Singapura: The Musical, featuring a medley of local and international thespians, will take our stories and struggles to the world – the leads speak to Weekender about its global appeal
You may know the Singapore story, but did you know about the respect and awe it has commanded on a world scale?
The Singapore story has impacted so many around the world that celebrated composer Ed Gatchalian was compelled to pull together an impressive international team to bring it to the world. Singapura: The Musical follows the lives, struggles and hopes of ordinary folks through our turbulent years from 1955 to 1965.
With an international cast comprising four nationalities, Singapura is set to be a spectacular experience of song and dance to celebrate our island nation and home.
Just before rehearsals properly started, Weekender sat down for an exclusive with highly-regarded actor David Bianco, who plays British Lieutenant Flynn; theatre thespian Marian Santiago, who portrays Law student Lee May; and Ed Gatchalian, the prolific composer.
Bonus: Watch our special interview video below!
How are you guys feeling about starting rehearsals?
Ed: This is our first formal rehearsal with the Singapore cast, but we’ve actually been rehearsing for a long time now – however, the process of writing and completing Singapura has taken three years. We’re happy.
David: And excited! It’s our first time working with the Singapore cast, and it is the missing piece to this production.
How is it like working with such a diverse range of nationalities?
Ed: Because it’s a story set in Singapore, it gets really exciting when we’re with Singaporeans. We were on our 49th draft and – with the inclusion of Singaporean expressions and traditions – the whole piece just became so alive and so exciting.
Seeing how the international cast and crew react to the Singapore story is revitalising in the best way, as it reaffirms how universal the story of human struggle and survival really is. Recreating and remembering the past does create an ultimate awareness of what has truly been achieved and what a marvel Singapore is.
My hope is that all Singaporeans will want to attend the show and experience this period in Singapore’s history that is brimming with the true culture and essence of the Singapore character.
What’s the one message from this musical production that can be applied universally?
David: The story of love is universal. We can all relate to some type of love, whether it’s with a parent or a significant other.
Marian: For Lee May, her dream is like oxygen. She needs it to breathe and grow; she needs it to live, like everyone does.
Ed: When I look at Singapore now, I wonder how many people really know what their parents and grandparents went through.
They should stop to think of how their parents and grandparents sacrificed so that we can have what we have today. It’s a story of inspiration to the world.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about Singapore?
David: I love durian! We paid $150 for two durians, and we loved it. One had a bitter aftertaste. They’d already cut it and laid it out before telling me the price. But you don’t argue with a guy with a chopper!
Marian: I appreciated eating roasted lamb and barbeque skewers at Geylang. We also love the transportation here. It’s a very efficient country.
What’s your favourite scene in the musical? No spoilers please!
David: When I really get to know Lee May and I ask all the difficult questions. That scene escalates quite quickly. It starts in one innocent place, and goes to a very traumatic place. That whole scenario is a very beautiful experience for me.
Marian: Those with Lee May’s family. We’re solid, we have so much in common, but we also have to resolve the same problems from different points of view. I also liked how she has a controversial relationship with this British guy [Flynn].
Ed: The formidable bus riot scenes and the all-enveloping calm of the main in white, and his steely resolve in leading and uniting his countrymen through this turbulent and uncertain time in Singapore’s history.
By Pamela Chow
Singapura: The Musical opens May 19 at Capitol Theatre. Book your tickets at singapurathemusical.com now.
Watch Weekender’s interview with the cast of Singapura: The Musical here: