On the last day of the 2015 Georgetown Festival, a friend showed up at my door thirty minutes before showtime and said there was a free ticket to “P Ramlee: The Musical,” and did I want to go? Okay.
The musical is in Malay, which I don’t speak, but undeterred I went to discover what this musical was all about. I knew the name P Ramlee as the most well-known singer/actor in Malaysian history, but I knew little else. Open mind – let me explore the unknown.
The verdict: two enthusiastic thumbs up!
Wow! I mean what a great show, and, yes, I didn’t understand the language, except for small excerpts in English, but I thoroughly enjoyed everything.
P Ramlee is perhaps what Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley are to the United States – the star of his generation. A talented, fledgling singer from Penang, is enticed by making it big in Singapore by a talent-scout who invites him to the Shaw Brothers Studio. He arrives in Singapore, making it rich through his singing, acting, and finally directing. He makes countless films and becomes the celebrity for the entire generation of Malaysians.
The musical follows his travels to Singapore and his exploits in becoming a famous film star. But the real story, and where the show sizzles, is in regards to his rocky relationship with his three wives.
The story, as a non-Malay speaker, was easy to follow, but it was the sets, acting, music and choreography which keep me enthralled. The acting was superb, especially P Ramlee’s three wives – simply wonderful to watch!
The set was fantastic – powered by three massive LED boards which brought vibrancy and life to the various scenes. The timing was flawless, and the pace was brisk, never allowing a dull moment to set upon the crowd. I was fortunate to be sitting in the second row and had a clear view of the drummer and keyboardist, along with the other band members, who punched out the perky songs with gusto and passion. It was a delight to watch them. I greatly enjoyed the choreography and dancing which added wonderful energy to the performance.
This was a treat for Malaysia, and I can clearly understand why this show which debuted in KL back in 2007, and which is now on tour, has been such a hit! This is high-quality, big-budget production which doesn’t come through Penang very often.
The show is hitting the road and stopping in Johor Bahru and Malacca before ending this mini-tour. Do yourself a favor and go see it! Bring your kids and let them sit in awe to give them a sample of what live theatre can do. It’s something that cinemas will never be able to match.
Here’s a few photos of the production: