Singaporeans Dream


Podcast Episode

It is a quiet night, as a breeze floats gently into the room. A standing fan spins softly in the background. RACHEL takes a deep breath.

There is a click noise, as she begins recording.

Rachel   Why I’m here, Take 1, Rachel Chia, NYU.

A pause, ruffling barely audible in the background. Then, a keyboard, the keys being pressed down hard, such that the music is barely audible above the sound of keys being hit. 

The melody of Beethoven’s Fur Elise begins, slowly and unskillfully. 


Rachel   I think I’ve always known I was here to be a musician.

The music picks up again. This time, it’s played beautifully, in full. It falls slightly, to the background, as she speaks again.

Rachel   (narrating) The first time I ever came here, to this city that never sleeps, the land of dreamers. I was only five years old.

The sounds of busy traffic in the distance plays, as the music transitions into a slower piano ballad. 

Rachel   (narrating) The Nederlander Theatre.

A bell rings, then a door swings open and close, the traffic in the background fading away.

Rachel   (narrating) My parents brought me here, all those years ago, on holiday. We saw all the sights; the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, but only one of them still sticks out clearly in my mind.

A soft piano ballad plays.

Rachel   (narrating) On 208 West, 41st Street, New York City. Established on 1st September, 1921. 

A double door opens. Strings come into the song, slowly.

Rachel   (narrating) It has a capacity of one thousand two hundred and thirty two people, and on this day, 16 years ago.

A beat. The music silences itself. Scattered and excited conversations begin to fade in.

Rachel   (narrating) It’s fully packed.

The theatre is noisy, but only in the background over the old tape recording.

Rachel’s Mother   (over the recording) Are you ready?

Young Rachel   (over the recording) Yeah!

Rachel’s Mother   (over the recording) Hehe, okay then, get into your seat, the show’s starting!

The recording playback ends. The opening number of the musical Rent begins to play, then quickly fades into the background.

Rachel   (narrating) And so on 17th October, 2006, I saw my first ever musical, one of the greatest hits to ever come to Broadway, Rent. Of course, my young, adolescent brain couldn’t even begin to understand what was happening over those two and a half hours, but the lights, the colours, the music, (pauses) the emotion. All that was enough for me to decide, there and then; (a beat) that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Another musical excerpt from the opening number fades back in, playing out for a few seconds, until it ends. There is thunderous applause, slowly fading out.

Another click, as she ends the recording.

The door bursts open.

Zi Xiang    (suddenly) Hey Rachel.

Rachel   (simultaneously, under her breath) Oh my god. (in her normal tone) Oi Zi Xiang, your mother never teach you to knock, is it?

Zi Xiang   Yeah yeah, whatever. I was wondering if you could look at this thing for me. 

Rachel   That same one you’re always working on? I swear, don’t you have things to do for school?

Zi Xiang   I’ll be fine. 

Rachel   Where is it?

Zi Xiang   On my computer.

RACHEL groans loudly, and the bed creaks as she falls back onto it.

Rachel   I’ve got stuff to prepare right now. I’ll take a look at it tomorrow or something.

Zi Xiang   Great, I’ll send it to you later. I’m going for a walk now.

Rachel   At this time?

Zi Xiang   Mhm. Helps me think about my writing and stuff.

Rachel   Why’re you putting so much effort into this anyway?

Zi Xiang   I wanna get it staged. I’m sending it off to some producers later today.

Rachel   So early? Didn’t you just finish it?

Zi Xiang   I mean, why not?

Rachel   Sure, I guess. Now I need to sleep, so get out.

RACHEL pulls the covers over her head, as ZI XIANG closes the door loudly.

Fast paced music, with quick, high, rhythmic beats.

Rachel   (narrating) Cut to three years ago, and I’m finally able to make that 18 hour trip all the way from the little red dot of Singapore to here, New York City.

The sound of a plane taking off.

Rachel   (narrating) Jump another two and a half years forward, and I live with my old school friend, Zi Xiang.

An iPhone recording.

Rachel   (over the recording) Say hi!

Zi Xiang   (over the recording, deadpan) Hi.

