As the nation grieves for the passing of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yee, a new musical celebrating his life will premiere in July.
Three years in the making, with its world premiere at the Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands on 24 July 2015, ‘The LKY Musical’ explores the tumultuous times of pre-independence Singapore, with Mr Lee's political battles and enduring relationship with his late wife Kwa Geok Choo forming the crux of the story.
“We believe his story, especially his early life, is very dramatic and very interesting as it tells us of his struggles and conviction in building a nation,” said Tan Choon Hiong, director of Metropolitan Productions.
“This part of his life is the most appropriate story to tell in this musical,” Tan added, adding that he was confident the “mega-million dollar project” will be a fitting tribute and “a production that will make Singaporeans proud.”
ROLE OF A LIFETIME
Playing the role of Mr Lee is veteran actor Adrian Pang.
“I relish the opportunity to play such an iconic man, who is shrouded in myth and legend. To capture that time of his life when he was full of passion, ideals and fire, against the backdrop of a very young Singapore, is a very intriguing prospect for me,” Pang said.
Taking up the role of Kwa is former MediaCorp artiste Sharon Au, who also said that this would be the “role of a lifetime”.
“Mrs Lee is the perfect embodiment of the perfect Asian wife and woman,” she said.
Singer-actor Sebastian Tan will co-star as rickshaw puller Koh Teong Koo, while newcomer Benjamin Chow will play the late opposition politician Lim Chin Siong.
Tan was initially puzzled when he was approached to be Koh, but after further research, he found out that his character in real life had saved Mr Lee’s life during the Japanese Occupation.
(From left) Composer Dick Lee, author Meira Chand, actors Sebastian Tan, Adrian Pang, Sharon Au and Benjamin Chow | Photo: Zaki Jufri
The script, written by American playwright Tony Petito, the founding artistic director of the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT), is based on a story by Indian-Swiss novelist Meira Chand who lives in Singapore. Chand is known for her books which explore issues of identity and belonging, such as 'The Bonsai Tree' and 'The Painted Cage'.
London-based Steven Dexter, who also helmed SRT's ‘Forbidden City’ (2002), will direct; while veteran composer Dick Lee will write the score.
The musical charts Mr Lee's formative years, first from surviving the Sook Ching massacre as a young man during the Japanese Occupation, to the development of his political career, the racial unrest and communist threats of the 1950s, and leading Singapore towards full independence.
‘The LKY Musical’ is not the only production this year that celebrates and dramatises the late leader's life. ‘1965’, starring veteran actor Lim Kay Tong, is another project. The film, directed by Randy Ang, also features Joanne Peh, Sezairi Sazali and Mike Kasem, and is scheduled for release 30 July 2015.
BEST SCORE TO DATE
Composer and Cultural Medallion winner Dick Lee said he has written his best musical score to date for this production, describing the songwriting (approach) as more nuanced and with plenty of depth.
Adrian Pang and Benjamin Chow sing 'Look At Him' | Video: Zaki Jufri
Lee was initially worried about writing the score for such a serious story, but as the script started to develop, he realised that it was a thriller.
“What Mr Lee went through to get to 1965 was really a rollercoaster ride. There was so much intrigue and danger back then. Musically, I saw the production as a chamber musical as I couldn't see any big production numbers here,” Lee explained.
He added: “If you take away the political content, this is just a story about a man and his dream. If anything, his passing has made it even more significant... (and) we have seen his dream come true.”‘The LKY Musical’ | Date: 21 July to 2 August 2015 | Time: Previews 21-23 Jul, 7.30pm, thereafter 7.30pm (Tue-Sat), 3pm (Sat), 1.30pm, 6pm (Sun) | Venue: MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue | Tickets: $58-$150 from Sistic