The greatest challenge for any biographic musical/movie is that the central character, contrary to the usual disclaimer, actually bears resemblance to someone who is dead or alive; and the depiction of the character necessitates a certain level of imitation skills by the actor/actress. Perhaps inundated by this task, the producers of the LKY musical decided instead to sell itself as the love story behind Lee Kuan Yew and Mdm Kwa Geok Choo.
The roles of Lee Kuan Yew and Mdm Kwa Geok Choo were undertaken by seasoned thespian, Adrian Pang and Sharon Au. This is one feat that Adrian Pang pulled off quite amazingly. Pang’s performance as Lee Kuan Yew drew awe from the audience, especially the moments when Pang delivered the few classic ‘speeches’ of LKY. In comparison, Sharon Au’s performance as Kwa Geok Choo was convincing but her lacklustre singing was definitely the biggest disappointment of the whole production.
I was actually most curious about how the relationship between Lee Kuan Yew and Lim Chin Siong would be staged in this musical, especially considering the controversy over governmental intervention in the production. Seeing Lim Chin Siong’s character in the musical so well developed (some might say, even more than LKY himself) left me pleasantly surprised.
History’s ‘forgotten’ man was portrayed fairly and shown as a passionate yet composed leader who cared for the Chinese community. However, as much as the scriptwriter tried to bring out the nuanced relationship between LKY and Lim Chin Siong, the multiple jumps from events to events only made the interactions between the two men overly simplistic.
In the end though, I was a little underwhelmed. Maybe it is unfair to compare the LKY musical with ‘Oppenheimmer’, which is a layered account of the man who invented the nuclear bomb, but the huge contrast in the script quality just show that musical may not be the best art form to capture history. After all the fanfare, what we have left are just scrapes of histories that left the audience deeply unsatisfied. However, if I may just be a bit biased towards local production, LKY musical is, at the end of the day, a good effort with well-designed sets. It showed to an extent, our potential of creating an ‘Evita’ one day. Maybe one day.