5 Things You Didn’t Know About The LKY Musical

We are just five days away from the premiere of The LKY Musical! Before that, here are five things you didn’t know about this epic musical.

Read my previous article on The LKY Musical here.

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The LKY Musical

MasterCard Theatres, MBS

21 July to 2 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: $78 – $108

Web Link: The LKY Musical

Singapura: The Musical – The Singapore Story Gone Wrong

The first Broadway musical to tell Singapore’s story, Singapura: The Musical was every bit of a mistake from beginning to end.

Singapore may be a small maritime nation with a relatively short history, but her rich and tumultuous past leading to independence makes for a good musical. Sadly, Singapura: The Musical isn’t it. The musical which runs from 19 May to 21 June was composed and written by 4th Wall Theatre Company’s composer-creator Ed Gatchalian and scriptwriter Joel Trinidad both hailing from the Philippines. Seeking to tell ‘Singapore’s untold stories’ and even staging the musical in its country of origins, the theatre company was undertaking a colossal project which they unfortunately failed to deliver.

Sitting through Singapura: The Musical was like taking a Skinkansen (Japan’s bullet train) through Singapore’s history. The Hock Lee Bus Riot, Singapore and Malaysia’s merger and separation, everything was touch and go. The musical’s pacing was so rushed, it did not give audiences any breathing space to think and absorb in what it was like to live through what was to be some of the most important milestone in Singapore’s history between 1955 to 1965.

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All of a sudden, we are being fed with information that a boy was shot and killed. All of a sudden, the protagonist’s family wants to leave for Melaka. All of a sudden, the man in white (presumably Mr Lee) was petitioning for the country’s merger. All of a sudden, the musical’s protagonist falls in love with an ‘ang-moh’ (Caucasian). The musical simply could not decide their focal point as to which and what Singapore story to tell.

I may understand that the relationship of protagonist Lee May (played by Marian Santiago) and her British officer boyfriend is a metaphor of Singapore’s relationship with her coloniser – if it was ever their intention – but really? Is this necessary to tackle interracial marriage in a musical that sought to tell Singapore’s story?

In their second song item, they performed ‘Kopitiam’, a song that depicts everyday life at Singaporeans’ favourite hangout place. I cringed everytime they sang out the word ‘Kopitiam’. The actors could also certainly sing, but the lyrics and tune were terrible. Forgettable, cringe-worthy tunes mixed in with lyrics that were badly written, I could barely stay on my seat, only sitting through the entire musical as a form of respect to the actors. The cast which were mostly Filipino sang really well, but their attempts to speak Singlish evidently showed that they were far from ready to convince the Singaporean crowd that they are indeed Singaporeans.

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There were moments in the musical which showed some promise (and gave me hope that they can salvage the show so that I can applaud for them at the end). One such scene was when the man in white climbed and stood at the top of a two storey ladder. But a few words, some unimpressive singing, and that was it. One of the only few interesting scenes, it was haphazardly portrayed. Their avoidance in tackling political scenes by its horns was also their undoing (they couldn’t explicitly portray Mr Lee since they couldn’t get the rights and permission). My beef is, if you can’t get permission, meaning you also can’t portray the statesman in a way that will do him justice, why bring him into the picture at all?

Archival footage of the late Mr Lee and Tunku Abdul Rahman were screened midway to provide exposition and to give the audiences some bearing of the sentiments during the separation period. But for the musical who’s clearly unclear about their direction, screening those footage did not compliment the two hour long musical. Instead, it made the creative team look extremely lazy for using the footage instead of reenacting their own scenes.

For all the publicity generated on the print and digital media, the musical was a complete letdown and utter disappointment. Maybe you could say that I’m being biased since I am a Singaporean, but for a musical that sought to tell the Singapore story, Singapura: The Musical has missed the mark by more than a mile.

