New musical to depict “untold stories” of Singapore

Focusing on the decade before Singapore's independence in 1965, the musical is based on interviews gathered from Singapore's pioneer generation over a period of 18 months.

Words by Imagine TV Network

Told through the eyes of a family, Singapura: The Musical will use each family member to narrate the untold stories behind Singapore's pre-Independence years.

Created by The 4th Wall Theater Company, the production is a nod to the hope, spirit and youthful determination of ordinary Singaporeans during the early tumultuous years as they seek a better future in Singapura -- the olden name for Singapore.

Image credit: Singapura: The Musical

Ed Gatchalian, composer and arranger, shares that every character is an amalgam of stories they heard first-hand from the pioneer generation, a group of about 450,000 who are recognized by the Singapore government for their contributions to nation-building.

He shares that every of his compositions for the musical were influenced by interviews with the 60 to 90-year-old individuals whom he met in Singapore, Johor Bahru, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur. "We stayed true to historical record; all we did was create a few fictional characters. But even then we took special pains to try to make them as realistic as possible," he explains.

Joel Trinidad, librettist, emphasizes that history is not being re-written and says the feelings and experiences of the central family are based on interviews with people who had lived through the events of 1955 to 1965.

Image credit: Singapura: The Musical

Greg Ganakas, who is directing the musical, adds that the dramaturg is Jonathan Lim, a Singaporean, and his father lived through the events portrayed in the musical. He asserts that it is astonishing to see where Singaporeans came from and contrast it with where they are today.

Trinidad, on the other hand, says he was shocked at the violent aspects of Singapore's past. "Because present-day Singapore is so peaceful, that side of its history is quite difficult to imagine," he remarks.

Sharing about his inspirations, Gatchalian says he is most inspired from the emotions he gleaned from the interviewees he spoke to as they recounted their experiences. "One will notice how it affects my music as those musical numbers reflect a change in the chord progressions and with unexpected melodic twists."

Asked if it takes one to know one or if he believes fresh eyes will see a different perspective of Singapore, Trinidad replies that it is a combination of both personal experience and bystander objectivity. That same view is applied to people as well, he adds. "No one knows you better than you know yourself, but every once in a while someone else will see some aspect of you that you may never have realized."

Singapura: The Musical premieres at Capitol Theater in Singapore from 19 May 2015 and tickets are priced from S$65. 



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