacted on stage was news to me. Played by Sebastian Tan, Koh was a major character throughout the musical. Being mindful of Singapore’s successful present, it is chilling to even consider that Mr Lee was so close to being massacred in the Sook Ching Massacre. Had it not been for Koh, one wonders how would Singapore be like today.

At first thought, I questioned the directors’ choice to feature so heavily the story of Koh and his rickshaw-pulling colleague Ng Kai. Perhaps Mr Lee’s larger-than-life persona could be told through the perspective of many other individuals, but in hindsight; Koh’s interactions with Mr Lee presents a candid and intimate account of the would-be Prime Minister in his younger days.

I liked that the musical chose to illuminate the story of Koh over other important characters in Mr Lee’s life. In one particular scene, Koh (Sebastian) performs ‘Progress’, a number that celebrates the progress of ordinary Singaporeans from poverty to luxury. There, Koh works hard and acquires three trishaws – as if highlighting that with diligence and hard work, anyone can make it in a meritocratic society like Singapore.

Adrian The Right Man for the Job

Can you imagine any other actor playing Wolverine other than Hugh Jackman? Or any other actor playing Jon Snow than Kit Harington? (Laughs) Nope, neither can I. Adrian dazzled on stage as a singing Mr Lee. Anyone might have crumbled under the pressure of playing Mr Lee but not Adrian. I thought that he resembled Mr Lee in mannerisms and personality, but wasn’t too concerned with ‘trying to get it right’.

Despite having little resemblance to Mr Lee, Adrian did a phenomenal job portraying Mr Lee as fighter, lover, political opponent, compatriot and friend. I particularly liked how Adrian acted out Mr Lee’s own insecurities, fears of failure and the moral dilemmas he faced, stripping down Mr Lee’s tough exterior many have known to reveal an intimate side people don’t often think about.

It’s one thing to be a versatile actor, but another to personify the role. And I felt that Adrian did just that. Right from the beginning, Adrian commanded such an enormous stage presence that it was easy for anyone to readily accept him as Mr Lee. While not many people have taken on the role of Mr Lee but for now, I can’t see anyone else a perfect fit for this position other than Adrian.

The LKY Musical_3

Some Scenes Which Stood Out

How Can Heroes Be So Cruel?

“The British will take care of us!”, says young Mr Lee. At the beginning, English-educated Mr Lee was all praises for the British Empire. We witnessed Mr Lee adamantly defending the pride of British when doubts of their inability to defend Singapore against the Japanese arose. Singing Great Britain’s National Anthem with all his heart, Mr Lee was a British compatriot through and through. But all that came crashing down when he experiences a double blow; Britain’s failure to defend Singapore during WWII and Mr Lee’s coloured treatment during his time in London.

In the song item, Adrian laments on ‘How can heroes be so cruel?‘ That was perhaps one of the key moments in Mr Lee’s life that changed his mindset on colonialism, thus cementing Adrian as one of Singapore’s finest actor.

Four National Anthems in One Musical

The national anthems of Britain, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore was sung in the musical. That in itself was a very powerful moment for me. As I witness the singing of the different national anthems through the eyes of Mr Lee, it made me realised that, perhaps we don’t grasp the gravity of the situation until we realised that hey, “I could still be singing some other country’s national anthem today.” I thought that that was a very clever way of telling Mr Lee’s motivations.

Plus Points

Packing 24 years of Mr Lee’s life into a 2 hour musical is not easy at all. Nevertheless, the show’s pacing was comfortable and I never felt lost throughout the entire musical. Veteran composer Dick Lee proved to be the right person for the job. Without turning its political importance into circus tunes (like Singapura the Musical), I thought that his lyrics and tunes were pleasant. The (use of the) very charming rustic nine-grid stage setting in the background was a brilliant idea and added much depth to the musical’s mise en scene. The production did however experienced some technical problems during last Sunday’s matinee, resulting in a few minutes of waiting time.

Points to Improve

Again, I would have loved to see the blossoming romance of Mr and Mrs Lee than Ng Kai’s backstory being played out in the show. Interactions with important characters Mr Goh Keng Swee and Mr Toh Chin Chye was relegated to a few minutes within the show. It would have been interesting to see the dynamics between Mr Lee and his former colleagues acted out in theatre.

Overall, The LKY Musical was extremely well executed and the lines polished. Everything about the musical was great from the plot, music, stage set, and all-local actors. I have no complaints at all. Less the concerns of cherry-picking or government intervention, I thought that the musical was perfect for both local and international audience. It is an understatement to say that I have enjoy it terribly. Many thanks to the organisers for the press invite.

If there’s a show Singapore would like to export, The LKY Musical is it. I would think that Mr Lee himself would have liked this musical. RW

The LKY Musical

MasterCard Theatres, MBS

21 July to 16 August 2015

The LKY Musical is an original play with an epic span and tremendous emotional depth. It explores the tumultuous times of pre-independence Singapore, an era rich in drama. Central to the play is the figure of Lee Kuan Yew whose life, political battles and enduring relationship with his wife form the crux of the story. This is a tale of high drama, intrigue, betrayal, love and loyalty. It offers new insights into the emotional struggle faced by LKY and his friends at a time when Singapore history balanced on a knife-edge.

