{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} ABA’s Seussical The Musical + Cat 1 Tickets worth $432 GIVEAWAY!

Fans of The Cat in the Hat are in for a special treat as ABA Productions and Diva Productions presents direct from the UK tour, Seussical the Musical at The Esplanade Theatre from 6 t0 8 November 2015.

Seusical 1

Seussical the Musical? What’s that? Well, get ready to join the Cat in the Hat as he takes you on a journey into the fantastical, bombastical and songtastical world of Dr. Seuss in this Broadway Musical featuring a spectacular compilation of whimsical elements, characters and delightful verses from some of Dr. Seuss classics – Horton Hears a Who, Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat!

Seussical the Musical

You’ll be off to great places at Seussical the Musical

Follow the adventures of Horton the Elephant who discovers a small world floating by on a tiny speck of dust. This small world is floating out of control through the universe and is the home of the Whos, including Jojo – a Who with “Things” that defy all description. Between them they must find a way to save Whos from a world of naysayers and dangers.

Seussical -5352

But Horton faces a double challenge, he’s been left alone to guard an abandoned egg, abandoned by none other than Mayzie La Bird! Caught between a dust speck and his incubating egg, Horton is truly alone in the universe, but while he faces ridicule, danger, kidnapping and ends up on trial, little does he know the intrepid Gertrude McFuzz never loses faith in him.

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While the kind-hearted Horton tries to protect the speck of dust and the Whos who live on it, look out for Cat in the Hat, the zany narrator who peppers the musical with his endless tricks, and witty, thought-provoking commentary.

So let your toes tap, your fingers snap, and fire up your imagination in the world of Dr. Seussical the Musical. Don’t miss this fantastic musical that’s just right for the entire family with children aged 5 and above. Book early at SISTIC and your little ones (and you) will be going to great places with the thinks they can think!! 🙂

Thanks to the our sponsor, we’ve got a family package of 4 Cat 1 Tickets worth $432 to watch Seussical the Musical on Friday, 6 November 2015 at 5pm for Giveaway!

<<WIN A FAMILY PACKAGE OF CAT 1 Tickets worth $432! SHARE TO WIN! >>

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

1) COMMENT on this blog post stating your answer to “Who kindly incubates the egg that Mayzie La Bird abandons?”  and leave your  Facebook Name and email address (for contact purposes in case you win).

2) LIKE SAys! Happy Mums and ABA Productions on Facebook.

3) LIKE and SHARE this Facebook post with the caption “Tag @Friend A Tag @Friend B Tag @Friend C @Friend D @Friend E We’re ready to watch Seussical the Musical 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. Re-gram this photo on IG and tag @sayshappymums #SeussicaltheMusical + 3 Friends

Terms and Conditions:

  • Giveaway ends 26 October 2015, Monday at 11.59PM.
  • Show date and time is on 6 November 2015, Friday at 5PM and cannot be changed to a different day or time.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tickets can be collected at the Box Office, 1 hour before the show starts, at the Esplanade Theatre.  This giveaway is open to Singapore residents only.
  • This giveaway is open to Singapore residents only.
  • Incomplete entries will be disqualified without notice. Decisions are final and no changes/disputes will be entertained.

Best of luck! Hope to see you at the show and do say Hi! if you see us 🙂

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! Shirley & Audrey 🙂

About Seussical the Musical


When:  Fri, 6 Nov 5pm| Sat, 7 Nov: 11am & 3pm| Sun, 8 Nov: 11am & 3pm

Where: Esplanade Theatre, 1 Esplanade Drive

Who: For children aged 5 and above and their families

Duration: Approximately 75 minutes with no interval

Ticket Price (excludes SISTIC charges)

Standard: S$108, S$98, S$88, S$78, S$68
Esplanade Box: S$108
Premier Box A & B: S$108
Box B-G: S$108
Restricted View: S$58

For more information, visit www.aba-productions.com. Book now at http://www.sistic.com.sg/events/seus1115

Tickets available through:  SISTIC Website | SISTIC Hotline (65) 6348 5555 | SISTIC Authorised Agents islandwide


[Updated 31 Oct ’15]


Congratulations to our lucky winner!  We will be catching up with you over email.  Thank you everybody for your participation and support.

Seussical The Musical