Kallang Theatre Through The Years
Built on 23 February 1970, the Kallang Theatre at 1 Stadium Walk began its life as one of the largest cinemas in Singapore in the 1970s. After a decade of cinematic screening, the theatre was converted to a live performance theatre and venue. With the closure of the Singapore National Theatre at River Valley Road in 1984, there was a pressing need for another high-capacity venue for both national- and international-level events.
The National Theatre Trust moved to the Kallang Theatre in March 1986, only a few months before the beloved National Theatre building was demolished. In 1986, the Kallang Theatre became a full-fledged live performance theatre. More significantly on a domestic level, it took over the demolished National Theatre as the venue for the National Day Rally (an annual address by the Prime Minister). From 1983 to 2000, Kallang Theatre hosted the National Day Rally.
With a large 1,744-seat theatre, Kallang Theatre held concerts, drama performances and important ceremonial functions. It also hosted visits by international guests. The long repertoire of shows held at the theatre include Cats, Chicago the Musical, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon and Phantom of the Opera.
By the turn of 2002, Kallang Theatre would be upstaged by a new waterside gem. The Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay was purpose-built as a centre for performing arts and was naturally more suited to hosting such events. The Esplanade would become the preferred choice of venue for these acts. The venue for the National Day Rally also moved to the University Cultural Centre at the National University of Singapore in 2001.
With dwindling visitorship figures, the curtains would roll down on Kallang Theatre in March 2007. Under the new management of Asia Arts & Culture Pte Ltd, it reopened in 2011 after a four-year hiatus. The opening was kicked off with a maiden musical show titled Singapura – The Lion City. Recent acts that performed at the Kallang Theatre include Christina Perri, Dream Theater, Jayesslee, Mr. Big, and Us the Duo.
In February 2015, the management of Kallang Theatre will be handed to Sport Singapore, the government body previously known as the Singapore Sports Council. Sport Singapore is already managing most of the surrounding infrastructure, which is part of the 35-hectare Singapore Sports Hub.
While Kallang Theatre has been largely overshadowed by other more prestigious performing arts centres, it cannot be denied that it has played a significant role in our nation’s history. From a commercial cinema it was converted to a theatre and performance venue, which hosted many classic shows and almost 20 years of the National Day Rally. Now the ball is in Sport Singapore’s court.