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In the past half-century or more, Singaporeans have witnessed fusions of music and drama in multiple forms.

Think Chinese opera, Malay bangsawan theatre, British pantomimes, assorted vaudeville acts and variety revues. These forms entertained long before the genre "Musical Theatre" emerged on the Little Red Dot with the success of Beauty World - possibly Singapore's most well-known musical written by Michael Chiang and composed by the award-winning composer and musician Dick Lee in 1988.

But what is it that makes for a Singaporean Musical?

It'’s probably safest to define the Singaporean musical as any performance that advertises itself as such. Under those terms, it’s generally, although not always a homegrown interpretation of Westend or Broadway spectaculars, with all the pageantry and light comedy associated with the genre.

This was to a certain degree what the audience experienced with the recent production of Lim Boon Keng, The Musical delivering original material created and workshopped from the ground up - with 100% local writers, performers, and production team.

Although a genre waiting "in the wings" to evolve, musical theatre in Singapore appears to be on the rise.

The genre has progressed in delivering above expectation since your reporter experienced Singapura: The Musical (2015) and The LKY Musical (2015) both of which I found challenging as an audience, which I brought down to the shear epic nature of their content. The writers and creative teams of both biting off a little more than they could chew.

Congratulations must be given to Musical Theatre Limited (MTL) who successfully presented this, the first-ever musical about Dr Lim Boon Keng, a medical practitioner by profession and prominent Singaporean historical figure of the early 1900s responsible for helping to shape Singapore’s history whom many may know as the namesake of Boon Keng MRT Station.

Boon Keng was also a member of several Government Bodies and launched an Anti-Opium Campaign, in a series of public lectures and articles. He caused controversy having run a campaign to urge Chinese men to cut off their queues - a symbol of Manchu bondage, He cared very much about education especially for girls. In 1899 he started the Singapore Chinese Girls' School for the daughters of the Straits Chinese.

In commemoration of Singapore’s bicentennial this year, Lim Boon Keng, The Musical, traced the ups and downs of a man full of ideas and ideals, as he reflects on his life and his philosophy in the early 20th Century Singapore, and reveals his deeds and contributions through Singapore’s colonial times, the second world war and its aftermath.

Script and lyrics are by Stella Kon, an established playwright who is the great-grand-daughter of Dr Lim Boon Keng. Directed by theatre veteran Jeremiah Choy, music is by show producer and songwriter, Desmond Moey and directed and arranged by Elaine Chan

Singapore’s renowned multi-faceted performer, Sebastian Tan, who celebrated the 10th anniversary of his well-loved and critically-acclaimed stand-up musical comedy series Broadway Beng® with sold-out concerts at Capitol Theatre, played the lead role of Dr Lim Boon Keng. 

Tan's performance was epic to say the least. Appearing in every scene, he delivered a tour de force managing to lead his ensemble to a unified whole.

Starring alongside Sebastian Tan are Choreographer George Chan - who has performed in over 2,000 shows in both the Singapore and European Arts scene, Audrey Luo - who has independently co-produced and acted in her first Mandarin monologue My Mother’s Chest to full houses and Celine Rosa Tan – whose local works include Fraulein Kost in Cabaret, Yehanara in The Forbidden City, and Georgie in The Full Monty. 

Both leading ladies - Audrey and Celine performed with conviction, culminating in dedicated and moving solo duet and choral musical performances throughout the one-act, 90-minute production at the Victoria Theatre.



15 October 2019
About Musical Theatre Limited Established in 2006, Musical Theatre Limited (MTL) is a registered arts charity (IPC: 000575 / Charity: 002045) in Singapore with a mission of creating original local social musicals to empower people with special needs, prisoners, talented individuals with traumatic life experiences or those who faced adversity in life. While focused on developing musicals with meaningful social causes, MTL aims to enrich the arts scene by bringing people of diverse backgrounds together to build the future of musical theatre in Singapore. Through musicals, MTL hopes to promote inclusiveness, social cohesion and provide opportunities to showcase outstanding home-grown talents while at the same time promoting gifted individuals who may have faced challenges in their lives.