by Chua Wei Ling
On May 22, Singapura: The Musical opened with much hype at the newly refurbished Capitol Theatres. An ambitious production that costed $2.72 million to produce, the musical was supposed to end its run on June 7, but was subsequently extended till July 19. The musical was set to be a sell-out, and there were hopes for it to take on Broadway as well.
However, on July 2, the musical mysteriously closed without any notice or reasons given.Despite the fanfare, the 40-odd cast performed at times to an almost-empty theatre, according to cast and crew members. However, the company behind the production denied the dismal attendance; a charity night hosted by property firm Perennial Real Estate Holdings had managed to raise $200,000 for more than 80 charities under the Community Chest through one of the shows.
While the musical was set to showcase the 10 years leading up to Singapore’s independence, it drew flak from critics for being over-ambitious, too simplistic and at times, cheesy. Many saw the production as a simple love triangle than a story of ‘hope’ that the musical promises. The majority Filipino cast – who did their best to speak ‘Singlish’ – were also criticised as not being realistic enough to portray the Singapore identity. While the storyline and acting may not have met expectations, props were given for the musical score and the stage design – sadly, it was not enough to fill theatre seats.
Another issue for this musical was the non-payment and late payment of their cast and crew. Issues began to arise shortly after the musical took to the stage when cast members took to social media such to raise their displeasure over how they were not getting paid for the work they had done. While the company behind it has said that they would honour all contracts, there are still talks till today about the cast not getting their due payments.