The recording ends.

Rachel   (narrating) I’m landing gigs,

Cuts to RACHEL singing Defying Gravity at a club. As she ends, there is applause and scattered cheers.

Rachel   (narrating) I’ve got amazing friends,

Another iPhone recording. This time they’re outside. It’s very windy, distorting the audio.

Rachel   (over the recording) Ready, one, two, go!

The sound of girls screaming, then a loud splashing in water. The recording ends.

Rachel   (narrating) I’m doing well in school, and tomorrow, 

The sound of a bus going by. It is noisier outside, and there are footsteps down a pavement. The upbeat music starts to fade out.

Rachel   (narrating) I go for my first Broadway audition ever. (a beat) Everything seems to be going to plan.

RACHEL sighs. 

Rachel   (under her breath) You got this.

A door is pushed open.

Rachel   Hi, uhh, I’m Rachel Chia, and I’m here to, um, audition for the musical Fame?

Receptionist   Of course, just take a seat over there, the director will see you in a moment.

RACHEL walks over to a chair, and sits down.

Rachel   (narrating) After I told my parents that I wanted to be a musician, they showed me a movie called Fame. 

The title theme for Fame plays over an old television set.

Rachel   (narrating) It’s an old musical movie, about kids in an arts school in New York who want to succeed in performing arts. And of course, I wanted to be exactly like them. So now when I hear that the first Broadway production of the musical is coming out 40 years after the film’s release, of course I ran to audition.

Receptionist   Rachel? We’re ready for you. 

Rachel singing Another Day of Sun from La La Land fades in slowly as she speaks.

Rachel   (narrating) This was it. Time to finally fulfil that dream of mine.

The song plays out longer, then fades out, then we hear footsteps up stairs. A key turns in a lock, then a door opens. The footsteps continue down the hallway. Keys, wallet, jackets, and other miscellaneous items are thrown against couches, tables. Plastic bags ruffle. Another door opens.

Rachel   Zi Xiang?

No response. The door opens wider as she enters the room. She taps his shoulder.

Rachel   (in a loud whisper) Zi Xiang. Zi Xiang. Wake up.

Zi Xiang stirs, and papers ruffle slightly on the desk as he gets up.

Zi Xiang   (half asleep) What? What time is it?

Rachel   It’s like 9.30 pm. 

Zi Xiang   Oh.

Rachel   Did you even get anything done today?

Zi Xiang   (yawning) Eh, I wrote a bit more. And I sent out my script to some people.

Rachel   You have no school today meh?

Zi Xiang   No, not really.

Rachel   (scoffs) Okay well, I bought food for you.

Zi Xiang   Oh yeah, how was your audition?

Rachel   It was… good.

Zi Xiang   Is that a, good good? Or an ehh good?

Rachel   (excitedly) A good good. (they both laugh excitedly) Okay, now go get the utensils. Let’s celebrate! 

ZI XIANG’s footsteps fade off, while RACHEL clicks on a speaker. ABBA’s Dancing Queen begins to play. The two of them laughing in the background can be heard, and they sound like they’re having fun. These sounds slowly fade into the background, then…

The alarm clock again, abruptly cutting in. RACHEL is much slower in turning it off this time. Sounds of traffic can be heard in the distance below.

The sheets ruffle again, as she gets out of bed. Then, footsteps toward the door, which opens. She opens her laptop, typing quickly.

Rachel   (under her breath) Where is it, where is it. (pause) Ah, there it is. Okay, please, please. 

She sighs a sigh of relief. She gets up and opens the door, walking down the hallway. 

Rachel   (calling out) Did you get any responses?

Zi Xiang   (opening his door) No. It’s literally been one day. People need time to consider your work first, you know.

Rachel   Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m just excited.

Zi Xiang   It’ll come, it’ll come. Anyways, I’m going to school. Have fun waiting.

A beat.

The recording beep plays again. A clock ticks, slowly and rhythmically. A quiet, bouncy piano repetition plays alongside it.

Rachel   (narrating) You could be an artist all your life, but after each and every audition, it never seems to get less nerve racking waiting for a reply.

