Review: Singapura – The Musical

Scenes from Singapura- The Musical (credit to Singapura- The Musical) (8)It had such a promising start. Riding on the fervor of SG50, Singapura: The Musical also bags bragging rights as the first show to open at the freshly refurbished Capitol Theatre on May 23, which this writer attended. However, we can’t help but cringe at the unexpectedly weak portrayals of our locally revered Singlish. A heavily foreign cast – 35 Filipinos, 11 Singaporeans, a Canadian and an American – is expected to make the musical ooze local flavour? Well, it certainly doesn’t sound very local.

Composed and arranged by Ed Gatchalian, directed by Greg Ganakas and written by Joel Trinidad, this musical production sets itself in the Singapore under British ruling during the 1950s and 1960s. It depicts the obstacles that one family goes through as Singapore fights her way to independence.

Scenes from Singapura- The Musical (credit to Singapura- The Musical) (3)Bus driver Tan Kok Yang (Juliene Mendoza), coffee shop owner Tan Bee Ling (Maybelle Ti) and student Tan Lee May (Marian Santigo) make up the troubled household. After the deaths of four people in the chaos, the simple lives of the Tan family are quickly disrupted and Kok Yang vows to ensure his family’s safety.

Our biggest beef is with the cast’s unfamiliar, inconsistent and awkwardly imitated Singaporean accents throughout this production despite their studious efforts. At the very least, we’d hoped that Lee May, the main lead of this production would kill it with a strong Singlish vocabulary and an accent. But… It’s a disappointing no from me.


Fast-forward to 1961, and the story begins to circle around Lee May’s life, as she shows her strong stand against the unwelcomed British. It’s only when she attends law classes in school, that the show finally introduces their first comedic character – her law teacher. With its rather depressing and heart-rending storyline, we cherish these rare scenes where the audience can really laugh. Lee May then falls in love with a British soldier that her law teacher invites to class. Ah, the classic enemies turn lovers twist.

Scenes from Singapura- The Musical (credit to Singapura- The Musical) (4)As the musical progresses, it becomes harder to grasp its big idea. It seems like many different things are deliberately squeezed into the storyline and thrown at us. Did the musical want to display Singapore’s history under the British rule, its merger with Malaysia, and pay tribute to Lee Kuan Yew’s contribution to our country? Or is it showing the obstacles of the Tan family throughout the years, coupled with the sappy love story between a Singaporean and a British in the 1960s? This melting pot of messy concepts just didn’t churn out well.

However, we won’t deny the quality of the music played by the live ensemble that night. Our favourite piece is “At The Kopitiam”, the song that introduced the kopitiam (or coffee shop) owned by the Tan family. Its addictive and joyful melody is still playing in the back of our heads! The strong vocals of the cast definitely do the songs justice, as they belt out ridiculously low and impressively high notes…

The production team did a fairly good job portraying the historic times in Singapore as well with its musical numbers . However, this musical as a whole, fails to give a strong sense of authenticity that we had expected. Or as we’d say in Singlish, “Okay only lor”

Rating: ★★☆☆☆


Have you caught this musical? Do you have the same sentiments? Tell us your thoughts by commenting below!



Where: The Capitol Theatre
Runtime: 22 May to 7 June 2015
Evening: 7.30pm
Matinee: 2.30pm

Ticket prices:
Weekday Evening (Tue, Wed, Thu) & Weekend Matinee (Sat, Sun)
Cat A: $165
Cat B: $135
Cat C: $85
Cat D: $65

Weekend Evening (Fri, Sat, Sun)
Cat A: $175
Cat B: $145
Cat C: $95
Cat D: $75

Tickets are available at


Photos courtesy of SPRG (Singapore).