Kallang Theatre was built by Chong Gay Theatres in 1978 to the tune of $15 million, with a seating capacity of about 2,000.
In 1981, the theatre was bought over by the government for $12.5 million, becoming the third government-owned theatre in Singapore, and was converted into a performing arts theatre. According to a joint press statement from then Ministry of Community Development and Ministry of National Development, Kallang Theatre was the result of the government’s initiative to create a “new focal point of cultural performances in Singapore”.
The renovation for Kallang Theatre was completed on 20 May 1986 by the Public Works Department and could seat 1,744 people in its auditorium. It was the biggest theatre in Singapore after the National Theatre closed in 1984.
At the height of its popularity and patronage, the theatre hosted Broadway musicals such as Cats and Les Misérables, Miss Saigon and Phantom of the Opera. It also hosted the annual National Day Rally address by then-Prime Ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong from 1986 to 2000.
With the opening of Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay and accessibility issues due to the construction works for the new Sports Hub, utilisation rates of the theatre declined. Eventually, the National Arts Council closed the theatre in 2007.
Arts event management company, Asia Arts & Culture Pte Ltd. (AAC), rented and managed the site from the Singapore Land Authority in 2011. Before the reopening of the theatre in 2011, $1.5 million was spent on renovations and repairs, and a new audio and lighting system was installed. Before its lease ended on 31 January 2015, the theatre staged Dancing Tru The Seasons by Tru’Dance Singapore, on 8 and 9 August 2014.
Subsequently, Sports Singapore took over the lease from the Singapore Land Authority and tendered out management and operations of the site back to AAC.
The building hosted the 35th Singapore National Age Group Chess Championships on 6 January 2019 and RuPuals’ Drag Race live show on 2 February 2019.
Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.SG does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of September 2019 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.