Reliving one of Chichester Festival Theatre's greatest hits

As Chichester Festival Theatre contemplates its great history in this 60th anniversary year, one of highlights looking back will almost certainly be the 1998 hit comedy musical Song of Singapore.

Issy van Randwyck
Issy van Randwyck

All – bar two – of the original cast have reunited to offer the show in effectively a concert version to start the New Year.

The Songs of Song of Singapore will be in the Minerva Theatre on January 8 and 9.

Issy van Randwyck, Elio Pace, Simon Slater, David Shaw Parker, Richard Brightiff, Beatrice Grace, James Wilson and Miles Russell take you through the show’s original and wild jazz music, the potted plot and their personal anecdotes from performing in the show.

Written by Michael Garin, Eric Frandsen, Robert Hipkens and Paula Lockhart, and set against the backdrop of the imminent invasion of Singapore in 1941, the show boasts a hilarious story-line and reveal and features humorous songs including Never Pay Musicians What They’re Worth, Harbour Of Love, The Inexpensive Tango, Serve It Up and We’re Rich.

Part of the show’s significance for the theatre was that it was a huge success after a period of extreme financial struggle, a time when the theatre could well have closed for good. Song of Singapore helped get the theatre back on track under its new artistic director Andrew Welch.

Issy is delighted to return to the show: “We had such a great time and subsequently I learned that it was a huge contribution to the finances of the theatre to have such a success. I understand that it was a show of great importance to the theatre in a way that we probably had no idea. But the show is just such a joyful thing, just such a joyful musical. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else other than just a good fun musical. You really don’t have to have a huge intellect to enjoy it. You don’t have to delve deep. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than just great fun.

“And musically and lyrically it is very witty. Musically it’s very very good and different to your usual musical. Really I don’t know another show like it that has that kind of music. It is such a different show to see and it is not just all about ‘Look at us! We are so clever!’

“Our show was the UK premiere. It had been done off Broadway before and it was written by these wonderful musicians who started as a gigging band. They created these characters and then they wrote the show around them.

“Our director was Roger Redfarn and he knew exactly what he wanted with the show, all the little details. And it was just really really, witty. He knew from the beginning what he wanted which made us feel that we were in incredibly safe hands.

“We did it in 98 and it was such a success Andrew asked if we could come back out of season and run for another month in the Minerva again and then we came back in 2001 and did a two-week run in the Minerva before we went into the West End with it.

“It was Elio and I who instigated the reunion. We were just chatting on Zoom and he sent me a text saying he had been listening to the recording that we made of it and ‘Man, it was good.’ I got the CD and I played it back and I was just thinking ‘Yes, that was good fun!’ I had a big grin on my face just listening to it and that’s exactly what we need at the moment.

“And we have managed to get all of the cast back together bar two (one has sadly died; one is no longer playing professionally). Everyone was keen and available.

“We did a try-out the other day in London and what was so lovely was that a lot of friends that saw the show originally came to see it and had exactly the same feeling about it now. The audience just loved it.

“It was the music and the fun and it took us all right back to the joy of the show.”