The ticking gets faster, as does the repetition.

Rachel   (narrating) When I was seven, my parents allowed me to go for my first audition. It was for some local neighbourhood talent show. 

A poor quality recording of the talent show. There’s loud white noise from the room she’s recording in, and softly but prominently we hear a young RACHEL voice, singing Beauty and the Beast

Rachel   (narrating) My parents joked during those few weeks I got so stressed I’d grown ten times my age. 

Cut back to another recording, this time of the actual talent show. 

Talent Show Judge   And in first place is… Rachel! Come on up and receive your prize!

Loud applause echoes through the hall, while even louder cheers from her parents erupt, just behind the camera. The recording ends.

Rachel   (narrating) Of course, everything went well in the end. But even with each acceptance letter, or call, or successful applications I received over the years, it was always those few weeks that were the worst.

The ticking slows, until it comes to a complete stop. A beat.

Rachel   (narrating) And this time (pauses) was no different.

The ticking sound and piano repetition come back in suddenly, accompanied by other instruments as a full song. 

Rachel   (narrating) 15th.

Rachel   (to herself) Anything? No. (pauses for a bit) Anything? No.

Rachel   (narrating) 16th. 17th. 18th.

A doorbell rings faintly. Fast steps as RACHEL runs down the hallway. The door opens hurriedly.

Rachel   (excitedly) Hi, how can I help you? (then, dejectedly) Oh, right, food delivery. 

Rachel   (narrating) 19th. 20th.

Zi Xiang   I got today’s mail.

A chair clatters in the background as RACHEL dashes toward ZI XIANG.

Rachel   Let me see that. (a pause) Damn it, nothing again.

Rachel   (narrating) 21st.

Zi Xiang   A letter came back, I got a workshop! Did you get anything?

Rachel   Still nothing.

The music slowly begins to fade out.

Rachel   (narrating) 22nd. One week after the audition. I wake up and check my computer, as I do any other day.

The sound of RACHEL’s typing again. 

Then, a beat.

Rachel   (narrating) And there it was. Their reply. Just sitting there in my inbox.

Rachel   Zi Xiang!

ZI XIANG’s footsteps come quickly down the hall.

Zi Xiang   What?

Rachel   (excitedly) It’s here, it’s here!

Zi Xiang   What’s here?

RACHEL picks her laptop off the table loudly, then shoves it into ZI XIANG’s arms.

Zi Xiang   Oh yeah. 

Rachel  (she squeals) I’m so excited. Okay, okay, open it.

Zi Xiang   Uh, sure.

There’s only ambient noise as ZI XIANGopens the email. 

Zi Xiang   Uh, Rachel.

Rachel   Yes?

Zi Xiang   You, uh, you didn’t get it.

A beat.

Rachel   Let me see that. 

There’s a moment of silence as RACHEL reads through the email again.

Zi Xiang   Okay, well, I’m gonna get ready for school. Better luck next time I guess.

The door closes as ZI XIANG leaves.

Rachel   (narrating) And just like that, it was all over. My first, big shot at achieving what my entire life has been leading up to, gone. 

The sound of RACHEL’s laptop slamming shut, then her collapsing onto her bed.

Rachel   (narrating) I just lay in bed for the rest of that day. Maybe even cried a little. Or a lot. I had classes that day, but it didn’t matter. What point was there in turning up for lessons, when in the end it was all for nothing anyways.

Quiet sobbing in the background as sombre music plays. 

It fades out. A beat. 

Then, a door opens.

Rachel   (muffled) What do you want?

Zi Xiang   You wanna go on a walk?

RACHEL groans. Sheets ruffle.

Rachel   For what? What time is it even?

Zi Xiang   Uhh, about 9.30 pm.

Rachel   You siao ah, I’m not going out.

Zi Xiang   Come on… it’s not like you’re doing anything right now anyways.

A blanket is thrown onto the floor, and the bed creaks as RACHEL gets up.

Rachel   No, I have… stuff to do. 

Zi Xiang   Like what?

Rachel   (sighs) What are we going on a walk for?

Zi Xiang   It’ll be fun, come on.

