Date of Show: September 10 2013
P Ramlee is a Malaysian icon. Ever the ladies man, he was also a hero for the macho set with his moustache, dimpled boyish grin and twinkling eyes. He was a megastar akin to George Clooney in his days. From his beginning as a musician in a kampung (village) in Penang, his talents exceeded from composing 360 songs to script writing and directing/ producing 66 movies.
(My Update: 10 days in the town of Boo, seemed an eternity. Whilst deciphering non-sensical letters letters issued by a local Datuk Pemanca and his daughter whose name totally contradicts her namesake – angry, venomous and NOT happy- had kept me amused, I still need a breather!)
As if the heaven had heard my prayers, I received a text from my friend Sandy, that she had secured a ticket for me to see a P.Ramlee musical in Kuching. This is the first time a professional troupe of artistes had flown in to stage a musical in the outback state of Borneo and I was truly excited to see my first Malay musical.
The concert was scheduled for a 7:30pm start but as usual in the serfdom of Sarawak, there is always a delay to accommodate some self-important VIPs who insist on making an entrance by arriving late. Even though this evening’s performance was sponsored by the State Government of Sarawak to commemorate 50 years of entering the Federation of Malaya together with the state of Sabah to form Malaysia or under the political banner, ‘Sarawak’s 50th Year of Progress in Malaysia‘ – a free event should still start on time, especially with the time costs of over a 1000 eager audiences -young and old – seated and waiting for the show to start! (Sir Elton John never tolerate give sh*t like this! Nor Rolling Stones for that matter! 7:30pm means 7:30pm!)
In the short 2-hour musical, the show chronicles a summary of P.Ramlee’s life romances and career highlights through the use of lightings, props and video clips amid the singing and dancing.
The story begins with P.Ramlee’s early days in Penang wooing a lass called ‘Azizah‘ by penning a song after her. This song became a runaway success for him, giving him the opportunity to work in Singapore to pursue his dreams. In Singapore, he met his first wife, Junaidah. Unfortunately, Junaidah could not handle her husband’s rising fame and decided to leave him. A broken hearted P.Ramlee then met with his second wife, Nurizan who had left the Sultan of Perak for him. During their marriage, he directed his first movie ‘Penarik Beca’ (Tricycle Driver) – a story about forbidden love due to the different family backgrounds. The movie was an instant hit. Naturally, P.Ramlee got engrossed in his work, thus putting a strain on his relationship with his wife. They later divorced. P.Ramlee then met Saloma, his third wife. They remained together until the day he died. The downfall of P.Ramlee’s brilliant career ended with the separation of Singapore from Malaya. As a patriot, P.Ramlee decided to move to Kuala Lumpur. In the final scene, P.Ramlee and Saloma reminisced about their life, singing a meaningful rendition of ‘Air Mata di Kuala Lumpur‘ (Will I be remembered, Sally?) which reflected his life and his worries that he will be forgotten.
I gather from the karaoke-style singing that the leading actor and 2 of the 3 lead actresses were not trained singers, but the humorous lyrics and jokes kept the audiences amused. The lead actor is Tony Eusoff, a Sarawakian architect-turned-actor who did a fine portrayal of P.Ramlee with his trademark hands-on-his-side chicken-wing style and speaking with an intonation.
Nonetheless, the success in the musical is not only attributed to the lively singing and joget-style/ à gogo dancings of the actors and actresses but also relied heavily on the change of props. One of the highlight was the steam train puffing with dry-ice rolling onto stage which later split into two to reveal the singing troupe on the train. It was exciting and wowed the audience. Flashing lights provided glitz, glamour and drama to the stage. The trio of paparazzo provided comedic relief as well as to fill in the gaps in background stories, making the story-line even more enthralling.
I should also praise the well-behaved audiences who did not push nor shove their way into the hall through the single 1-door entrance and for not standing up to get a better view of the low stage. Kudos to the best behaved crowds I have ever came across!
All-in-all, a marvellous night out! Thanks Sandy!
For more pictures, visit the local daily here.
While reading on P. Ramlee, I came upon an article written by Lim Kit Siang titled ‘Broke and Broken – Should P.Ramlee Have Came Back‘. He felt compelled to pen this article after watching P.Ramlee’s documentary in the History Channel. He used P.Ramlee as a case-study for any talented Malaysian contemplating on returning home to Malaysia. A provoking article as always from one of the Opposition Leaders in Malaysia.