Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Gremlins in the theatre, TV Smith's pix and NST review of P.Ramlee Musical

thought i'd combine this entry with a review by NST as well as photos from TV smith's Dua Sen blogzine...i must say this brightened up my night after i got home depressed after a technical glitch and mic failure at the P.Ramlee musical dampened my spirits. Thanks too to my kakak Faridah Merican who told me to keep my chin up, "that's Malaysian live theatre for you," she says, "always full of surprises!"

thanks, TV, and thanks too, dennis!

Ramlee, once more


Only better with a new actor impersonator, music director and truer-to-life Azizah. DENNIS CHUA is talking about the second run of the hit play, P. Ramlee The Musical.

IF the first staging of P. Ramlee The Musical... The Life, The Loves And The Inspiration last year was a blast, its second is equally a runaway success, if not more, so.

While executive producer Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina and Enfiniti Productions stuck to the formula which made the musical’s first run a monster hit last year, the second one introduces new elements which are as good as its predecessor.

First, in place of the London’s West End trained Sean Ghazi is Musly Ramlee, who is as close to Tan Sri P. Ramlee as Sir Ben Kingsley was to Mohandas Gandhi.

The 40-year-old from Teluk Intan, Perak, who was first introduced to the audience during the musical’s tour of Singapore last month, is one of the country’s most respected Ramlee impersonators.
Musly, whose parents were friends of Ramlee, first found fame winning the Bintang P. Ramlee contest in 1996 and has appeared in P. Ramlee tribute concerts ever since.

Second, in place of pop queen Datuk Siti Nurhaliza is Emelda Rosmila as Ramlee’s first love Azizah.

Third, in place of Indonesian maestro Erwin Gutawa is Roslan Aziz as the music director.

Roslan, a fan of Ramlee, has added new musical scenes to spruce up the show, and together with directors Adlin Aman Ramlie and Zahim Albakri, has given the characters more expressive and animated gestures reminiscent of Ramlee’s romantic comedies.

P. Ramlee The Musical which returned to Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur, on May 28, a day before the King of Entertainment’s 35th death anniversary, trims Ramlee’s story down to that of a screen idol longing to be loved.

Much of the retro-oriented props in the first outing remain this time round. There are props “carbon-copied” from Ramlee films, footage of his films, his movie posters and “Ramlee newspaper reports”, accurate retro-fashion, stage technology which changes scenes by elevation, curtains emerging from all sides and credits in black-and-white.

An improvement to the props is newspaper reports of historical events that coincide with the milestones in Ramlee’s life. They include the formation of Malaysia (1963), the Indonesian Confrontation (1963) and the Singapore Separation (1965).

The story begins and ends in 1973, with Ramlee’s last days at the Jalan Dedap bungalow in Kuala Lumpur that is now a memorial museum. Pudgy and tired, he is seen busily composing his last hit song Air Mata Di Kuala Lumpur as a thunderstorm roars outside.

Ramlee retires to his favourite sofa and is joined by his third wife and soul mate Saloma (Liza Hanim), who assures him that the country will never forget him once he is gone.

Ramlee’s sadness slowly turns into a smile, as he reminisces on his journey to stardom beginning in Penang 36 years earlier.

Back then, a suave, 20-something Ramlee, wins a talent contest in Bukit Mertajam with his first hit Azizah, composed with his childhood sweetheart in mind.

Film director B. S. Rajhans (Joseph Gonzales) who works with the Shaw Brothers’ Malay Film Productions in Singapore, invites Ramlee to pursue an acting and singing career in Singapore.

Ramlee is heavy-hearted as this means leaving Azizah, but she encourages him to reach for the stars.

Joined by his best pal Sukardi (Chedd Yusoff of So You Think You Can Dance?), Ramlee boards a Singapore-bound train, and ends up at the Jalan Ampas studio.

The first season’s scene of a teenage Ramlee, Sukardi and Azizah in Penang is done away with. Instead, the scene of Ramlee’s studio debut is prolonged to feature him singing, dancing and acting to newly-created songs.

Musly may not have the booming vocals of Sean to carry the original numbers penned by Adlin, but he proves superior when performing Ramlee’s songs. His gestures, accent, hairstyle and whiskers are vintage Ramlee, and fans may be forgiven for thinking Ramlee was his real-life relative.

Musly’s Ramlee has better chemistry with Liza Hanim’s Saloma than Sean’s Ramlee (who had better chemistry with Melissa Saila’s Norizan). He makes their courtship on the set of Bujang Lapok look so real.

In a nutshell, watching Musly’s version of P. Ramlee The Musical is a must.

• P. Ramlee The Musical runs until June 14. Call 03-7711 5000 for tickets.

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