Local Singaporean artists are a rare breed. And even rarer are those whose careers survive decades whilst retaining that elusive Singaporean kampong flavour. Dick Lee is one of those people. Local acts like comedian Kumar and composer Dick Lee have survived so long that they’re basically an institution.
After close to a decade of watching Kumar on YouTube whenever I got homesick, I finally saw him perform twice in the flesh this year. I relished every moment. I grew up watching The Kumar Show at Hard Rock Cafe on Monday nights. His comedy routine a welcome release from the stresses of daily Singaporean life. I could always count on him to tickle my funny bone till it hurt.
Dick Lee, on the other hand, is best known for his musicals that encapsulate that uniquely Singaporean soul by telling stories through music. So when I found out that Dick Lee’s Singapopera was playing at the The Esplanade (our very own local durian-looking theatres on the bay), I knew I had to go. Mr. Lee has been around for so long that I’m surprised he isn’t telling dad jokes. To think he’s only four years younger than my old man. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. He still wears his signature suits, looking as dashing as always with his silver hair and infectious smile.
Singapopera features a medley of songs from all the musicals Dick Lee’s produced over the years. I thought it would be a serious sit down type of affair, but there was a chilled out vibe to the whole performance. Although it was clearly well-choreographed and rehearsed, there was an impromptu feeling to the whole experience that made it seem effortless and natural.
I felt like a voyeur looking into some super talented people’s living room whilst they took turns to charm us with their powerhouse vocals which celebrated Dick Lee’s extensive career in music. I was entertained, inspired and… filled with that sense of nostalgia that I usually don’t like indulging in. But hey – it’s not everyone that can remind this overseas Singaporean about everything I love and miss about this little red dot when I’m far far away from home.
The musical lasted just over two hours. I enjoyed every moment immensely. The cherry on the cake was when everyone came together and sang ‘Home’, a national day song from twenty years ago that I sung growing up; a song that I listen to whenever I am terribly homesick and long to return. I held back tears as I sang along to the lyrics that have tattooed themselves to my memory.
There’s a place that will stay within me
Wherever I may choose to go
I will always recall the city
Know every street and shore
Sail down the river which brings us life
Winding through my Singapore
After the show was over, my stomach naturally craved Singaporean food – a blend of Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisines that come together to create a heart-warming meal that can only ever be found in Singapore.
We were too dressed up to head to a hawker centre, so we wound up at Kopitiam in Raffles City – an atas high-class restaurant that serves hawker fare. We ordered nasi goreng (fried rice paradise), sambal kang kong (of course!), and salted-egg squid. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. I ordered a Tiger Beer, too. Well – I couldn’t help myself. I had to. I must say, this is the most upmarket local fare I’ve ever had in my life. It still hit a spot, though…
After dinner, I walked home – soaking in the familiar city sights.
I never thought I’d say this, but… it’s good to be back.
Till next time, goodnight Singapore.