Saturday January 24, 2009
Your 10 questions
Having enjoyed Tasmania’s tranquillity over the past few months, actress/producer TIARA JACQUELINA is busy rehearsing for the upcoming Puteri Gunung Ledang: The Musical’s third season. She will be reprising her role as Gusti Puteri Retno Dumilah. She finds time to answer readers’ questions despite her busy schedule.
1 You were spotted at the Mamma Mia! musical performance during its Kuala Lumpur run. How did you enjoy the show? – Angeline Lim, Kelana Jaya
I watched an Australian production of Mamma Mia a few years ago in Melbourne, so this was my second time. It’s really good of The Star and SP Setia to bring in world-class productions like this to keep firing up Malaysians’ interest in theatre. Mamma Mia is a simple enough story to follow, and light and enjoyable especially for theatre newbies. I was up on my feet dancing away at the curtain call.
2 What’s the latest on Puteri Gunung Ledang: The Musical which is about to make its new run this February? – Adeline Quah, Kuala Lumpur
There are many new things – different staging of some of the scenes and additional sets throughout the show to make it more ornate. The music is more dynamic now with added Malay elements. Roslan Aziz’s best work to date, I feel. We will also be using a lot more 3D in our video projections. History, legend and folklore in high tech!
As for costumes, we have some brand new costumes especially for the Kraton dance. Royal Terengganu Songket has given us some gorgeous songket that will surely add a glamorous Malay touch to the show. Lighting design is different too. The biggest new element will be the illusions and special effects. We are working with an illusionist and will be using special effects to show Bayan, Adipati, Putri and Sultan’s mystical powers!
3 Are you all set to reprise your role as Gusti Puteri Retno Dumilah? – Jeffrey Cheah, Penang
Well, I’m working harder than I ever did. I brought back the Javanese dance teacher who trained me in 2003 for the film version of PGL to re-drill the moves. I have a vocal coach to help make my singing far stronger than it ever was. Director Zahim Albakri is getting us to delve much deeper into our roles and fully explore the potential of each scene. This will be the best version of Puteri Gunung Ledang.
I told myself that if this is my last season as Puteri, I have taken the character to the fullest and explored every possible way of making her come to life on stage.
4 After your husband (Datuk Seri Mohd Effendi Norwawi) left politics, we understand you headed to Tasmania where he went back to school. Share with us what it is like to “reclaim” your husband from public life. – Danial Abdullah, Puchong
Tasmania was a much-needed “R&R” for both of us, to slow down and walk instead of run, to stop to smell the roses we’ve been zooming past all our lives! For Effendi, it was about returning to his university days – a time when life was simple and uncomplicated. I loved the peace and the freedom, and it was so liberating knowing that we didn’t have to live by anyone’s ideals or ideas of life but our own.
We were clad in jeans and hiking boots every day. Nobody gave two hoots about Dolce & Gabanna or what the latest bag of the season was.
Luxury for us was eating fresh Pacific oysters and the freshest sashimi ever. Our days were filled with chasing the best photos every sunrise and sunset, photographing every tree, flower, bird, building and lake we possibly could.
You sum that up for yourself!
5 What do you see as the future of arts and culture in this country? – Richard Ng, Ampang
I think that as much as we have seen the number of theatre goers jump by leaps and bounds over the last three to four years, we can still do much better to build a pool of future audiences. Something has to be done to encourage and expose children to plays, classical dance and recitals.
This needs to happen at home as well as in school. Teachers should incorporate creative thinking into the school syllabus. I shudder at the thought of the next generation of children who score 17 or 18 A1s but lack personality or opinions. That would be a tragedy.
6 What do you see the role of Corporate Malaysia in supporting arts and culture as part of corporate social responsibility? – SP Khaw, Seremban
It costs much more than an arm and a leg to put up a production like PGL or P. Ramlee. We’re talking about millions of ringgit. It’s still pittance compared to shows like Wicked or Lord Of the Rings that cost £15mil or so to produce.
We are limited by the audience size and short runs due to space availability. As a result, it’s hard to recover even a quarter of our investment even with a full house every single night! Corporate support definitely helps ease the financial burden.
7 Your PGL did quite well in Singapore. Do you think one day we can see a truly Malaysian production the likes of Mamma Mia, Cats, Phantom of the Opera, etc? – Josephine Tan, Singapore
Performing at the prestigious Esplanade certainly was a huge morale booster. The show was sold out a month before we opened. The lines for the autograph sessions were so long they stretched all the way to the main road. Still, the Singaporeans waited patiently to meet us. That was beautiful.
Still, nothing takes the cake quite like when you meet fellow Malaysians from Penang, KL and Johor, who approached us after the show with tears in their eyes, saying they are proud to be Malaysians. That alone makes it worth the blood, sweat and tears!
8 What or who influenced you to stage Puteri Gunung Ledang? – Kalam Kasturi, Muar
I was in London and New York a few years ago and I watched all the plays that were on – Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Wicked, Lady in White, Lion King, and something in me longed to produce a Malaysian show that aimed to be on par with those shows.
Puteri Gunung Ledang brought 300,000 people to the cinema, many of whom never watched anything local before. Theatre, however, was a much bigger challenge as it had always been very poorly patronised all these years. We were diving into uncharted waters but have been really lucky that people believed in our brand promise.
9 What has troubled you most as an actress? – Bulbir Singh, Seremban
The perception that we are all “blonde”. Basically you do as the director says. I don’t like not being in control of or having a say in the quality of my work. That’s why I decided I would produce my own stuff, so I’m always in the driver’s seat and calling every shot.
10 Share with us the secret of your success, your favourite quotation, movie and song. – Chee Wen Li, Petaling Jaya
I’m practical. I have my feet firmly on the ground no matter how far I go. I’m ambitious and I don’t give up easily, and I’m a team player. I always remember to say thank you and I have never snubbed anyone on my way up, because I keep reminding myself that these are the same people I will see on my way down.
My current favourite song is “Home” by Daughtry; Current favourite movie is either “Get Smart” or “Step Brothers”. Nothing complicated. And my favourite quote: “Dance like nobody’s watching, love like you’ve never been hurt, sing like nobody’s listening, and live as though heaven is on earth.”