When 33,000 tickets were snapped up for the bicentennial showcase at Fort Canning Centre on Aug 7 alone, the team behind the experience rang up ticketing service Sistic to ask if there had been an error.
Speaking to The Straits Times - following Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's announcement at the National Day Rally on Sunday that the bicentennial experience will be extended to the end of the year - the Singapore Bicentennial Office's executive director Gene Tan said demand has far exceeded the team's expectations.
He said his team had expected around 300,000 visitors to the free showcase, which was initially scheduled to run from June 1 to Sept 15. With the extension, the estimated number of attendees has now been doubled to 600,000.
The showcase tells 700 years of Singapore history through sets, live performances and multimedia.
The show, put together by creative directors Michael Chiang and Beatrice Chia-Richmond, runs 61 times daily. The audience moves in batches from one segment of the show to the next, allowing multiple groups of visitors to view it within an hour.
Mr Tan said: "The first batch of tickets for June took about two months to clear. The next batch took just about a month, and the following batch less than two weeks to be snapped up, and so on. Tickets have cleared out much faster because of great public interest and word of mouth."
Mr Tan noted that many Singaporeans who attended the bicentennial experience were pleasantly surprised by the cinematic quality of the showcase, as well as the inclusion of live actors. Among the historical characters portrayed by young performers are Sang Nila Utama and the swashbuckling 17th-century Dutch explorer Jacob van Heemskerk.
Mr Tan said: "Some visitors shared that they thought they had signed up for an hour-long history documentary telling the 'usual Singapore story'.
"They were very excited when they saw the live actors and various interactive multimedia elements. Through word of mouth, more people have been coming in droves. Forty per cent of attendees said they heard about the showcase from someone they know."
In his speech on Sunday, PM Lee encouraged Singaporeans to check the show out for themselves. He said: "The vivid re-enactments (of the showcase) brought our rich and complex history to life, and reminded us why we are proud to be Singaporean. I hope you will go and see it if you have not already done so."
Getting into the nuts and bolts of the showcase's extension, Mr Tan said new actors and gallery guides will have to join the team as the enterprise is manpower-heavy. Some involved in the current run also have other engagements after Sept 15. The showcase will be closed from Sept 16 to Sept 30 for technical maintenance and refurbishments.
Mr Tan added that his team is in talks on the various ways the showcase can continue beyond the year, either physically or in digital format to complement the National Museum of Singapore's history galleries.
So far, more than 375,000 people have visited the bicentennial showcase.
Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, who co-chairs the Ministerial Steering Committee for the Singapore Bicentennial, said: "By extending the run of The Bicentennial Experience, we hope that many more people will be able to gain a deeper understanding of our rich past, and also draw lessons from it to guide our journey ahead."