I went to watch Puteri Gunung Ledang - The Musical last night at the Istana Budaya. To be truthful I didn't go there with very high expectations after having had to endure the snail-paced film version of the story of eternal love. But I was very pleasantly surprised. I had a good time at the theatre last night. PGL The Musical was a flawed but enjoyable experience. At the end of the performance a large number of the audience got to their feet to give the cast a standing ovation. I didn't. I suspect that a lot of this was due to a sense of national pride that we can stage something like this. In the lobby after the show I met several people whose comments included the line, "Wah, damn good la. For a local production." I don't think I was affected by a sense of national pride. I just thought it was a good effort. Local or otherwise.
Last night's performance was plagued with technical glitches. The microphones worn by the performers kept going on and off. And the subtitles, scrolling on a suspended light screen over the stage, must have been operated by an illiterate moron. Sometimes the subtitles would race ahead of the dialogue and sometimes it would lag behind by whole paragraphs. It sometimes felt like a badly dubbed South American soap opera.
Overall it was a very tentative performance. It was the second performance night so the infamous dreaded 2nd night gremlins must have been present on stage with the actors. Early on in the first act Tiara Jacquelina's microphone fell silent at a crucial moment just before she was to break into song. Thankfully, the experience of Sukania Venugopal saved the day when she ushered the princess offstage to 'prepare' while she coached the court dancers. Because this was Malaysia a technician in tee shirt and jeans was seen coming out on stage right gesturing and talking into his walkie-talkie. As you can imagine all these technical cock-ups did nothing to calm the noticeably nervous cast.
Despite the problems the cast did a credible job. Tiara Jacquelina was great as the Puteri. AC Mizal was wonderful to watch as the Majapahit King. Sukania Venugopal as Bayan was skillfully stunning. Adlin Aman Ramlie reprised his film role as Sultan Mahmud and he was...well he's fixed his teeth since the film. But the most watchable of the evening were the incredibly engergetic members of the ensemble. The girls especially just too my breath away. Yes, they were beautiful too.
Okay, okay, so where was Hang Tuah in all of this? In this production the hero was played by Stephen Rahman-Hughes. Frankly, this Hang Tuah had about as much stage presence as a can of tuna. And that's not saying much for the fish. I was dissappointed. Especially since I'd read all the blurb leading up to this. Broadway star, hunk, singer, choreographer etc. etc. Something should have warned me because prior to entering the theatre when I mentioned how handsome Stephen Rahman-Hughes looks all the women around me went, "Handsome? No lah." And when he came on stage I must admit that I had obviously seen something in the publicity photos that were results of extensive post production. As the show went on Rahman-Hughes showed that he had the body language of a limp eel. He also was obviously scared of heights. In all the scenes with the Puteri up on the 20 ft. stage "Ledang" you could almost see him shake. Can this boy act? I don't think so. I could not believe that his Hang Tuah was capable of love much less the eternal variety. I could believe that Tiara as the Princess was smitten and loved Hang Tuah to death. But this Hang Tuah might just be capable of falling in love with a plate of bangers and mash.
Dick Lee's formulaic music was adequate to stir up feelings of nationalistic pride. Nothing more. Part of it reminded me of something that came on when the kids turned on their DVD of Pocahontas.
Raja Maliq's set was innovative but got a little boring after a while.
I had a good evening of entertainment at Puteri Gunung Ledang - The Musical. And I would recommend that you go watch PGL-The Musical too. It won't be a waste of your time or money.
Show and ticket details:-
February 7 & 8 – Previews @ 8.30pm RM30 (Student, veteran, disabled)
February 9 to 26 – Show Dates @ 8.30pm (normal price)
February 12, 19 & 26 – Matinees @ 3.00pm (normal price)
|RM150, RM100, RM70, RM50 & RM30|
Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur
Tickets available at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur.