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When one thinks of theatre, it usually conjures images of New York’s Broadway and London’s West End, with their eye-catching billboards, dazzling neon lights, and catchy musical numbers. While we’re no Broadway nor West End, Singapore’s no stranger to the concept of theatre or the performing arts either.
We’ve seen the resurgence and rising popularity of theatre on our sunny island. In fact, our first foray into performing arts started as early as the 1950s, with the different racial and ethnic groups developing their own style of theatre before converging into multi-racial productions we all have come to love and appreciate today.
Whether you’re in it for the internationally renowned acts, or you’d prefer to explore your very own local productions here, we’re not short of theatres for you to uncover.
If you’re looking for things to do in Singapore this weekend, take your family and friends to a production or two to experience the performing arts scene. From live music to captivating plays, take your pick!
1. The Esplanade – an architectural marvel showcasing a mix of both global and local productions
Look up any image of the Singapore skyline, and you’re bound to spot its unmistakable silhouette — two architectural structures fitted with over 7,000 triangular aluminium sunshades each, giving it a spiky exterior that many of us affectionately refer to as ‘The Durian*’. Within the walls of this captivating building comes an equally spellbinding line up of productions and the fine arts.
*For the uninitiated, the durian is a popular fruit in Southeast Asia. It is slightly oval and its shell is covered in formidable-looking spikes. Beneath the shell lies a creamy, bittersweet yet pungent flesh that some have likened to blue cheese.
Home to a concert hall, theatre and several smaller, intimate performance studios, the Esplanade has often been hailed as one of Singapore’s pioneering performing arts centres which has housed many iconic local plays like Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress, to other high-profile, internationally acclaimed acts like Queen’s We Will Rock You, among many others, paving the way for Singapore’s young art scene.
If you drop by for a concert, exhibition or a theatre production, you’ll definitely be in for a treat. Stroll along the hallowed walkways of the Esplanade and you’ll see that a lot of creative thought has been put into the design of every corner of the building. Choose to wine and dine at any of the bars and restaurants in the area, and end the day with a stroll along the Singapore River just outside. If you’re lucky, you might be able to enjoy some live music while dining alfresco too. Offering free admission, the Esplanade's Outdoor Theatre has been home to many local, up and coming artistes and groups looking to share their passion for the performing arts to locals and tourists who stop by. If you’re interested in finding out more about any upcoming shows and performances, don’t forget to visit their website for the latest updates.
Address: 1 Esplanade Drive, Singapore 038981
Nearest MRT: Esplanade MRT
Opening Hours: Opens daily. Operating hours of shops and restaurants vary. Refer to website for more details.
2. Marina Bay Sands Theatres – your go-to for high-profile international productions
You’re probably no stranger to Marina Bay Sands, home to many world-class restaurants, bars and designer brands in Singapore. You might also recognise it for the iconic infinity pool that may have graced your social media feed from time to time. But beyond all that, the Marina Bay Sands Theatres is also home to many internationally renowned Broadway and West End productions like The Lion King, Wicked, Cats, and Phantom of the Opera, to name a few. This propels our reputation as a young but thriving arts and culture hub into the spotlight. So, if you’re looking to catch some of the more high-profile international productions over the weekend, the Marina Bay Sands Theatres is definitely your go-to.
Another great thing about this venue is that you get to spend time before and after your show walking around the Shoppes for a quick retail therapy fix. If you’re feeling hungry, drop by one of the many iconic restaurants helmed by world-class chefs from the world over. In fact, Marina Bay Sands offers Show & Dine Deals, which provides patrons discounts at select restaurants including CUT by Wolfgang Puck, Adrift by David Myers and KOMA Singapore when you purchase a package.
If you’re planning to catch a production at the Marina Bay Sands Theatres, here’s a quick tip: Don’t forget to come dressed to impress! There are plenty of #OOTD moments within this architectural marvel and beyond — a monopod will be perfect to capture the best shots!
To find out more about the ongoing or upcoming productions, visit their website. You might want to book your seats early, as the more popular productions tend to sell out fast!
Address: 2 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956
Nearest MRT: Bayfront MRT
Opening Hours: Opens daily, with 24/7 dining and shopping options available. Refer to website for individual stores’ operating hours.
3. Capitol Theatre – a culturally-rich historic theatre from the 1930s restored to full glory
While the Capitol Theatre may not be as big as the likes of the Marina Bay Sands or the Esplanade, it has housed its fair share of local and international productions. The theatre caters more to fans of the classic plays like Hamlet, as well as those who appreciate the slightly more obscure, yet culturally rich acts such as Singapura: The Musical which tells the story of Singapore in its formative years, as well as Titoudao, a play that touches the wonderful life of a Chinese opera performer. So if you’re a fan of such genres, then you might want to keep a lookout for their line-up of ongoing shows on their website. And while it might be smaller in comparison, its long and rich history definitely makes up for what it lacks in size!
The recently redeveloped Capitol Theatres and Piazza located in our Civic District used to be Singapore’s answer to the arts and culture scene in the 1930s, with the Theatre being one of our finest ones back in the day! Originally built in 1929, the theatre’s architectural design was inspired by the iconic Roxy Theatre in New York City, where it became a cultural landmark marvelled for its distinct, neo-classical design by patrons, motorists and passers-by alike. In fact, before it was slated for redevelopment, it had been gazetted as a national monument, with meticulous care taken to restore it to its former glory.
