{Review} Singapura : The Musical ~ A Review of History Live on Stage

IF ONLY History lessons were so interesting in Sec 2!!!

I won’t have to pretend I’m listening while trying not to zZzzzzzzZZzz….  I won’t have to fail it.  I won’t have to use 5 different highlighter colours on my textbook and still can’t remember what when where who how!  Don’t know why I’m born this way, failed home economics, failed history, failed literature.  Thankfully I have my Superhero, Handsome & Macho Geography teacher to save the world!  Hey wait!  Perhaps it’s not my genes.  I think it’s THE TEACHER lahhhhh!!!  >.<

Singapura : The Musical premiered at the newly refurbished Capitol Theatre on 22nd May, Friday.  The world premiere of the musical was specially staged and presented at Capitol Theatre to signify it’s historical importance.  I have no recollection of having any part of my life at the what-used-to-be-the-largest screen at Capitol Theatre.  Having invested 2 years and S$300 mil, with about 8% of the cost parked for the restoration of the theatre itself, we were able to appreciate the architectural and interior splendour of it’s yesteryears at the Gala Night.  We met the specialist contractor who did the restoration works for the fixed interiors of Capitol Theatre.  He spoke of such pride for his project yet sounded humble when he shared with us the difficulties he faced during the restoration works.

Photo Credit : todayonline.com

Photo Credit : todayonline.com

The restored Capitol Theatre prides itself with the latest state of the art Audio and Visual system and Asia’s first rotational floor system that will allow customized seating configuration for every occasion.  The 900-seat theatre will be Southeast Asia’s biggest single-screen cinema. In addition, it will also be the only dual usage theatre in town, catering to performing arts and cinematic purposes.

Photo Credit : todayonline.com

Photo Credit : todayonline.com

We were blessed and honoured to be able to catch the musical on it’s Gala Night and at the rebirth of Capitol Theatre, the very grande dame of a venue for elite performances and events in the heart of Singapore’s civic and cultural district.


During the years of disturbed peace and uncertainty in the Pre-Independence Days of Singapore, our forefathers were living with fear and danger in their everyday lives.  With riots amongst it’s own people and terrorist attacks, Singapore, 5-6 decades ago, was not a time you and I wished we were born in.

The musical, led by a talented team of live ensemble, started with a fast beat and cheery song set in modern day Singapore which faded into the background into a song full of uncertainty and questions in which an introduction to Singapore in 1955 was made with a setting based at a kopitiam owned by Tan Bee Ling and her husband Tan Kok Yang, a bus driver who was temporarily helping out at the kopitiam due to some unhappiness amongst the workers in the bus transportation industry.

Kok Yang and Bee Ling had a daughter, Tan Lee May who was close friends with Adam, a Malay boy whose family and the Tan’s were on good terms with.The Tan Family’s life soon came to a shatter when a peaceful demonstration at the Hock Lee Bus Company erupted into a riot in which four people, including a 16-yo boy was killed.  Because of the riot which broke the peace in the streets, Kok Yang felt that his family should shift to Malacca, a safer place in his opinion.  Since the incident, Lee May vowed to make Singapore a better place.  Adam and Lee May later went to law school together.

In a flash, the musical led us to the political problem against communism and social unrest and the possible solution with the merger with Malaysia.  In the course of her studies at law school, Lee May met Lt. Flynn, a British Officer who is an expert of unification issue.  And they both fell in love with each other shortly after, much to Adam’s chagrin.  Through the eyes of a political leader known as the Man In White, we witnessed how Singapore became a part of the Federation of Malaysia, together with Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei in the year 1963.

Scenes from Singapura The Musical (credit to Singapura The Musical) (2)r

However, the Federation of Malaysia did not bring about peace in the country.  Singapore faced constant threats from terrorist attacks and rising racial tensions.  Lee May and Adam were thrust right into the middle of a racial riot when a peaceful Muslim procession through Chinese-occupied streets erupted into one of the biggest racial riot in the history of Singapore.  As if these issues were not grave enough, Indonesia decided to launch a war against Malaysia in the jungles of North Borneo in an attempt to counter the shift in balance of power in the region.

