{Review} Catch A Taste of The Forbidden |Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress

I’ve heard so much about this wonderful Dick Lee musical Forbidden City : Portrait of an Empress starring Kit Chan but each time it was staged before, I was out stationed. No wonder then that the hubs and I were really looking forward to finally go to the Esplanade Theatres to catch this well-loved classic and of course to see Kit Chan on stage!

Local theatre goers must have this epic musical as their 2017 Must Do, Must Watch musical and who could challenge that? Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress first commissioned by Esplanade- Theatres on the Bay for Esplanade’s Opening Festival in October 2002 has had a sell-out season at each restaging (in Sept 2003 and 2006).


Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress is the story of Empress Dowager Ci Xi (played by Kit Chan), her love story, betrayals and struggles, rise to absolute power, even as China was increasingly being ravaged by foreign powers as the Qing Dynasty struggled to retain control of China.

As the musical opened, I could feel the excitement and anticipation rising in the hushed audience. It was almost unbelievable that I was finally watching this epic musical at the Esplanade. The little one who has a love for history was equally in awe, this being his first ‘adult’ musical! Plus, he was eagerly anticipating watching Kit Chan, the singer of his favourite National Day song – Home! What a treat!


The Empress Dowager CiXi played by Cheryl Tan, Kit Chan and Sheila Francisco depicting different stages of her life.

The musical wasted no time in introducing the Dragon Lady and very soon we were transported into an unfamiliar time when the Emperor’s rule was absolute and his wants were insatiable (including his harem of concubines). As the older Empress CiXi (played by Sheila Francisco ) recounted her life’s hopes, joys, love, disappointments, struggles we were also given a running history of the ebbs and flows of the Qing Dynasty.

Empress CIxi

Forbidden City was a musical treat from the very start. Dick Lee’s beautiful music was equally matched with the excellent vocals of the 2017 cast.

With big shoes to fill, credit must be given to Cheryl Tan who plays the young Yehenara this time instead of Kit Chan. Her voice crystal clear as always, was powerful and captivating. We’ve watched her as Juliet in SRT’s Shakespeare in the Park Romeo & Juliet, as Ivy in Dick Lee’s Beauty World and even as Little Bo Frilly in SRT’s The Three Billy Goats Gruff, and I think this is by far her best musical performance ever. She was calm yet vibrant, playing a more matured heroine this time, putting away her usual more animated and girlish characterisations.


The young Yehenara (Cheryl Tan) with her hopes so high of finding true love with the Emperor.

Cheryl Tan lifted and refreshed us with her stunning vocals throughout Act One. I think the audience could feel Yehenara’s disappointment and betrayal when the Emperor quite quickly forgot about her after three months of what seemed like a fairy tale love affair. (I was amazed that when one got pregnant by the Emperor, he shelves you!!)


My favourite has got to be the really entertaining Record Keepers played by Sebastian Tan (Singapore’s favourite Broadway Beng) and Dwayne Lau (SRT’s Treasure Island). They were just the perfect amount of humour and wit! The Record Keepers were brilliant and everyone in the audience adored them… maybe because they added the light-hearted fun in an otherwise depressing storyline perhaps? haha…



I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed that we had to wait till Act Two before Kit Chan came on. Although every part of Act One was enjoyable, I still wished that the talented Kit Chan was on stage earlier and sang more… for she did not disappoint. Her well trained vocals was not only emotive, she commanded the presence only a star like her could. Everyone just could not get enough of her, I know that for a fact.


Kit made us all feel the deep sorrows a mother (even a Dragon Lady) must have felt for the passing of her child. If there were doubts that Empress Dowager ever cared for anyone, she removed it. How her heart must have broke when Emperor Tung Chih’s life was wasted. I teared as I watched and listened.



The stage sets were a awesome. Beautiful. Simple yet effective. I especially loved the funeral scene where the stage was opened up to reveal the depth of the really amazing theatre stage of the Esplanade! I had no idea it was so deep… other times when I’ve been to the Esplanade theatres, the productions had never used this to their visual advantage.

Forbidden City is Wey’s first ‘adult’ musical and I was half wondering if he would be able to sit through the 2 hour musical. As it turns out, I needn’t have worried because my 8 year old was totally absorbed throughout. So if you are wondering if your not-so young children will enjoy the musical, I would think so. He was intrigued by the larger than life characters and the story unfolding onstage, the beautiful stage sets and costumes and quite simply the awesome music. In fact, when the musical ended, he actually let out a cry of dismay “Oh?! That’s the end?!!?”; much to the amusement of the people seated around us. Of course, be prepared to answer questions along the lines of : ” Mama, what’s a brothel? Why did the Emperor go there?” ” What disease did he get from the brothel and why?” haha… I took it as a good teaching point moment although I did not quite go into too much details. 🙂

Not all musicals are created equal. It has been more than a decade since Singapore last watched this highly acclaimed iconic made-in Singapore musical and for me, Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress is still as stunning and magical as ever. When you go to see this musical, you will come away in awe at not just the entire production, but an amazement at our local talents.

