DSD_openingForgotten all you’ve learnt from social studies class in secondary school? Well we did but thankfully The Dim Sum Dollies are here to refresh your memory with the entertaining play The History of Singapore Part 1, currently showing at The Esplanade Theatre till Jun 21.

Starring the talented trio Selena Tan, Pam Oei, Denise Tan and their “Chopstick” Hossan Leong, this show is a wonderful hotchpotch of puns, sparkly costumes and local humor. The History of Singapore Part 1, first performed in 2007, talks about history of Singapore pre-1965 and covers a myriad of topics from the discovery of Temasek, to Spice Trading and the Japanese Occupation. Its sequel, The History of Singapore Part 2, was held last December.

The Dollies and their Chopstick dressed as the “Spice Girls”

In an email interview with UrbanWire, The Dollies vow to give us one unforgettable history lesson this SG50. “Mama Dolly” Selena promises, “You’ll see familiar faces doing unfamiliar things – there are dangling kamikaze pilots, wrecking ball samsui women (or should we say some swee [‘pretty’ in hokkien] women), missionary nuns with rotan! All delightfully local!”

Well, she was right. Appearing on stage as bright pink, yellow and blue sequined mermaids, the show kicks off with the Dollies singing about an island so small it’s like “a snot from heaven”.

Displaying surprisingly quick costume changing skills, Hossan Leong role-plays the likes of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and even Christopher Columbus, whom one after another, decide to leave this snot behind, thinking that it isn’t worth conquering.

The island is eventually sold to Sang Nila Utama, after persuasion from an Early Royalty Acquisition (ERA) property agent, played by Pam. Pam even spots the first animal on the island. Plot twist: It’s not a lion… it’s a baboon.


On their opening night held at the same time as the Southeast Asian Games Opening Ceremony, the Dollies cheekily pointed out their mermaid outfits – joking that the audience too, was watching the ‘sea games’.

Reminiscent with our multiracial and multi-religious background, the musical is peppered with many languages and dialects, such as Hokkien, Cantonese, Chinese, and Malay. This writer especially enjoys the Cantonese/British English exchange between Denise and Pam, who plays a British lady and an Amah (female domestic worker) respectively.

If you don’t understand some of these languages, you may find yourself occasionally wondering why everyone is laughing but you. Don’t worry though; majority of the play is still in English.


“Kamikaze Pilots” is one worthy segment to look out for. The Dollies play three pilots who bring parachutes to a kamikaze mission, and gets stuck in a huge tree. Yes, you actually get to see them up in the air for the whole skit! As Selena’s says in the interview, it’s her favourite bit as “we get to hang in mid-air and eat bananas at the same time, all while singing kamikaze karaoke!”

Then follows this writer’s favorite segment. Declaring themselves the Pioneer Generation, or rather the pai mia [hokkien for ’tough life’] generation, the samsui women land on Singapore’s shores to become some swee women, instead of doing hard labor. Be sure to look out for the some swee women channeling their inner Miley Cyrus with rubber exercise balls as their “Wrecking Ball”. We’re sure you’ll enjoy it; it had the audience shrieking.


A special mention for the Loh Mai Guys, who are more than just the backdrops for the charismatic protagonists. They give the entire musical an extra boost with their expressions and energetic dance moves. (They even join the Chopstick in cross-dressing, decked in cheongsams and heels for the “Singapore Girl” segment and showing off plenty of leg.)

When the show ended on its opening night, we couldn’t believe how fast time passed. The Dollies, their Chopstick, and the Loh Mai Guys pulled off quite the impressive show, telling us just how they viewed the history of Singapore through their eyes.


The History of Singapore Part 1 is fully packed with humor that locals will definitely enjoy. We had fun laughing at puns (“Angmohs smell like colony”) and spotting references cleverly weaved into the script (this made us feel smart). Most of all, the atmosphere among the crowd was incredible. Audience interaction was stellar; the Dollies engaged us in conversation and even made time to talk to the crowd at the start and end of the musical. Remember to look out for photo opportunities with them after the show!

Catch this swee play with your friends and family, Singaporean or not. We guarantee you’ll laugh your butts off.

The Dim Sum Dollies: The History of Singapore Part 1 runs until Jun 21, tickets available at SISTIC.


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The History of Singapore Part 1 by Dream Academy


Book and lyrics by Selena Tan

Music by Elaine Chan

Directed by Glen Goei

Esplanade Theatre

Ticket pricing: $48, $68, $88, $128, $148


Photos courtesy of Dream Academy


Caught the Dim Sum Dollies in action yet? Tell us what you thought of the show below!