Singapura: The Musical is a titanic scaled production, grossly under-delivering for all that it has promised. But they played theirs cards right to premier in Singapore during her jubilee year. The sales will come, people will flock in by the hundreds to catch the performance. I can only hope that the shows’ creator and composer do some soul-searching, intensify their research into those historical moments and seriously rework the script, before bringing this to the international stage. The Singapore story is not as you have told. RW

Singapura: The Musical

Capitol Theatre (New theatre along Stamford Rd stretch)

Opens 19 May to 28 June 2015

Ticket Pricing: $65 – $175

Web Link: Singapura: The Musical

Photos: Google

The LKY Musical: Story of Singapore’s First Prime Minister

Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that he did indeed play a pivotal role in making Singapore what she is today. Come July 21st, the life of our late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first and longest serving premier will be played out in The LKY Musical performed at the MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands.

Metropolitan Productions’ The LKY Musical was conceived three years ago when a group of theatre-loving friends came together and lamented why Singapore did not have any plays or musicals centered around their statesmen – like many other countries do. This deep admiration for Mr Lee thus became the driving force behind production of the world class musical which also doubles as a tribute to the late statesmen.adrian-pang-the-lky-data

The LKY Musical follows the life of Mr Lee from his early days at Raffles College to the founding of Singapore. The musical is based on a story by Singaporean writer Meira Chand. and its script is written by US playwright Tony Petito, the founding artistic director of the Singapore Repertory Theatre – the folks who brought you the highly popular Shakespeare in the Park!

The LKY Musical will be the second of three musicals centered around Singapore’s history, the first being Singapura: The Musical (19 May-7 Jun) and the third; Nanyang, The Musical (6-8 Aug). Tackling Singapore-themed topics can be extremely difficult because of potential political red tapes (the musical explores the dynamics between Lee and party member-turned-arch rival, Lim Chin Siong), Singaporeans’ high expectations, self-censorship, and Singaporeans’ personal take on how Mr Lee’s life should be played out on the international stage. Not to mention, emotions are still high since the jubilee year also marks Mr Lee’s passing which took place less than six months ago.

Heavyweights in the creative industry has been drafted into the musical cast and creative lineup.

adrian-pang-and-sharon-au-dataAdrian Pang stars as the man of the hour. Having performed in HamletMacbeth, Into The Words, Forbidden City, Twelfth Night… This man needs no introduction. I last saw Pang as the dysfunctional dad in Tribes and he was gold. I have no doubt that Pang is the best man for the job and that he will put up a spectacular performance.

Sharon Au stars as our late Prime Minister’s love interest, the late Kwa Geok Choo. In recent years, the media has revealed the contributions made by Mdm Kwa and her paramount importance to Mr Lee. Hence, whoever’s playing Mdm Kwa has to be crème de la crème. In all my years of couch potatoing, I have always known Au to be a terrific variety host. So it was conflicting for me when the role of Mdm Kwa was given to her. But since she supposedly nailed her audition to be awarded the most important (and only female) role, I will be anticipating her performance on the Mastercard Theatres. Hopefully she doesn’t disappoint!

The musical will also shed light on Koh Teong Koo (played by Sebastian Tan) the rickshaw rider who saved Mr Lee during World War 2 – God bless his soul- and his political arch rival Lim Chin Siong (played by Benjamin Chow).

Music veteran, Dick Lee holds the honour of composing the music for the musical. His lyrical accolades include sellout musicals such as Beauty World (1988), Fried Rice Paradise (1991, 2010), Forbidden City (2003) and so on. I happened to be watching The 5 Show on Channel 5 and that episode featured Lee’s first performance for the new song he wrote for this year’s NDP. It was… too musical-ish. Lee’s forte is clearly in musical song writing. I am looking forward to his score for The LKY Musical.

I must say I am also a teeny weeny bit apprehensive about the musical since the first Singapore musical (Singapura: The Musical) was supposedly a disappointment (according to reviews).

But The LKY Musical shows promise in delivering a solid Singaporean-ish musical experience that will make us relish and cry for the late Mr Lee who’s had so much to do with Singapore’s success today. Mark down your calendars, and book your tickets for The LKY Musical between 21 July to 16 August 2015. RW

The LKY Musical

MasterCard Theatres, MBS

21 July to 2 August 2015

Ticket Pricing: $78 – $108

Web Link: The LKY Musical