Don’t miss this amazing timeless musical by local theatre big names or you may have to wait yet another decade for its restaging. Also this may very well be the last time to catch Kit Chan in the role as Empress Ci Xi! If you haven’t already booked tickets, be sure not to be stingy on the tickets, get the best seats for a better view, it’s worth every dollar! I promise! 

Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress plays at the Esplanade Theatre from 8 -27 August 2017. Book Early for the best Category Seats to enjoy the epic musical fully. Tickets available from Esplanade Box Office at https://www.esplanade.com/events/2017/forbidden-city-portrait-of-an-empress, more details at end of post.

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! Audrey

We are grateful for the opportunity to attend Forbidden City – Portrait of an Empress, for the purposes of this review. We were not remunerated monetarily for the review, all opinions and experiences remain our own alone. All photos unless otherwise mentioned are copyright of SRT and were provided for the purposes of this review. All other photos remain the copyright property of SAys! Happy Mums and may not be reproduced without prior notice or written permission given.

About Forbidden City – Portrait of an Empress



When : 8 to 27 August 2017| Tues – Fri: 8pm | Sat : 3pm & 8pm |  Sunday : 1.30pm & 6pm

Where : Esplanade Theatre 

Duration : Approximately 2hrs (including a 20min intermission)

Ticket Pricing :
Tue–Thu, Evening / Sat, Matinee / Sun, Matinee & Evening
Standard: $58, $78, $98, $118
VIP: $128
Restricted View: $38

Fri & Sat, Evening
Standard: $68, $88, $108, $128
VIP: $138
Restricted View: $38

{Giveaway} Glowtape Productions’ The Great Wall: One Woman’s Journey| 14 – 30 JULY 2017

Glowtape Productions presents The Great Wall: One Woman’s Journey from 14 – 30 July at the Drama Centre Theatre.

The Great Wall: One Woman’s Journey is a spectacular musical adaptation that transforms Meng Jiang Nü’s tale into a soaring musical odyssey. Raw emotions are laid bare in a dazzling display of vocal showmanship as the characters come to life in a beautiful contemporary setting detailed with traditional design influences.


Captivating and profoundly moving, this production weaves a gripping tale of love and courage against an epic backdrop of imperial China. In the face of insurmountable odds, a young everywoman does not yield to her fate. What unfolds is a passionate display of a woman’s resolve as she stands alone against the ultimate symbol of unbridled hubris and power.


Join the phenomenal Na-Young Jeon’s Singapore debut, multi-talented George Chan and homegrown singing sensation Nathan Hartono as they team up this July for The Great Wall: One Woman’s Journey.


No wall too tall.
No journey too long.
The legend of Meng Jiang Nü.

Behind the imposing façade of The Great Wall lies one of the most enduring legends in Chinese folklore – the story of Meng Jiang Nü, whose tears brought down the Great Wall.

This original musical with brand new script by acclaimed Singaporean playwright Jean Tay, who won best original script for Everything But The Brain and authored Boom, both literature texts in schools, is led by an international team of artists – featuring composer David Shrubsole (National Gallery Singapore’s Opening Festival, London Road) from the UK, helmed by Australian director Darren Yap (Man of Letters, Miss Saigon, Mamma Mia!), and starring talents from the West End – Dutch-Korean actress Na-Young Jeon (Les Misérables, Miss Saigon) and Monique Wilson (Miss Saigon, The King & I), along with George Chan (Chicago, December Rains) and homegrown singer-songwriter Nathan Hartono, fresh from his stint on Sing! China.

The Great Wall: One Woman’s Journey is a musical not to be missed! We can’t wait attend this amazing new musical in July. Book your tickets early at SISTIC and get the best seats before it is a Sold Out performance!


WIN a Pair of Tickets worth $144!  

We’ve got great news for our loyal followers and fans of Nathan Hartono!

Glowtape Productions has kindly sponsored a pair of Cat 3 tickets worth more than for the 16 July, Sunday 3pm performance! Do follow ALL the instructions below to take part for your chance to win! 

To take part and qualify, please make sure all the following steps are completed:

1) COMMENT on this blog post stating your Facebook Name and Email address.