Meanwhile, terrorist attacks from Indonesia continue and each wave was fiercer than the previous.  The bombing of MacDonald House in March 1965 killed three more people and injured many others, including Bee Ling.  The Tan family found themselves unable to relocate to Malacca all of a sudden.  With the death of Bee Ling and the reassignment of Lt. Flynn’s vocation to fight against the Indonesian at North Borneo, the lives of Lee May and many other commoners in Singapore, were devastated and torn in a troubled country.

Scenes from Singapura The Musical (credit to Singapura The Musical) (3)r

When Malaysia suddenly expelled Singapore from the Federation in 1965, the audience was once again brought to the Remembrance of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, when the cinematic screen showed him crying from the shatter of the dreams of unification, a merger in which he totally believed to be beneficial to Singapore.

The last few minutes brought us through the angst of the Man In White after the expel from Malaysia, then to post-Independance where the people of Singapore unite and work towards building a better place for everyone.  Before we knew it, it was closing scene with the entire cast on stage and the audience was brought back to modern day Singapore once again.

Scenes from Singapura The Musical (credit to Singapura The Musical) (5)r

Honestly, it’s really hard to catch up with what’s happening when one has little knowledge of Singapore’s historical background during the pre-independence days.  Afterall, the musical is set to squeeze 10 years into 2 short hours.  It was very fast paced with waves of ever-changing plot from one scene into another.  Some moments, I had to concentrate and also explain to K AND R at the same time + answering their questions.  It doesn’t help when my knowledge of Singapore’s history was only whatever I read and heard during the 2 weeks after Mr Lee’s demise.

Singapura : The Musical has once again awakened the quest for Singapore’s history in me.  Days later, I’m still awed by the expanse of coverage in Singapore’s pre-independence days within the short 2 hrs.  Cleverly using the love story between Tan Lee May, Adam and Lt. Flynn, the musical brought us right into the midst of Hock Lee Bus Riot to the Federation of Malaysia, to terrorist attacks, and racial riots, and the day Malaysia expelled Singapore.  I would be expecting to read up a lot more from now.  Nothing beats self-initiated learning than boring history lessons.  Am so glad that my children have started their discovery into Singapore’s tumultuous past both at school and at home.

My favourite scene which most of the audience also found very entertaining was that of the classroom at law school.  The lecturer had a good time tongue-lashing the students including Lee May and Adam.  Some moments were hilarious and put a good laugh to the otherwise serious musical.

The musical will be moving on to West End and Broadway after 7th June. So catch it before the other countries do!


About Singapura: The Musical
(Web | Facebook | Twitter)

The musical 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.

When: 22 May to 7 June 2015   (Tue – Fri : 7.30pm | Sat & Sun: 2.30pm (Matinee) | Sat & Sun : 7.30pm)
Where: Capitol Theatre, 17 Stamford Road Singapore 178907 (Map)
Duration : 2 hours 15 minutes inclusive of a 15-minute intermission

Ticket Pricing (excludes $3 Booking Fee) :  Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sat Matinee, Sun Matinee ($165 $135 $85 $65)
Fri, Sat & Sun Evening ($175 | $145 | $95 | $75)
PAssion Card members get 10% off tickets. Just key in the first 4 digits of your PA Card Number into the promo code box to unlock the special.

Tickets available through:
EventCliQue Online | Hotline +65 6602 9900 |
EventClique @ Chinatown Point Customer Service Level 2
EventClique @ Block 71 Launchpad, Ayer Rajah Cresent
Box Office @ #B1-19, 13 Stamford Road, Singapore 178905

Singapura The Musical - key visual 2 (credit to Singapura The Musical) (2)r

Thanks for joining us on SAys! Happy Mums.  If you liked what you read on our blog, please follow us on Facebook for the latest updates.  We hope to see you back again soon.

~ SAys! Shirley  🙂



About SAys! Happy Mums

We are a Singapore Mum Blog hosted by BFFs Shirley & Audrey. We blog about our children, parenting and family lifestyle. Most often than not, we find ourselves immersed in family and kids entertainment and can't escape from the lure of great food!

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