Ticket Pricing: $58 – $150

Web Link: The LKY Musical

Singapore STories: Then, Now, Tomorrow – Experience 170 years of Singapore History

Come witness Singapore’s defining moments as told through articles, headlines and photographs that made Straits Times headlines since 1845.

2015 is a special year in that it not only marks Singapore’s Golden Jubilee, but also The Straits Times’ 170th anniversary since its first publication in July 15, 1845. STories: Then, Now, Tomorrow is an exhibition put up by the State’s main English daily that looks back at the headline-grabbing victories and struggles that rocked the country while contemplating her present and future. The exhibition runs till October 4, 2015 (see other event listings here).

Ask anyone how they feel about The Straits Times and you will probably get a varied response like “Propaganda lor“, “Garment’s mouthpiece la” or “My daily essential” (it’s mine at least – I read the news faithfully everyday). But beyond what we think or feel, I would say that The Straits Times and its 170-year-old archive of photos and stories is every bit an irreplaceable piece of Singapore’s history, culture and art, in a sense. Quote The Monuments Men.IMG_0961

“You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it’s as if they never existed. That’s what Hitler wants and that’s exactly what we are fighting for.”
– Frank Stokes (George Clooney), The Monuments Men (2014)

The exhibition is categorised into six themes; Business, World, Home, Sport, Life and Forum which mirrors The Straits Times’ current core segments. As a writer and journalist of sorts, needless to say I was really looking forward to the exhibition. And I was not disappointed.

In the beginning… IMG_0964 Did you know that The Straits Times was first launched as a weekly and its founder-owner was Catchick Moses, an Armenian? The Armenians also built the Armenian Church, the first Church in Singapore.

Dedication to Growth and Progress

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Are you ready to know your country’s history? All throughout the exhibition, I was amazed by the stories and photos of Singapore that I never knew of. For instance, Singapore was always ahead of her competition in trade and commerce since the 1800s. Did you know that our Government was so aggressive in pushing for foreign investment and development that back in 1969, $6 million Texas Instruments Plant was set up in the Kallang Basin Industrial Estate in just 50 days? How amazing is that. Such is Singapore’s efficiency and fervent endeavour to bring in foreign investments into this tiny island country.

Opportunities to Succeed

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This dorky-spectacled guy is Sim Wong Hoo, founder of Creative Technologies and one of Singapore’s richest man at present. The country’s push for technological development in the 80s created opportunities for Singaporean entrepreneurs such as Sim to make his multi-millions.

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I mentioned in my previous article that one of the best ways to truly enjoy and appreciate an exhibition is to join the curator tours (if any). The two curators leading the curator tours are Straits Times correspondent Huang Lijie and ArtScience Museum project manager Julia Vasko. How fortunate was I to have made it for Vasko’s tour.

I found it rather amusing that an ‘ang-moh’ is giving the mostly Singaporean crowd a tour of the exhibition. Not to take away any credit from her, her ample knowledge that was the result of countless hours of research shined through, helping us Singaporeans know our Singapore better (Laughs). I also like it that she use the possessive adjective ‘Our’ instead of ‘Their’ or ‘Your’. That showed how Singapore has done a pretty good job in attracting talented individuals to make a home in Singapore.

Personally, I thought that she looked a lot like Natalie Dormer’s Cressida in The Hunger Games (Margery Tyrell in Game of Thrones). She even looked in my direction for this photo! I think I’m in love, she has left me spellbound. Just kidding. Or am I?

Moving on, Straits Times also saw the citizens through their transition from attap houses and villages to modern HDB flats. IMG_0980IMG_0983 It may be hard to imagine now but there was a time Singaporeans were extremely opposed to living in HDB flats, preferring to stay in their attap houses because of inconvenience in moving house, rent, etc.

Children and Education

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Back in the old days, children are conceived for the purpose of helping the family with work and household chores. Education was never a primary priority. But when that was deprived of them during World War II, the end of the war saw many children, and even women clamouring for a spot in schools in a bid to catch up with their education. Back then, it goes against social norms for women to be educated.

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It is unheard of now but back in the 1960s, brushing was not common among Singaporeans. In fact, many did not even own a toothbrush. The Ministry of Health stepped in, enforcing daily mandatory toothbrushing drills in schools. I overheard quite a few adults like the lady in this picture reminiscing and recounting those moments to their children (Laughs).

Transport, a contentious topic since 1960s

IMG_0991 Complaints has spurred the public transport industry to do better in the past, and possibly till this day (Laughs). Back then, buses were so crowded, ‘people-packers’ were hired to push people into buses.

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Two Taiwanese at the exhibition. The exhibition’s opening weekend was a big hit with both the locals and foreigners.

Rethinking about Singapore’s ‘Allies’

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Who could have thought that neighbouring country Indonesia would be so upset about the Malaysia-Singapore merger that they would be the mastermind behind some 80 bomb attacks in the country?

