Tropicana The Musical Review: Thought Provoking, Sensual & An Unexpected History Lesson
I was fortunate enough to be invited to the gala night of Tropicana The Musical. Here are the areas where the show surprised me.
I have tried my best to not include any spoilers and definitely recommend that you watch this piece, but if you want justification, read on.
“Tropicana The Musical is a story-telling adventure of the dreams and aspirations of a unique bunch of individuals in the Singaporean entertainment industry during the sixties. Showcased through a passionate cast, suave dance moves, a harmony of musical chords and of course topless ladies and men.”
“The year is 1968, and a lavish Las Vegas-style night club opens its doors for the very first time in the heart of Orchard Road. Known for its international class topless revues, glamorous stars and part of the lifestyle of the rich and famous of its time, Tropicana captured the imagination of the nation and brought some hard-hitting realities to light.”
The vibrant colours, costumes and theme were on point for the sixties. Oh, and the ladies… :)
“The musical walks you through a time where ideologies collided. Chaos met order, creativity battled logic, and vision challenged freedom.”
Although the story told is micro, it raised certain critical decisions that Singapore took during the 60s and 70s that shaped it as a nation today, perhaps, even you and I are products of it. If you’d like to think deeper, ask yourself under what circumstances these decisions were made and why. You will realise that these decisions were not easy and would not have been popular. But, it was countered with a laser sharp vision of the future. The result, ideologies collided, sacrifices were made, people came and left, and an entire nation re-shaped and moved on.
“Operation Snip Snip and a campaign against yellow culture”
As a millennial that grew up in Singapore, the history of Singapore that I know came from our textbooks and admittedly, I’ve never found the same interest in understanding our history better compared to how the universe works.
The musical is a tiny history lesson on what happened in the 1960s~1970s, raising certain key incidents that happened in the past. The musical did have an agenda to raise by presenting the information from an angle, but it does pique one’s interest and it’s our duty to compare and contrast various claims. I’ve done that for you on a surface level as I wanted to be sure myself, so here’s some of it gathered from other the National Library history archives.
Tropicana opened in 1968 after Singapore Tourism Board identified the lack of a sophisticated theatre-restaurant and nightclub in Singapore’s entertainment scene. It was an amazing success that shuttered in 1984. Historical accounts state that Tropicana faced competition from newer nightclubs and discos, as well as the falling popularity of revues.
“Operation Get Rid Of Yellow Culture” The campaign launched by the government in 1959 was a sustained and extensive enterprise, easing only in the 1980s. 
The term “yellow culture” is a direct translation of the Chinese phrase huangse wenhua, which refers to decadent behaviour such as gambling, opium-smoking, pornography, prostitution, corruption and nepotism that plagued much of China in the 19th century.
This resulted in a ban of activities and items such as pornographic publications and films, striptease shows, jukebox dens, pin-table saloons, rock ’n’ roll music as well as long hair on men
“Operation Snip Snip, an anti-long hair drive on men”An anti-long hair drive, named Operation Snip Snip, launched on 1 November 1974. With this campaign, men with long hair were served last at government offices as well as denied entry into the country. Companies were also discouraged from hiring men with long hair, and employees who defied the hair rule had their employment terminated
I thoroughly enjoyed this piece because it offered something of the past through an amazing play. It got me thinking and if you want some nostalgia, this is perfect.
As we steer to the future, there’s a thin line that we thread on, ignore one side of the spectrum and we end up short sighting ourselves. How then should we find this balance between the arts, science, and maths?
Disclaimer: The author was invited to the performance as our company is the merchandise partner for the event.