ZI XIANG pulls her towards the doorway.

Rachel   Ughh, fine.

Zi Xiang   Great, get your shoes on.

The door unlocks and they go down the stairs quickly, as slow guitar music fades in. 

Rachel   (in the background) Hey, could you slow down a little! I thought we were just walking!

Zi Xiang   (in the background) It’s just up ahead!

Rachel   (in the background) What is?

The music begins to fade out.

Birds chirp sporadically, the trees rustle slightly in the wind. Otherwise, it’s silent. 

Rachel   (slightly out of breath) Where the heck did you bring us?

Zi Xiang   The middle of Central Park. 

Rachel   Well I can tell, but, why?

Zi Xiang   Here.

ZI XIANG moves a piano seat, then opens the cover. He plays a basic jingle.

Zi Xiang   They have setups like these all around. I come here sometimes when I’m thinking about things, or to work out melodies for songs.

Rachel   That sounds nice.

She sits down next to him.

Zi Xiang   Do you remember the first actual production you were in?

Rachel   You mean the one in Sec One, that weird abridged version of Phantom of the Opera?

They both laugh.

Zi Xiang   Yes, that one. The one where I was that owner guy.

Rachel   Oh right, you and your stupid fake moustache. (chuckling) I don’t know how the parents sat through that honestly.

Zi Xiang   You were good as Christine. 

Rachel   Eh, that performance was okay for a first outing. I prepared so much for it, though.

Zi Xiang   I remember you were always looking at the script, even in class.

Rachel   Ha, yeah. (pauses) I failed my history exam to prepare for that.

Zi Xiang   How come?

Rachel   Spent so much time practising and rehearsing, I guess. I was on it night and day. And the rehearsals, the rehearsals were the best. I laughed so much. Like when you kept messing up that one line? That was hilarious.

Zi Xiang   Hey, don’t act like you didn’t mess up during the actual performance.

Rachel   It was a minor thing, okay? It doesn’t matter.

Zi Xiang   Ah yes, you messing up one movement that screwed everyone’s blocking didn’t matter.

They both laugh again. A beat.

Zi Xiang   Do you still love doing this, performing?

Rachel   Yeah, I guess so. I just- don’t feel good enough. Like all this effort and practice, it’s all for nothing.

Zi Xiang   Well then in that case, it doesn’t matter how good you are right now. If you love doing it, then you’ll just keep going until you get where you want to. And besides, it’s not like there are any history exams to fail anymore because of it.

RACHEL chuckles softly, then birds chirp in the background. ZI XIANG plays a chord on the piano.

Zi Xiang   Do you still remember it?

Rachel   What, the Phantom of the Opera? Of course.

ZI XIANG plays the song on the piano, as RACHEL begins to sing both parts. The song takes a more uplifting turn, then fades to the background.

Rachel   (narrating) The next day, I decided to apply to a few more auditions. I got into one or two, where I sang this song exactly.

The song fades back in as it climaxes, then fades back to the background.

Rachel   (narrating) One more agonising week later, and I got a call that I had been cast as a lead role…’s understudy.

RACHEL and ZI XIANG cheer and hi-five in the background.

Rachel   (narrating) It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was another step toward my goal. More importantly, though, it helped me remember why I did what I did. 

In the background, RACHEL footsteps walk into a theatre studio, where there’s scattered chatter. She’s greeted by a group of people, and they make small talk.

Rachel   (narrating) As rehearsals started, I was able to meet some amazing people. Fellow actors, but also new friends, who were willing to help me learn and get better. 

The song fades out. There’s a short silence.

Fur Elise plays again on RACHEL’s keyboard, this time more confidently, and more smoothly, albeit still shakily.

Rachel   (narrating, slightly gentler) Why am I here? Not just to be a musician, but more importantly, because I love music.

The music fades back in, louder this time. 

It plays out, then ends gracefully.

Julian Kan (Class of 2024) spends less time on writing than he probably should. Instead, he enjoys playing video games, sleeping, and laughing at people on the internet. When he does write, however, he usually writes short fiction, and never writes poetry.