If a government can place controls on the information on the Internet, will it one day be able to outlaw dreaming as well? That’s the question Pursuant, an original musical written by Jonathan Lim, asks. His Singapore of the future is a place where dreaming has been made illegal. Everyone is required to live and think realistically without visions or aspirations to look forward to.

“I’ve felt for years that there just isn’t enough being written for and about our youth. I wanted to create a work that would embrace the youths and their experience growing up in SG, while empathising with the struggles of their parents, something that would bridge the gap between the generations by unearthing shared affections, inspiring a mutual sense of belonging,” explained the creator of the longest-running parody sketches Chestnuts in an e–mail interview with UrbanWire.

In 2023 Singapore, an adventurous and wild 15-year-old Ethan Wong, played by Windson Liong, is arrested for dreaming of a life of success and happiness for himself and others. Thrown into a concentration camp with hi-tech equipment like glass cylinders that can change the backdrop of the place, Ethan meets other youths who used to dream big.

The musical starts with Ethan, in what seemed like a school uniform, singing about himself and how he has big dreams.

London-trained actor Liong, who’s familiar to fans of local television sitcom Moulmein High, found Ethan’s role easy, as he could identify himself with the protagonist. “Both him and I are dreamers in essence and that’s how our souls thrive,” he said.

After his prison break, Ethan sets out to find The Old Man who appears in his dreams. The latter is the person who conceptualized an island called Singapore and developed it, while its citizens followed his dreams, without having any of their own.

Believing that one should dream his own dreams, The Old Man, who seemed like he was modeled after Minister Mentor Mr Lee Kuan Yew, banned dreaming, claiming “It’s only your dream if you believe it with your heart and soul.” Through the latter, Ethan discovered that he wasn’t controlling the right to dream, but he was merely pushing people to have their own.

Overall, Singapore 2023 does not differ much from present Singapore. Besides the ban on dreaming, the fashion sense is the same, the skyline didn’t change (as evident from the digital backdrops they used).

Rehearsals for Pursuant started in April, after months of writing by Lim. The choreography incorporated memorable moves from pop songs like Psy’s Gangnam Style.The dance scene could’ve been better had all the actors danced in sync, and they could’ve done a better job choreographing the moves to match the lyrics instead of throwing random moves together, making it seem all over the place. Meanwhile the songs were nice pop, catchy, and upbeat, which can be appreciated by a youthful audience.

But it’s a shame that the songs were a bit too similar to every other song composed for this musical, and sometimes they lyrics didn’t even match the tune. What stood out the most were the voices of the actors, especially Chen Shufang’s (Mabel Yeo), soprano voice.

Singing every dialogue and line in the show definitely isn’t necessary, and takes focus away from the true message of the musical: to dream outrageous ones and never stop believing, although Lim insists that “there are certain sentiments that are much more powerful when expressed in song”.

It’s a fairly well-done musical, which sadly pales in comparison with other local musicals like Hansel & Gretel which showcased the Singaporean identity and pride. Kudos to Pursuant for having a fresh concept, but if it was a play instead, with more time for rehearsals, and preparation, it could’ve been better.

Pursuant runs until Jun 8 at Drama Centre Theatre. Tickets are available through SISTIC from $30.