2) LIKE SAys! Happy Mums  and The Great Wall Musical on Facebook.

3) LIKE and SHARE this Facebook post on your Facebook Wall with the caption “Tag @Friend A Tag @Friend B Tag @Friend C Tag @Friend D Tag @Friend E, I want to watch The Great Wall : A Woman’s Journey with @Says Happy Mums ”. DO set your post to PUBLIC so that we are able to verify your entry.

Bonus entry:

  1. Follow us on Instagram {@sayshappymums}
  2. Repost this photo on IG and tag @sayshappymums @thegreatwallmusical #TheGreatWallMusical  + 3 Friends 

Terms and Conditions:

  • Giveaway ends 30 June, Friday at 2359 hrs.
  • Collection will be at the Drama Centre Theatre, Level 3, 45 minutes before show time. Do note that children younger than 8 years old will not be admitted.
  • Winner will need to produce their IC to claim their tickets.
  • Prize is fixed and cannot be changed to a different day or time.
  • Tickets are non-transferable, non-exchangeable and non-refundable.
  • The Winner will be notified by the email provided under the blog comments and must reply within 48 hours, failing which, a new winner will be drawn, without notice.
  • This giveaway is open to Singapore residents only.
  • The Sponsor reserves the right to request for a redraw if the drawn winner on our blog has also won tickets to the show from another giveaway.
  • Incomplete / Half-completed entries will be disqualified without notice. Decisions are final and no changes/disputes will be entertained.
  • All information is solely collected for the purpose of this giveaway and we will not send unsolicited emails to your inbox unless you have opted to subscribe to us (on the right of this page!).
  • This giveaway is in no manner associated with any social media accounts except our blog.

Thank you 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! Audrey :) 

About The Great Wall: One Woman’s Journey


When  : 14 – 30 JULY 2017 | Tue – Sat 8pm |Sat & Sun 3pm

* Please note that the role of Meng Jiang Nü will be played by Ethel Yap for performances on 16 Jul 3pm, 19 Jul 8pm and 26 Jul 8pm.

Where: Drama Centre Theatre (Map)

Duration: Approximately 2 hours 30 minutes  (15 minutes interval)

Who : No admission for infants in arms and person below 8 years old.

Ticket Pricing :  Check SISTIC for discounts applicable.

14 & 15 JULY $68 – $98
FRI 8PM, SAT 3PM & 8PM $68 – $98, $128 (VIP)
TUE – THU 8PM, SUN 3PM $58 – $88

(Ticket prices excludes $4 SISTIC Booking Fee)

Tickets available through: Get Your Tickets Now
SISTIC Website
SISTIC Hotline (65) 6348 5555
SISTIC Authorised Agents islandwide

Being Peranakan | The Peranakan Arts Festival 2015

Friends know that I am Peranakan, and proudly so. Although I’m not a member of the Peranakan Association Singapore or participated in many Peranakan events, I love the Peranakan food and material culture. The hubby and I have been collecting Peranakan keepsakes from porcelain (Nonyaware), furniture, hand beaded (Manek) shoes and jewellery.

We also love visiting The Peranakan Museum and little Wey thoroughly enjoys his visits there each time, for the visual galore and a glimpse into the past. It helps that visits to the wonderful museum are now free for all Singaporeans! I’m so glad that Wey has always loved history and culture and anything Singapore… See my previous post on Singapore in the 60s. One day, I hope he’ll grow to appreciate the things that both hubby and I have collected and keep them as his treasured keepsakes.


More than 6 years ago and pregnant with little Wey then but was still game to put on that kebaya for a Peranakan themed party!

I was excited to find out that the first ever Peranakan Arts Festival 2015  from 6 – 8 November 2015 will be the first time that the Peranakan culture will be expressed through Theatre, Music and the Arts.

The 5-day Festival will feature 2 World Premiere Theatre shows, 3 Seminars, free public performances and a myriad of exhibitions and showcase artworks by Peranakan visual artistes and a bustling bazaar with exclusive Peranakan merchandise on sale!

Pernakan Arts Festival Decal

I am most excited about these 2 world class theatre shows that will premiere at the festival – “Bibiks Behind Bars Kena Again!” and “Pintu Pagar”! It will be a hard pick if you must choose to go to only one, since both look really good! Peranakan theatre has always been full of culture, drama and colour… always a great experience to watch! So put on your kebayas and set a date with your theatre loving friends and #SupportLocal, we’re pretty sure it will be fun night outs with the Bibiks and the Babas!

