Beauty World's Ivy Chans through the years

One of the cabaret/dancing scenes from the original production of Beauty World in 1988. -- PHOTO: : STEVEN ZHU/COURTESY OF THEATREWORKS (S) LTE
One of the cabaret/dancing scenes from the original production of Beauty World in 1988. -- PHOTO: : STEVEN ZHU/COURTESY OF THEATREWORKS (S) LTE

Composer Dick Lee and playwright Michael Chiang's irresistibly entertaining musical Beauty World (1988) has had a total of seven stagings, with an eighth to take place next year.

A total of five actresses have played the lead role of the wide-eyed, naive Ivy Chan, who charmed audiences with her journey to find out who her parents were, one that took her from the small-town comforts of Batu Pahat in Malaysia to the dingy neon lights of the fictitious Beauty World cabaret in Singapore.


1) Claire Wong (June and Aug 1988)

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Claire Wong, now joint artistic director of Checkpoint Theatre, originated the role of Ivy Chan in her professional theatre debut at the World Trade Centre as part of the 1988 Singapore Arts Festival. She was then still in law school. The musical, presented by TheatreWorks and directed by Ong Keng Sen, was enormously well-received and was staged again just two months later.

2) Cindy Sim (Japan tour, Sept 1992; Oct 1992)

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The pint-sized Cindy Sim fronted the TheatreWorks production for its successful tour to Japan, where audience members had the script translated live into their headsets, and back again at its original venue, the World Trade Centre Auditorium. A reviewer noted that Sim brought a "heart-tugging... vulnerability" to the part.

3) Evelyn Tan (Feb 1998)

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Arguably the most popular of all its stagings, the TV version of Beauty World, beamed live from the President's Star Charity show, brought the musical into the living rooms of Singaporeans, with a cast teeming with beloved screen personalities. Evelyn Tan was one of them, and she would go on to marry the actor playing her on-stage flame, Darren Lim (as Ah Hock).

4) Emma Yong (April 1998)

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The late and much-loved actress Emma Yong, with her alabaster good looks and bell-like soprano, stepped into the shoes of Ivy Chan fresh out of university for this staging at the Victoria Theatre directed by Casey Lim. Yong, who died of late-stage stomach cancer in 2012, had an instinctive ability to endear herself to an audience.

5) Elena Wang (Jan 2008)

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Another ingenue actress made her professional debut through the Beauty World platform. Wang was talent-spotted by theatre directors Ivan Heng and Glen Goei at her Lasalle College of the Arts graduation showcase in 2007 to play the lead role in their large-scale 20th anniversary production at the Esplanade Theatre, which included six new songs by Dick Lee.