Keep Kallang Theatre

Keep Kallang Theatre

It was once the go-to venue for blockbuster international acts such as the Paris Opera Ballet and iconic musicals Les Miserables and Phantom Of The Opera. From 1986 to 2000, it was home to the National Day Rally, until the annual address by the prime minister moved to the University Cultural Centre in 2001.

But come February next year, Kallang Theatre might no longer exist as a performing arts venue. Instead, with an incoming change of management, the future of the site is up in the air. Since 2011, the building has been managed by arts event management company Asia Arts & Culture, which rents the site from the Singapore Land Authority for $43,000 a month. However, after its lease expires on Jan 31, management of the venue will pass to Sport Singapore, a statutory board under the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, which manages the Sports Hub and public sports facilities.

As yet, there is no official word on the future of the venue and the Singapore Land Authority and Sport Singapore say they will unveil plans for the theatre only when they have been finalised.

The arts community, for one, hopes that the theatre will continue to be a venue for the performing arts, despite setbacks in recent years. The theatre was closed for four years from 2007 to 2011, after stiff competition from state-of-the-art venues such as the Esplanade and the University Cultural Centre in Kent Ridge.

But arts groups and practitioners interviewed say that if the 1,680-seat Kallang Theatre is to become a serious player in the arts scene here, it will not be without a major overhaul of the current auditorium.

Before re-opening the theatre in 2011, Asia Arts & Culture spent $500,000 on renovations which included repairs to a leaky roof and faulty air- conditioning. Another $1 million was spent on installing an audio and lighting system.

The last show staged at the theatre was Dancing Tru The Seasons by dance group Tru'Dance Singapore on Aug 8 and 9.

Robert Liew is the founder of Arts Management Associates, which has presented the Paris Opera Ballet, the American Ballet Theater, the musical Evita and Gershwin's Porgy And Bess at the Kallang Theatre. He says that for the theatre to compete with other venues, it needs to be "purpose-built with up-to-date facilities".

Another local company which used to hold shows at Kallang Theatre is Singapore Dance Theatre. Among other productions, the company staged The Nutcracker in 2001. In recent years, however, its major productions have been held at the Esplanade.

Its stage manager, Engie Ho, says Kallang Theatre is "too small" for the company's classical repertoire. She adds that high costs may have contributed to the theatre's unpopularity.

Kallang Theatre charges private organisations $10,000 in rental fees for weekend performances from 6.30 to 10.30pm and $7,200 for non-profit organisations for the same time slot. The Esplanade Theatre's rental fees are $10,000 for private hire of 41/2 hours, but $4,000 or 15 per cent of box-office sales (whichever is higher) for non-profit arts groups.

Danny Tan, artistic director of Odyssey Dance Theatre, which performed at Kallang Theatre in 2000 and 2004, thinks there is still a place for it. He says that after the Esplanade Theatre, which seats 2,000 and the University Cultural Centre Hall which seats 1,700, Kallang Theatre is the third option for arts groups that are looking to mount big-scale productions. While he admits that Kallang Theatre does look "run down", he says the theatre holds a certain nostalgia for him: "For me, no other theatre has that kind of memories, aside from Victoria Theatre, so it would be good to preserve it."

lting@sph.com.sg

MILESTONES OF THE THEATRE

  • 1970s: Kallang Theatre built as a cinema.
  • 1986: The cinema is converted into a 1,744-seat performing arts centre to replace the National Theatre, which was demolished in the same year. The National Day Rally is held at Kallang Theatre.
  • 1993: The musical Cats opens in November. The cast hails largely from Australia, but Singapore entertainer Jacintha Abisheganaden snags the plum role of Grizabella.
  • 1994: Les Miserables debuts in January. Cameron Mackintosh International brings in a 12m revolving stage, which is fitted on top of the Kallang Theatre stage.
  • 1995: Blockbuster musical The Phantom Of The Opera begins its eight-week run in February, and the curtain rises on Paris Opera Ballet's Le Parc in October.
  • 2000: The 125-member American Ballet Theatre gives three performances for $900,000.
  • 2001: Mackintosh's Miss Saigon, the fourth and last of Mackintosh's mega-musicals - after Cats, Les Miserables and The Phantom Of The Opera - opens in August. The National Day Rally is no longer held at Kallang Theatre, and moves to the University Cultural Centre in Kent Ridge.
  • 2007: The National Arts Council, which was leasing the theatre from the Singapore Land Authority, decides to shut it down, citing lack of usage. After the Esplanade opened in 2002, Kallang Theatre's overall utilisation rate over four years dropped from 80 per cent to 60 per cent.
  • 2011: Kallang Theatre reopens under a new venue manager, Asia Arts & Culture. The private company spent $500,000 revamping the premises, and another $1 million installing a state-of-the-art audio and lighting system.
  • Feb 2015: Kallang Theatre will be taken over by Sport Singapore. It has not yet revealed what it intends to do with the site.
- See more at: http://sph.straitstimes.com/premium/life/story/keep-kallang-theatre-20140812#sthash.VGYsy0EP.dpuf

MILESTONES OF THE THEATRE

1970s: Kallang Theatre built as a cinema.

1986: The cinema is converted into a 1,744-seat performing arts centre to replace the National Theatre, which was demolished in the same year. The National Day Rally is held at Kallang Theatre.

1993: The musical Cats opens in November. The cast hails largely from Australia, but Singapore entertainer Jacintha Abisheganaden snags the plum role of Grizabella.

1994: Les Miserables debuts in January. Cameron Mackintosh International brings in a 12m revolving stage, which is fitted on top of the Kallang Theatre stage.

1995: Blockbuster musical The Phantom Of The Opera begins its eight-week run in February, and the curtain rises on Paris Opera Ballet's Le Parc in October.

2000: The 125-member American Ballet Theatre gives three performances for $900,000.

2001: Mackintosh's Miss Saigon, the fourth and last of Mackintosh's mega-musicals - after Cats, Les Miserables and The Phantom Of The Opera - opens in August. The National Day Rally is no longer held at Kallang Theatre, and moves to the University Cultural Centre in Kent Ridge.

2007: The National Arts Council, which was leasing the theatre from the Singapore Land Authority, decides to shut it down, citing lack of usage. After the Esplanade opened in 2002, Kallang Theatre's overall utilisation rate over four years dropped from 80 per cent to 60 per cent.

2011: Kallang Theatre reopens under a new venue manager, Asia Arts & Culture. The private company spent $500,000 revamping the premises, and another $1 million installing a state-of-the-art audio and lighting system.

Feb 2015: Kallang Theatre will be taken over by Sport Singapore. It has not yet revealed what it intends to do with the site.


This article was first published on August 12, 2014.
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