tropicana the musical singapore - topless - tan kheng hua

Image: Showgirls Seong Huixuan (left) and Sharda Harrison (left) in Tropicana The Musical, produced by Tan Kheng Hua, photo by Crispian Chan

An upcoming musical about a topless club in Scotts Road in the 1960s may or may not feature performers doffing their shirts.

Producer Tan Kheng Hua says of Tropicana The Musical, showing next April: “Toplessness is a possibility, but by no means a certainty.”

Tropicana The Musical runs from April 13 to 30 at the Capitol Theatre. It is set in 1968 in Singapore, the year the Tropicana cabaret opened its doors in the space now occupied by retail and office complex Pacific Plaza.

The musical is based on stories about the hopping nightspot, which means some might compare it with Michael Chiang’s Beauty World, also set in a cabaret.

However, Tan says Tropicana The Musical is more a salute to the 1960s, the decade when P. Ramlee made blockbuster movies, Singapore band The Quests knocked the Beatles off the top of local music charts, and drama doyen Kuo Pao Kun began setting the tone for generations of theatre-makers. She says: “I loved that time. I loved that people made movies, made music without government grants or being ruled by government agenda. They just created, freely.”

The Tropicana nightclub had full houses in its heyday, but shut down in 1989 and was later demolished.

The musical is expected to cost more than $750,000 to produce. The rating – and whether there will be topless scenes – is yet to be confirmed as playwright and Cultural Medallion recipient Haresh Sharma is still penning the book.

Beatrice Chia-Richmond directs while lyrics are by playwright Joel Tan, who worked on last year’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, a well- received pantomime for Wild Rice.

Music is by Julian Wong, who composed for The Theatre Practice’s rock spectacular Liao Zhai Rocks and Toy Factory Productions’ memorable December Rains.

Choreography is by award-winning artist Jeffrey Tan, who also worked on the opening and closing ceremonies of last year’s South- east Asian Games.

Members of the cast play multiple roles, including Brendon Fernandez as an entertainer, Seong Hui- xuan and Sharda Harrison as showgirls, Mitch Lagos the cabaret’s host, and Siti Khalijah Zainal a cashier. Also joining the line-up are Lim Yu-Beng, Rizman Putra, Ebi Shankara and Karen Tan.

Full-price tickets for the musical, on sale now, range from $77 to $107. There are discounts of up to 38 per cent for early-bird buyers, but prices will go up closer to opening night.

Theatre groups here often offer about a month of discounted prices – around 20 per cent – to encourage early buyers. By offering greater discounts earlier, Tan hopes to quickly sell the 65 per cent of tickets needed to break even.

Might she lose her shirt on this project?

She admits she is taking a risk.

“This is my dream. I have always wanted to fully produce, manage and own a project of this scale for Singapore theatre,” she says. “Of course it is a risk. Tropicana is a new show. It is not a familiar name like Les Miserables. I am banking on the faith people have in local theatre.”


WHERE: Capitol Theatre, 11 Stamford Road, Capitol Piazza

WHEN: April 13 to 30 next year. 8pm (Tuesdays to Fridays), 3 and 8pm (Saturdays), 3pm (Sundays)

ADMISSION: For latest prices, go or call 6348-5555



A version of this story was originally published in The Straits Times on October 15, 2016. For more stories like this, head to