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Despite the tensions, Singapore’s boot out of Malaysia was sudden and swift. Late prime minister Tengku Abdul Rahman initiated the separation and spoke out on sponsoring Singapore’s admission into the United Nations, perhaps as a form of pity and restitution. I wonder will he jump out of the grave if he saw the state of his country and Singapore’s today?

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The separation meant that Singapore needed to quickly form new alliances. Envoys were quickly named and send to the various organisations to forge an understanding and alliances to secure Singapore’s future which looked bleak back then. Diplomacy was on the mind of the Government at all times, and it paid off.

As I scan through every headline and every photograph in the exhibition, I had a sudden realisation that most of the people in those stories are either in their twilight years or are no longer.

All in the photos and stories strived towards the Singaporean dream and in hindsight, who could have thought that their stories will be exhibited for the next generations to study and appreciate? Morality versus Legacy. And one day, we will no longer be and ours will be exhibited for the next generation as well. All that made the exhibition that much poignant and profound.

Fusion Fashion IMG_1047 A young and volatile nation, Singapore is constantly trying to grasp her identity on what it means to be Singaporean. One of which being the national costume. In the picture, you will find a dress of sorts; a combination from the cultures of the three main races in Singapore. Question: Would any of you ladies wear this out?

Sports that Brought People Together

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Dragonboating, sailing and kayaking may be popular with Singaporeans but did you know that its predecessor pulled in massive crowds back during its heyday? I mean, a tub race! How funny and exciting is that! (Can some water sports enthusiast bring this sport back?)

Hawkers and CoffeeshopsIMG_1040 While an integral part of Singapore’s culture, hawkers in the 1960s congested roads and caused hygiene concerns. The Government took on the mammoth task to relocate hawkers to permanent and hygienic premises. IMG_1057 You want Kopi (Coffee)? Or Kopi Siu Dai (Coffee less sweet)? Or Tak Kiu (Milo)? Watch this humourous video on coffeeshop culture and learn the different terminologies to ordering your preferred beverage at a coffeeshop.

Looking into the Future

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A future with Robocop, Chappie, iRobot, Wall-E (and hopefully no Terminator) is real.

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Contemplating our future. #BuildSG2065 is a campaign by The Straits Times and real estate company CapitaLand that showcases ideas contributed by the public on how Singapore’s future buildings, homes and green spaces will transform the way people live, work and play. The contributors both young and old are actually quite creative. One kiddo envisioned a lunar lift that takes us to the moon for a holiday while a mother envisioned baby cries powering homes and electrical appliances. Very clever.

All in all, I really enjoyed the exhibition. So much that I actually read through every headline and caption in the exhibition (which explains why I spent 4 hours there). Except for a few grammar and typo errors in the texts, the exhibition is perfect in every sense. I like that the exhibition was dissected into categories instead of the usual walk-through-the-timeline.

While curator tours were only available during the opening weekend, you can still join a guided tour by one of the qualified docents or participate in a a letterpressing and typesetting workshop (details at the end of this article).

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There are many interactive exhibits that will keep the kids entertained. I also saw many elderly Singaporeans enjoying themselves as they reminisce of the good old days. It’s guaranteed to be an fun exhibition for the entire family, young or old, local or foreigner.

Each headline, article and photograph was representative of Singapore in that particular time period. Put these pieces and you will find Singapore as she is today, both the good and the not so good. The exhibition was very informative, introspective and well-curated. All that remains is for Singaporeans to pursue our future and dreams, bringing Singapore forward as we look ahead to the next 50 years. RW

Printing from the Past: Letterpress and Typesetting

Saturday, 18 July, 2-3pm
15 August and 9 September, 3.30pm-4.30pm and 5-6pm

Limited to 12pax per session This hands-on workshop provides an introduction to letterpress printing and basic typesetting, introducing tools of the trade and the basics of typography. Participants will learn the stages of typesetting, including layout, lockup, make-ready, ink & colour and packing, and will also get the chance to operate the press, printing their own card in letterpress metal types. S$15 per person. Purchase tickets from Sistic.

Public Guided Tour

Exhibition Entrance

  • English: Sundays from 26 July 2015, 11:30am
  • Mandarin: Saturdays & Sundays from 25 July 2015, 2pm. Friday & Monday, 7 & 10 August 2015, 2pm (SG50 & National Day)

Learn the stories behind the headlines in this revealing tour of Straits Times front pages, spanning 170 years of Singapore history.

Singapore STories: Then, Now, Tomorrow

ArtScience Museum Opens 17 July to 4 October 2015

The fascinating and multi-layered stories of Singapore will be told through the lens of the nation’s oldest newspaper The Straits Times, in an upcoming free exhibition Singapore STories: Then, Now, Tomorrow. Drawing from the archives of the publication’s 170 years of covering the Republic’s growth, the exhibition will feature hundreds of images and headlines depicting pivotal milestones in Singapore since the newspaper’s launch in 1845 – some 120 years before the nation’s independence – with an eye cast on its future.

Ticket Pricing: Free

Web Link: Singapore STories: Then, Now, Tomorrow