Defying detractors, LKY Musical gets standing ovation
5 takeaways from the most hyped musical of the year
Much like Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew, The LKY Musical isn't perfect - but it's undeniably "garang" (Malay for fearless).
Despite detractors who thought the show would flop, it received a standing ovation at its official premiere last night at the Sands Theatre.
The full-house event attracted 1,500 guests, including guest-of-honour President Tony Tan.
Directed by veteran London West End director Steven Dexter and with music composed by Dick Lee, The LKY Musical stars Adrian Pang as a young Mr Lee and Sharon Au as his wife Kwa Geok Choo.
It spans 26 years of history, from Mr Lee's student days at Raffles College right up to the independence of Singapore in 1965.
Here are five things we took away from this year's most talked-about musical event.
1. SHARON AU ISN'T THE BEST SINGER
First, the good news. Au did a fantastic job portraying the late Mrs Lee's subtle mannerisms and quiet resolve. While there were doubts as to whether the chatty, effervescent host could portray Mrs Lee's famously reticent but intelligent manner, Au's method acting certainly paid off.
However, she often struggled during her musical numbers and was unable to hold her notes on many occasions.
In a cast made up of strong singers like Pang and Broadway Beng's Sebastian Tan, Au's lack of vocal prowess was especially jarring.
She fared better during the second act, when her quieter songs allowed the sincerity in her voice to shine through.
2. ADRIAN PANG IS CONVINCING AS LKY
It's official: Pang makes a convincing Mr Lee. Like Au, Pang faced his fair share of naysayers when his casting was announced, but he proved to be the true star of the show.
Despite his lack of physical resemblance to LKY, the thespian embodied Mr Lee's ferocity, fears and flaws perfectly. From his disillusionment of the British regime to the fire in his belly as he addressed crowds at political rallies, Pang painted a portrait that truly does justice to Singapore's founding father.
3. IT'S A BROMANCE, NOT A ROMANCE
Despite the musical's poster featuring Mr and Mrs Lee, the central relationship is really between Mr Lee and his friend-turned-political rival Lim Chin Siong (Benjamin Chow).
It features multiple duets and exchanges between the two, chronicling their downward-spiralling relationship. From brothers-in-arms to bitter rivals and enemies, the musical casts a fascinating light on the political pair.
4. SINGAPOREANS LOVE THEIR FOOD REFERENCES
The many references to food, such as Mr and Mrs Lee's longing for char kway teow while away at Cambridge, or jokes about sushi and porridge, elicited the most laughs from the crowd.
5. THE NATIONAL ANTHEMS ROCK
While The LKY Musical introduces many original songs, they aren't quite catchy or memorable enough. One exception was Little Island, a cheeky little cabaret ditty which contained the aforementioned sushi joke.
However, we loved the inclusion of the national anthems of Britain, Japan, Malaysia and finally, Singapore. They captured the spirit of the times.
WHAT: The LKY Musical
WHERE: Sands Theatre, MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands
WHEN: Till Aug 16, 7.30pm (Tuesdays to Fridays); 3pm and 7.30pm (Saturdays); 1.30pm and 6pm (Sundays)
TICKETS: $58 to $150 from Sistic (6348-5555 or www.sistic.com.sg)