Two years on from the beginning of Covid-19, live theatre has finally returned to our shores and what better a production to usher in its return than The LKY Musical — its second run marks Singapore’s first large-scale musical production since the pandemic began in 2020.
Part musical, part history lesson and fully enjoyable, The LKY Musical delivers much more than just an account of Lee Kuan Yew’s personal story, laying out the Singapore story from British colonial rule to Japanese occupation and on to Singapore’s separation from Malaysia in a fashion not to be found in social studies textbooks.
Tan Choon Hiong, director of Aiwei, which produced the musical with Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT), says: "It is our hope that the audience will be inspired by the show and touched by the story. As you go on this emotional journey thorugh history, we trust that you will come away inspired to believe in the impossible."
According to Tan, it was an “unplanned” coincidence that Lee's 99th birthday, his 100th by the lunar calendar, falls in the middle of the musical's second run. Its original run in 2015 coincided with Singapore's 50th national day and Lee's death.
Adrian Pang reprises his award-winning role of the eponymous founding father of Singapore, while Mrs Lee, Kwa Geok Choo, is played by Kit Chan on her return to the SRT stage after last portraying Empress Dowager Cixi in Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress in 2017, also alongside Pang.
The two veteran actors first shared the stage almost 30 years ago in another SRT production, Into the Woods.
Featuring Dick Lee’s music and lyrics from Stephen Clark, the production is undeniably Singaporean — in the best way possible. Sebastian Tan stars as Koh Teong Koo, a character based on the real-life rickshaw puller who saved Lee from the Sook Ching Massacre, and stands out with his dialect-heavy script, delivering necessary moments of comic relief throughout the musical. Benjamin Chow also impresses with his vocal performance as Lim Chin Siong, Lee’s political ally-turned-adversary.
A exceptional feature of the production is its clever use of the three-storeyed set, designed by takis, built specially to make full use of the Sands Theatre stage, with each section of each storey serving as miniature standalone sets.
For professionals in the arts and related sectors, a production of this scale is a welcome boost — and a challenge — after two difficult years with the absence of live performances. But Aiwei and SRT have dusted off the cobwebs with the help of their full team: from actors to crew, creative and technical experts to musicians and even below-the-line support.
Gaurav Kripalani, artistic director of SRT, says: “The journey to bring this performance to you today has not been an easy one but one that has been so important and fulfilling. Because today we turn a corner.”
“The cast, crew and creative team we have assembled for this musical are second to none. The joy of being in the theatre with them has been incredible. I cannot wait for you to experience that joy too when you watch this show,” he adds.
The LKY Musical will run until Oct 2 and tickets are available from the SRT website.