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A young concubine in love, a dying emperor, a heartless traitor, an idealistic artist and an empire that stands to fall. What really happened in the Forbidden City nearly a century ago?

Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress; that was originally staged as part of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay’s Opening Festival in October 2002, went on to become one of the one most successful made-in-Singapore musicals.

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And why not? The musical strikes the perfect chords of drama, romance, suspense and intrigue; good enough to keep audiences engaged throughout the 120 minutes of its performance.

The musical that stole hearts and received global recognition is back again in Singapore and will be staged at the Esplanade Theatre from August 8 to 27 in a joint presentation along with the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT).

Here are 4 reasons why you simply cannot miss the rerun of the Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress.

 The story is fantastic

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Set in ancient China, the musical tells the tale of a young concubine, Yehenara and her deep desire to be chosen as the emperor’s next escort. A string of events led her to become China’s legendary Empress Dowager Cixi. In a battle for the throne and power, the empress gains the reputation of being a dragon lady. But is she really one? Told through the eyes of Kate Carl who is commissioned to paint the empress’ portrait, the musical recount Cixi’s trials and tribulations and the story of the woman behind the painted face.

 The cast is worth a watch

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The musical stars Singapore’s home-grown singing sensation Kit Chan as the heroic empress and Cheryl Tan, as the young concubine, Yehenara. The musical is supported by a stellar cast including Sebastian Tan, Life! Theatre Award winner Benjamin Chow, West End Sensation, Earl Carpenter, from Les Miserables and Broadway star, Steffanie Leigh, from Mary Poppins to name a few.

The creative team is a genius

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The music for Forbidden City comes from Cultural Medallion Recipient Dick Lee with the lyrics penned by Olivier Award winner, Stephen Clark and the direction comes from Steven Dexter who has worked with SRT on numerous musicals in the past including A Twist of Fate, Friend Rice Paradise and most recently the LKY musical.

A representation of an Asian story to a foreign audience

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Performing arts is often the best way to share, bridge and debunk cultural norms that exist in contemporary society. “We are very proud of this musical. In many ways, it defines what SRT is and what Singapore is becoming.” Says Gaurav Kriplani, artistic director for SRT. “It's been 15 years since Esplanade commissioned Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress for our Opening Festival, we are delighted to bring this iconic musical back for audiences both old and new to enjoy.” Added Benson Puah, CEO, The Esplanade Co Ltd.

 To book tickets for the musical , visit Esplanade’s Box Office at Mezzanine Level or visit SISTIC outlets. 

To know the true events that shaped the persona of Empress Dowager Cixi, visit www.esplanade.com/forbiddencity.

(Photos: Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress)

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Tags: Singapore, Performing Arts, Forbidden City, Singapore Repertory Theatre, Dick Lee, Theatre, Esplanade, Musicals