Neptune Theatre Restaurant
by Koh, Jaime
The Neptune Theatre Restaurant was a well-known restaurant and theatre in Singapore that was in business from the 1970s to 2006. Housed in the Overseas Union House at Collyer Quay, Neptune was famous for hosting topless revues and large-scale dinners. During the day, the restaurant served Cantonese dim sum fare that was popular with the office workers in the area.
Neptune was founded in 1972 and managed by Mandarin Singapore, which still operates a chain of hotels and restaurants in Singapore. Neptune was Singapore’s first revue with its own dance troupe, which was named the Neptune Dancers.1
There were high hopes for Neptune in the run-up to its opening. With a grand theatre hall equipped with superb acoustics, a revolving stage and sophisticated stage lighting, the theatre was set to become one of the top theatre-restaurants in the region. The theatre’s opening act was the E-sha dance company from Taiwan, but subsequent performances were to mainly come from Neptune’s own dance troupe.2
Korean choreographer Jung Suk Chul was engaged to recruit and train a dance troupe for the theatre. In February 1972, Jung had hand picked a local team of 20 male and female dancers. Some of the dancers dropped out when the rigorous training started and were replaced by professional dancers from Korea.3 This permanent dance troupe performed Parisian style dances with lavish costumes as well as semi-cultural dances from Asia.4
Versatile entertainment venue
Neptune was a popular venue for concerts and large-scale dinners because of its spacious layout. The interior was not obstructed by any pillars and featured a 76-feet-long (23 m) rotating stage.5 Many prominent singers and performers graced the Neptune’s stage. These included Asian stars such as Hong Kong singer Jenny Tseng and Taiwanese songbird Teresa Teng.6 Western artistes who performed at the Neptune included British pop star Engelbert Humperdinck, Welsh singer Tom Jones and Spanish balladeer Julio Iglesias.7 Even Singapore’s very own singing sensation Anita Sarawak performed at the Neptune.8
Neptune was a popular venue for theme-based concerts such as the Thanks for the Memories event held in 1989. The concert was based on a rock ‘n’ roll theme and featured many of Singapore’s biggest bands of the 1960s such as The Quests, The Silver Strings and The Mysterians.9
The venue also hosted beauty pageants such as Miss Singapore International and Miss Singapore Tourism10 as well as mass weddings.11
Signs of decline
In May 1980, Mandarin Singapore announced that Neptune would close the following month and the venue converted to office space. The reason given for the closure was falling visitor numbers.12 Within weeks, the decision was reversed. Mandarin Singapore did not give a reason for the change of mind but said it would continue to operate the theatre restaurant.13
The Neptune Dancers troupe was disbanded in 1986 due to the high costs of maintenance. It was reported that the troupe spent about S$100,000 on hiring foreign choreographers and for props, make-up, costumes and food. Following the disbandment of the in-house dance troupe, Neptune continued to bring in foreign revues.14
Tropicana, the first theatre-restaurant-nightclub in Singapore when it opened in 1968, was Neptune’s main rival in the entertainment scene for many years. After Tropicana closed in 1989, Neptune was left as the only theatre-restaurant entertainment outlet in Singapore as well as the sole venue that regularly hosted topless shows.15
From the late 1980s, the Neptune and other dance revues began to decline in popularity. In 1988, the 1,500-seat Neptune had an average audience of just 150 people on weekdays.16 Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Neptune faced stiff competition from new clubs in Singapore and even Johor Bahru.17 In 2005, the entertainment company Eng Wah Organisation brought in the Paris-based Crazy Horse cabaret. Located at Clarke Quay, the cabaret was to be the only other venue in Singapore besides the Neptune to feature topless dancers.18
In December 2006, Neptune Theatre restaurant closed its doors for good. The restaurant’s management had already begun to scale back operations in April that year when it stopped the revue dance performances.19 The reason given by the management for closing the Neptune was that the lease of the Overseas Union House building where the restaurant was located in had run out.20 The building had in fact been earmarked for redevelopment into an 18-storey office tower two months before the restaurant’s closure.21
Neptune held its final dinner and show, The Cabaret Finale, on 29 December 2006. The show featured the Neptune Dollies, described as “Las Vegas style boa dancing girls”, Australian singer Rick Price and the retro four-piece band Penny Lane.22
Jaime Koh & Stephanie Ho
1. Lim, S. (1991, August 2). More of less at Neptune. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Curtain raiser to a double treat…. (1972, September 16). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Shen, S. Y. (1972, November 4). The not-so-Singaporean ‘local’ dance corps. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. First local revue is a group to watch. (1972, November 25). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. 海皇歌剧院下月停业院址将改充商业用途 [Neptune Theatre to close next month, site to be converted for commercial use]. (1980, May 6). 南洋商报 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. 国际红歌星甄妮下月三日及四日在海皇歌剧院演唱即日起可定座 [International singer Jenny Tseng to perform at Neptune Theatre next month]. (1982, May 23). 南洋商报 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 16; 邓丽君要来新登台 [Teresa Teng to perform in Singapore]. (1980, October 9). 星洲日报 [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Lee, A. (2006, December 30). A last hurrah for Neptune Theatre. The Business Times, p. 2; Leong, C. (1990, December 13). Boo boo Romeo Julio. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Zul Othman. (2006, December 29). The last hurrah for Neptune. Today, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Bachtiar, I. (1989, September 1). Yesterday's stars bring on the night. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. The hunt for this year’s Miss Tourism begins. (1989, July 21). The Straits Times, p. 23; Miss Singapore Int’l crowned. (2006, July 3). Today, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Khoo, C. (1991, July 25). What kind of wedding do you want? The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. 海皇歌剧院下月停业院址将改充商业用途 [Neptune Theatre to close next month, site to be converted for commercial use]. (1980, May 6). 南洋商报 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Neptune Restaurant won't close down. (1980, May 20). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Lim, S. (1991, August 2). More of less at Neptune. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Lim, S. (1991, August 2). More of less at Neptune. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Chandran, K. (1988, February 5). Dance revues losing their glitter. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Chin, S. F. (1994, November 21). Not sexy enough: Club loses $200,000. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Tay, M. (2005, May 19). Nudes dressed up in light. Today, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Chee, F. (2006, August 23). Not crazy over cabaret. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Zul Othman. (2006, December 29). The last hurrah for Neptune. Today, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Teo, J. (2006, October 16). OUE buys UOL shares in venture for $212m. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Lee, A. (2006, December 30). A last hurrah for Neptune Theatre. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 14 November 2013 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.