I am The Shai.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tan Sri, Oh Tan Sri, What Big Shoes You Have - P Ramlee The Musical Review

A musical about the life, the loves and the inspirations of the legendary P Ramlee. Surely, the expectations are high no? Since his sudden death back in 1973 at only 43, not one actor, director or any other multi-hyphenate has been able to match what he has achieved. The late Tan Sri left behind a legacy that has lasted even 35 years after his death and will probably continue for many more generations. He left us all extremely big shoes to fill and collectively, there will probably be none who can achieve just that in this lifetime.

So, how do you capture this man's legacy into a musical? Sure you have his music and his wit but which aspects of his life should one really focus on? In this instance, the production focused very much on his career and the loves of his life. And this is my tale of my experience with the musical.

I had seen Puteri Gunung Ledang (PGL) and left very impressed with the production as a whole and Dick Lee had some amazing songs, which I could still hum to till today. I bet that the bulk of the audience that came to watch on the same evening as I had seen PGL too. Thus, the atmosphere in the theatre was something indescribable. I wasn't sure if it was hope or if it was one of dying with anticipation but the mood was definitely something different. I secretly sensed that it was a case of the prodigal son returning home.

Was the production worth my admission ticket? I was pretty divided but to a certain extent I guess it's a yes. Comparing PGL to this, PGL wins hands down unfortunately.

P Ramlee The Musical had more astounding sets. I was particularly impressed with the train and its carriages! The film set revived the Jalan Ampas feel a little and I really liked the ones in the houses which had pretty detailed decor. If there's one thing I've been told about my amateur plays, it's that I always have too many blackouts to initiate a scene change. It felt pretty similar here but a screen projecting clips and newspaper cuttings from the glory years to serve as a distraction. They were much welcomed but after a while, when the same clips and cuttings are repeated like a good five times before the scene takes place, it gets a bit...old.

I was quite surprised to discover that there were quite a lot of original compositions by Dick Lee which were interwoven with P Ramlee's own songs. While P Ramlee's songs stood out for sentimental reasons, they were heavyweights on their own. Anyone listening to them for the first them would have been captivated. Unfortunately, Dick Lee's music for this production was a tad disappointing for me save for one or three songs, which I really liked. I must also admit that when Musly Ramlee sang "Dimanakan Ku Cari Ganti", I actually felt a tingle or two in my spine. The same goes for most of the P Ramlee songs that he sang. And Liza Hanim's voice truly outshines the rest of the ladies unfortunately, making one forget about the rest of his wives and loves once Liza appeared.

The juiciest and most controversial aspect of P Ramlee's life also happened to be one of the weakest in this musical. While I understood how Azizah was his first love and all, and how he still pined for her despite the passing years (he named most of his female leads Azizah), it never truly felt that they were the first loves they were touted to be. I couldn't identify with his first and second wives, Junaidah and Norizan either. Well, I got to know one was jealous and the other couldn't take his fame and being away most of the time but that was it. While it was never exactly clear why Saloma had developed feelings for P Ramlee (again, save for a song saying how her heart flutters, etc), it was the most convincing love story. And not taking anything away from Musly Ramlee for his brilliant impersonation of P Ramlee, characterization was the musical's biggest flaw.

Now, all that said, it's not entirely a bad production. There were comic moments which will have you laughing out loud and I truly enjoyed the moments when certain lines and antics were straight out of his movies.

The musical has its charms and its appeal that will capture the hearts of the masses no doubt. I heard aunties raving how brilliant they thought the production was at it was only at intermission mind you!

Overall, the production was very commendable and somewhat entertaining but for a musical about a legend like P Ramlee, I was really hoping for more.

Then again, Tan Sri left everyone early and forever wanting for more...

Queen - No One But You (Only The Good Die Young)

"A hand above the water
An angel reaching for the sky
Is it raining in heaven -
Do you want us to cry?

And everywhere the broken-hearted
On every lonely avenue
No-one could reach them
No-one but you

One by one
Only the Good die young
They're only flying too close to the sun
And life goes on -
Without you..."


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