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Forbidden City: A Home-grown Hit Musical by Cultural Medallion Recipient Dick Lee

Originally staged as part of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay’s Opening Festival in October 2002, Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress went on to be one of the most successful made-in-Singapore musicals produced with over 100,000 tickets sold. Thanks to overwhelming demand, Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) and Esplanade are delighted to jointly present Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress in August 2017 at the Esplanade Theatre.

It has all the right ingredients of a true epic tale—a young concubine in love, a dying Emperor, a heartless traitor, an idealistic artist and an empire that stands to fall. Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress sets a new standard for Singapore musical theatre, with stylised sets and stunning costume design. Told through the eyes of Kate Carl who is commissioned to paint the Empress’ portrait, the musical recounts Cixi’s trials and tribulations from an ingenious concubine to a ruthless ruler to unmask the woman behind the painted face.

Said Gaurav Kripalani, Artistic Director for SRT, “We are very proud of this musical. In many ways it defines what SRT is and what Singapore is becoming – a place where the best artistic talent from Singapore and abroad congregate, collaborate and create. Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress is a unique Asian story, based on historical events, then crafted and presented for an international audience. It is emphatically stamped with a ‘Made in Singapore’ label.”

Said Benson Puah, Chief Executive Officer, The Esplanade Co Ltd, “Fifteen 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 old and new to enjoy. Our collaboration with SRT to bring some of the most memorable theatre in the world to Singapore audiences is key to our role of making it possible for local arts groups to take greater risks in artistic choices and strengthen their producing capabilities. We are pleased to continue working closely with them and hope many will come to watch this musical which features some of Singapore and musical theatre’s best.”

The creative team behind the musical needs little introduction. Dick Lee, the internationally renowned songwriter and composer penned the music with lyrics by Olivier Award winner Stephen Clark. The Director, Steven Dexter, has worked with SRT on numerous musicals in the past including A Twist of Fate, Friend Rice Paradise and most recently The LKY Musical.

The story of the infamous Empress Dowager is helmed by a cast of international and Singapore stars. Home-grown singing sensation Kit Chan returns as the heroic Empress and is supported by a stellar cast including Sebastian Tan, Cheryl Tan and Life! Theatre Award winner Benjamin Chow. West End sensation Earl Carpenter (Les Miserables) and Broadway star Steffanie Leigh (Mary Poppins) also star in the musical.

Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress is made possible with the generous support of Production Partner – Knife brand, Production Supporters – Bowen Enterprises Pte Ltd and On Cheong Jewellery, as well as SRT Corporate Partners – Ascendas Singbridge and KOP Properties and Official Car – Audi.

Tickets for Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress are available from Esplanade’s Box Office at Mezzanine Level (Tel: +65 6828 8389), the SISTIC Hotline (Tel: +65 6348 5555) and all SISITIC outlets from 26 January 2017. More information on the musical may also be found at

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