Pintu Pagar

4- 8 November 2015, Victoria Concert Hall

Showtimes Ticket Prices
Wednesday, 4 th Nov 07:30pm Evening Show $75, $45
Friday, 6 th Nov 02:30pm & 07:30pm Matinee show $55 / $35
Saturday, 7 th Nov 11:00am
Sunday, 8 th Nov 11:00am

Book your tickets at http://www.sistic.com.sg/events/pintu1115

pintu pagar


At 14, she doesn’t believe in love. Only money. He is 17, from an impoverished Singkeh family of the 60’s.
What starts off as an antagonistic and prickly meeting between the pretty, sharp-tongued pragmatist and a dashing, handsome romantic will throw the two young lovers into a 40-year journey of just-missed opportunities, longing and heart-warming, selfless acts.

What lessons would they have learnt at the end of their journeys travelled separately and apart? Will they find each other in spite of four decades of missed chances and close encounters? Or will they swing in tandem like the two doors of the Pintu Pagar – always to miss, never to connect with and always with a deep longing to touch for a moment.

Starring Henry Heng, Nora Samosir, Nicholas Bloodworth, Kimberly Chan Playwright & Director Desmond Sim Music Director Elaine Chan Character Design & Makeup Joseph Ng

Bibik Behind Bars .. Kena Again!

5- 8 November 2015, Victoria Theatre

Show Schedule Ticket Prices
Thursday, 5 th Nov 08:00pm Evening Show $85, $55
Friday, 6 th Nov 03:00pm & 08:00pm Matinee Show $75, $45
Saturday, 7 th Nov 03:00pm & 08:00pm
Sunday, 8 th Nov 03:00pm

Book your tickets at http://www.sistic.com.sg/events/bibik1115

Bibik behind bars

Die-hard habits have never left this Peranakan family! Watch out as the Bibiks of Katong keep up with the times, challenging old traditions and gambling with the new. Are there really secret formulas from their Peranakan forefathers? Will the kaypoh kaywat auntie next door introduce other ‘sure win’ secret formulas? Or will they all wind up behind bars?

This fun-filled musical comedy is a must see for the whole family! Side splitting laughs as you catch these ‘Kaki-Judi’ game-blers as they indulge in their crazy, ‘Bey-Pio’, ‘Tiok-Toto’, ‘Kasi-nos’ antics. Lucky Numbers…? Boleh Kasi!

Starring: Shirley Tay, Melvyn Chew, Catherine Sng, Francis Hogan, Richard Chia, Jackie Pereira, Reggie, Matheus Ting, Dennis Heng, Adriana Tanubrata and Amanda Germaine Lee Playwright & Director Richard Tan S G Cheographer Richard Chia Music Director Babes Conde


The 28th Baba Nonya Convention Seminars

7 Nov 2015 9am, 10.15am, 11.45am, Victoria Theatre

3 seminars promises to be a power packed discussion about Peranakan Arts, Habits, Food, Lifestyles, Traditions and Secrets!

Baba Patois: Today & Tomorrow

The Business of Being Peranakan | Authenticity & Sustainability

Adulation, Subjugation or Misplaced Identities? The essence of being Peranakan – 50 years forward

Standard: S$45 (Single Seminar), S$80 (All Three Seminars)
(Free Seating)

Tickets available at http://www.sistic.com.sg/events/conven1115

Cultural Interludes

A free public showcase of Peranakan Music, Dance and Demonstrations held at the Empress Place from 4 to 8 November 2015. With live stage performances, food demonstrations and dancing under the stars, CULTURAL INTERLUDES promises to be full and expressive of the Peranakan Culture – Past, Present and Future!

On the schedule are visiting Peranakan performers from the Asia Pacific region – including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia. Enjoy a full feature of some of our forgotten art forms and practices and revel in the music, songs and dances!

Ba-Bazaar @ The Jubilee Lawn

The Ba-Bazaar features home made special Peranakan items that are on sale during the Festival. From books to baju, jewellery to makan, browse through a unique offering of old and new Peranakan merchandise for sale and get the best picks early!

I am amazed at the scale and organisation of this first Peranakan Arts Festival and one has to give it to the Peranakans! Thank you for all the effort put in to bring the culture to everyone this year! Do check out more details at the website : http://www.peranakanfest.com/page/the-festival

Whether or not you are Peranakan, I’m pretty sure you’ll have fun at the various interesting exhibits, shows and cultural interludes especially the Ba-bazaar! Come November, I’m donning my Kebaya proudly to go to the theatres with the Bibiks! Watch for the reviews soon! 🙂  

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

SAys! Audrey