If you walk into the theatre today, you will find remnants of the past peeking out from every corner, as though paying homage to the theatre veterans who used to grace the very halls. Flanking the stage, you will find panels of the mythical and majestic Pegasus, while embellished on the dome ceiling are the Chinese Zodiac signs. Up front, the Art Deco era-inspired signage still bears the words ‘Capitol Theatre’, with its dazzling red neon lights beckoning guests to step right in, just as it did when it was first installed in the 1930s.
Located just next to the Capitol Piazza, and a short five-minute walk from the newly renovated Funan Mall, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are plenty of restaurants all within walking distance.
Address: 17 Stamford Rd, Singapore 178907
Nearest MRT: City Hall MRT
Opening Hours: Opens daily. Refer to website for individual stores’ operating hours.
4. W!LD RICE @ FUNAN – home to a homegrown theatre company for culturally relevant productions
For the best of Singapore’s multicultural character, live performances by the talented playwrights of W!LD RICE sure hit the spot!
Founded in 2000, W!LD RICE, a homegrown theatre company is a perfect starting point for those seeking out productions that delve into the national identity and culture of Singapore and its neighbours. While traditionally known for local hits such as Stella Kon’s Emily of Emerald Hill, and Alfian Sa’at’s Merdeka, the company in recent years has started exploring remakes of world renowned classics (with a W!LD RICE spin, of course), such as Oscar Wilde’s internationally-acclaimed The Importance of Being Earnest, which was met with great success.
They opened the doors to their new home in Funan Mall in 2019, with a unique interior architecture that's unlike any of the theatres we’ve seen here.
Upon entering the theatre grounds, you might notice that their walls are adorned with a diamond-like pattern, and this is not merely a choice born out of aesthetics. It was actually inspired by Singapore’s old National Theatre which was built in 1963, before being demolished 20 years later. The wooden planks and beams which line the theatre had previously been used by opera and getai (literally means song stage where performers belt out a song and dance routine) performers for over 80 years, before being repurposed into unique design elements of the theatre. These were intentional in order to remind individuals about, and also to celebrate the cultural history of Singapore’s performing arts scene.
A word of caution though – tickets often sell out fast, so be sure to check in on their website often and plan ahead!
Address: 107 North Bridge Road, #04-08 Funan Mall, Singapore 179105
Nearest MRT: City Hall MRT
Opening Hours: Opens daily. Refer to website for individual stores’ operating hours.
5. ANDSOFORTH – a pop-up theatre that specialises in immersive theatrical dining experiences
With Singapore’s performing arts community constantly growing and evolving, we’re beginning to also see the rise of new and novel means of introducing theatre to the masses. Introducing ANDSOFORTH, Singapore’s one and only production company that specialises in immersive theatrical dining experiences!
If you thrive on spontaneity and excitement, ANDSOFORTH will definitely be your match. Whenever patrons book a slot to their show, the only thing they’re privy to is the production title and a short synopsis. Everything else remains a mystery, with the location revealed to guests only 24 hours before the event, and their specially curated menu only made known when they take their seats! From disco-themed nights to whimsical Alice in Wonderland storylines and even ones that pay homage to the gods of Norse mythology, each live performance is bound to be a surprise for all.
The team had originally started out with the goal of “making Singapore fun again”, and we think they’ve definitely nailed it! Six years and 45 unique shows later, ANDSOFORTH is the gift that keeps on giving, and has made a name for themselves as Asia’s largest immersive dining company. Keep your eyes peeled for when this pop-up theatre is set to impress next! Don’t forget to check out their website and plan ahead to secure the much-coveted slots!
6. The Theatre Practice – a local theatre that specialises in bilingual productions, and pays homage to our Asian heritage
If you’re interested in exploring Singapore’s theatre scene through a different cultural lens, The Theatre Practice might be a good place to start. Established almost half a century ago by veterans Kuo Pao Kun and Goh Lay Kuan, the Theatre Practice, formally known as the Singapore Performing Arts School, was — and still is — known to be the driving force for bilingualism and multiculturalism in the local theatre scene.
Steeped in rich history and with a strong following, The Theatre Practice, or simply Practice to the locals, has played an important role as a cultural bridge between Asia and the World. Popular for their works that shine the spotlight on Chinese history, myths and legends in productions such as Liao Zhai Rocks!, a modern take on Chinese classics, or ones that explore Singapore’s history like Four Horse Road, which tells the story of Waterloo Street, located in the Civic District in the 20th century.
The Theatre Practice is located right in the heart of Waterloo Arts Belt at Bras Basah, and is housed in a quaint shophouse from the pre-war era, painted in a head-turning bright shade of blue. After watching a live performance in their intimate theatre, hop right over next door to the Practice Tuckshop, a cafe that not only serves up good food, but also offers a creative playground of sorts, allowing people to peruse their selection of local books while plugged into their earphones, or even take part in activities!
To get the latest updates on their ongoing and upcoming productions, visit their website.
Address: 54 Waterloo St, Singapore 187953
Nearest MRT: Bras Basah / Bencoolen MRT
Opening Hours: Opens Monday to Friday, 9:30AM to 6:30PM.
Singapore’s performing arts scene has evolved over the years. Each era brings with it accomplishments even greater and bolder than the acts that came before. With the rise of many more production companies here in Singapore, we hope that this list inspires you to delve a little deeper into what our independent local production companies have to offer here on our sunny island.
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