Sunday 2 August 2015

My SG50 dilemma: Should I watch LKY in The LKY Musical or LKY in 1965 movie?

Last week was election day for me.

I had to elect whether to watch LKY in The LKY Musical or watch LKY in the movie, 1965.


Because SG50.

A photo posted by SM Ong (@sm_ong) on

As you all know - and have probably made plans to leave the country next weekend because you do - next Sunday is National Day.

Very soon (at least one hopes), our long national branding exercise that is sticking the promiscuously all-purpose SG50 logo on everything from fish cakes to Hello Kitty will be over.

By the way, I've placed my order for the McDonald’s SG50 Hello Kitty Collector's Set. Have you?

And I’ve already received my SingPost SG50 Hello Kitty Plush Collectible Set. Have you?

I plan to upload my unboxing video to YouTube shortly.

This raises the question: If I’m such a patriot that I can get both the McDonald’s and SingPost SG50 Hello Kitty set, why can’t I see both The LKY Musical and the 1965 movie?

The answer: The LKY Musical and the 1965 movie are no Hello Kitty.

If instead of Adrian Pang and Lim Kay Tong, they had cast the the mouthless Japanese cartoon cat to play Mr Lee Kuan Yew, I would’ve gone online and booked the tickets immediately.

But alas, they cast real people.

Also, watching a musical or a movie requires me to commit at least three hours of my life, commuting to and from the theatre, and actually sitting down to watch the damn thing.

Whereas with my Hello Kitty sets, I just get them and put them on the shelf where they will collect dust until the Earth dies.

So it’s either the musical or the movie. Not both.

To help make my decision, I've read the reviews of both shows and narrowed it to down to four factors:


Depending on where and what day of the week you want to see the movie, a ticket can cost from $8.50 to $13, maybe cheaper if you’re a Safra member or have the right credit card

But the cheapest ticket for the musical is $50 for a “restricted view” on certain days.

For 50 bucks, I could watch 1965 at least three times with enough change to buy a few SG50 fish cakes. That is, if I were a masochist.

Advantage 1965.


The musical stars Pang and Sharon Au.

All the reviews are pretty much universal in their praise of Pang’s portrayal of Singapore’s first Prime Minister. They are also universal in saying that Au pretty much sucks as Mrs LKY.

The Straits Times said that Pang “carries the part with finesse and grace”, but Au is “a shadow of her character, struggling with musical segments and quickly fading into the background”.

Today newspaper said that Pang “carries the show as Lee, capturing the man’s fears, frustrations and unwavering tenacity in pushing for change”.

It added that “Au also proves to be the cast’s weakest link, with brittle delivery and pitiful singing skills”.

By the way, Today is published by MediaCorp where Au also works as an executive in the strategic development department.

“Weakest link”? “Pitiful singing skills”?

Wah lau! How bad do you have to be that even your own company doesn’t give you face?

Two other MediaCorp artists, Joanne Peh and her husband Qi Yuwu, are arguably the biggest stars in the 1965 movie.

But frankly, the only thing involving Peh and Qi I’m interested in seeing is a video of Peh, who is due to give birth soon, delivering the baby shot by Qi.

Unfortunately, Qi has said that although he plans to be in the delivery room with Peh, someone else will be holding the camera. I volunteer.

Advantage The LKY Musical because of Pang. I’m also curious to see just how much Au actually sucks.


The movie is produced, written and directed by Singaporeans.

The musical is directed by a Brit with a book by an American and lyrics by another Brit. That’s not very SG50. (Or is it?)

Advantage 1965.


The musical is called The LKY Musical. So you know that it’s all about LKY. And that it’s a musical.

But Mr Daniel Yun, the executive producer and co-director for 1965, has made it a point to clarify that his movie is “not a biopic of Lee Kuan Yew” but “a dramatic thriller based on historical events”, presumably set in 1965.

Why does Mr Yun feel the need to make this clarification?

Because as far back as 2010, it was reported that he was planning “a political thriller based on Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s struggle for Singapore’s independence”.

At one point, Hong Kong star Tony Leung Chiu Wai was even cast as LKY.

So now Mr Yun is backtracking? Did Amos Yee get to him? Business Times said that as LKY, “Lim Kay Tong steals the show in 1965”, but appears for only a few minutes in the movie.

The review gave 1965 a C+ grade and suggests that “maybe it would have worked better as a biopic of Mr Lee instead”.

So the movie suffers from a case of LKY no enough.

Maybe LKY would have more screen time if Tony Leung were playing him.

Advantage The LKY Musical.


To celebrate SG50, I elected to see the show that best represents how Singapore achieved the impossible after being forced out of Malaysia in 1965 to be its own nation led by LKY. At least in the title.

That’s right. I went to see Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.

Cue Lalo Schifrin’s theme song.

To SM Ong

I'm glad to know that I'm not alone - feeling this way - overwhelmed by the string of events planned for Singapore's Jubilee Celebration

Long story short

For the past few years, I've spent a considerable sum of money to support local productions, be it Musicals, Dramas etc. I would buy the best tickets, which is usually the most costly since some of these productions are at the Esplanade or Marina Bay Sands and invite my family or friends to watch these productions with me. It was my way of showing support to the local Arts, theater practitioners and even local singers eg Dick Lee, Kit Chan and Xinyao

Yet, this year, 2015, I find it hard to continue or should I say, I'm just put off by some of these productions

And you said it best in your article

Coincidentally, I've also given up trying to choose or decide which production to catch

I went and saw Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation on Friday. It was a simple movie but it gave me what I badly needed - a break from work and all that's on-going

For your info - I'm a primary school teacher and I suppose all the celebration and possible up-coming election talk was really getting to me since I'm also the teacher in-charge of our school's celebration program this week

Living in little red dot is stressful enough with increasing cost of living and other challenges

Sometimes, what we really need is some quiet moments to give thanks for what we have

Best regards

Hello :)

In your column yesterday, you wrote that you have both the Singpost and MCD Hello Kitties, but you forgot that Singtel has them too.

Just a quick thank you for all the laughter your column has given me throughout the years. I do hope you continue writing columns with your unique sense of humour.

Don't worry for making it to the 50th year mark so your couldn't enjoy all the perks or going AWOL in your camp, and outside the reporting area, you are still a Singapore icon. Very much so like the trishaw uncle and samsui woman hello kitties you see at MCD. Just that you have a further reach since your are in print.


EARLIER: Twisted ankle? Racist incident? Nothing will stop Sharon Au from playing Mrs LKY