Which is the first musical in Singapore written and composed by Singaporeans?

The short answer to that question is “Makanplace…a Singaporean Musical” by ACT 3, with music by Jasmin Samat Simon and lyrics by R. Chandran. Both Mr. Simon and Mr. Chandran are founding members of ACT 3, together with Ruby Lim-Yang.

“Makanplace” and another musical, “Beauty World” (music and lyrics by Dick Lee, based on the book by Michael Chiang) were both first performed in 1988, but it is the latter that is popularly thought of as the first Singaporean musical.

However, according to Ken Lyen, “when playwright Robert Yeo reviewed Beauty World for the Straits Times in 1988, he wrote that Beauty World was Singapore’s first musical. He promptly received a phone call from Act 3’s Ruby Lim-Yang protesting that this was incorrect. She informed him that Makan Place [sic] was Singapore’s first musical. It had been earlier reviewed by the Straits Times as a musical with ‘simple, catchy songs and an interesting group of characters'” (Lyen).

Further an ACT 3 programme note on the National Arts Council Arts Education Programme website states that “Makanplace” was “initially staged in March 1988”.

This would indeed date it before “Beauty World” which debuted on 4 June 1988 as “a special production for the Singapore Festival of Arts 1988”, according to the programme book for the festival (“Beauty World”).

This, therefore, validates Act 3’s statement that “Makanplace” was “Singapore’s first all-local musical” (“Musicals”).

For anyone interested to listen to a sound recording of “Makanplace”, you can visit the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library and look for the following:

Title: Makanplace: a Singapore musical
By: Act 3 Theatrics
Format: Sound Cassette
Call No.: RSING 782.14095957 ACT
Location: For Reference Only at Lee Kong Chian Reference Library

Notes:

  1. Mr. Lyen is a doctor-cum-theatre practitioner who has written music for a dozen musicals, including Big Bang! (1995), Yum Sing! (1999), The Magic Paintbrush (2000), Sayang (2001), Song of the Whale (2001), Exodus (2003), and Making the Grade (2004).Visit his personal website to read more about him and his writings.
  2. All websites in this post were last accessed on 23 Dec 2008.

List of Works Cited

  • “Beauty World.” Singapore Festival of Arts 1988: the second decade. Singapore: Festival Secretariat, Singapore Festival of Arts, 1988. p 103. Call No.: RSING 790.2095957 SIN. For Reference Only at Lee Kong Chian Reference Library.
  • Lyen, Ken. “The Singapore Musical.” Musicals: a Singapore Perspective. 4 Dec 2008. http://www.kenlyen.com/.
  • “Musicals.” Act 3. Singapore: Act 3 Theatrics Pte Ltd, 1995. Call No.: RSING 792.095957 ACT. For Reference Only at Lee Kong Chian Reference Library.


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