Musicals dominate in this year's programme.
ISTANA Budaya (IB) will offer a cultural smorgasbord of sorts for its 2014 season, with a whole bunch of pop and rock singers, Broadway musicals, classical music, plays and dance extravaganzas gracing the stage.
Never has there been so much variety offered by Malaysia’s premiere performing arts venue, which opened in 1999.
Locally, the legendary papa rock, Ramli Sarip will belt it out in Konsert 45 Tahun Seniman Ramli Sarip (Oct 17-19). As the frontman of the Singapore-based rock group Sweet Charity, Ramli is a much loved rocker with an illustrious solo career his name.
Kicking off the season is evergreen singer Salamiah Hassan in her first solo concert, Konsert Gelombang Salamiah Hassan (Jan 10-12). Produced by Raja Azmi Raja Sulaiman, the concert, her first since her career began, will see Aubrey Suwito as music director, Raja Malek as art director and Pat Ibrahim as director of performance.
The songstress hit the spotlight in the 1970s when she entered RTM’s Bakat TV talent show in 1971 and caught the eye of composer Datuk Ahmad Nawab. Since then, she has cut several albums, sung in nightclubs and sang jingles for television commercials, earning her the title Jingle Queen in the 1980s.
Musicals tend to cut the generation divide hence fans can look forward to an entertaining time in the coming months.
According to IB director-general, Datuk Juhari Shaarani, the international musicals are intended to draw in tourists, in line with the Visit Malaysia Year 2014.
“We’re also getting big names from Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia to cater for a wider audience and to attract fans from the region,” he said at the unveiling of the 2014 programme here recently. “Some producers promise all kinds of things but pull out last minute and there is nothing we can do about it. Last year, 14 productions pulled out so we give preference to groups who have a good record with us.”
To ensure producers keep to their word, they are now required to place a deposit to book the performance dates so the chances of withdrawing are less. IB recorded ticket sales of a little more than RM9mil for 2013 through 33 musical, theatre and dance performances.
Among the blockbuster musicals are Jersey Boys (April 10-20), Mystic India (Aug 15-24) and Mamma Mia (Dec 15-25), which makes a return.
Jersey Boys traces the story of four blue-collar kids who became one of the greatest successes in pop music history. The musical, winner of the Best Musical Tony Award on Broadway, in London and Australia, takes the audience up the charts, across the country and behind the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.
Featuring enchanting music, spectacular aerials and perfectly synchronised movement, Mystic India journeys from ancient India through present, bringing Bollywood tradition to life.
Making a return after a sold-out concert in 2008 is Mamma Mia. Set on a colourful Greek island, the plot serves as a background for a wealth of Abba songs.
A young woman is about to be married and discovers that any one of three men could be her father. She invites all three to the wedding without telling her mother, Donna, who was once the lead singer of Donna and the Dynamos.
Other musicals include Suara Kita (March 3-9), featuring Awie, Erra Fazira dan Ziana Zain; Indonesian production Matah Ati (April 25-27); Rejang Sebuah Muzikal, which revolves around the inhabitants along the Rejang River in Sarawak; and Xuan Zhuang - A Journey To The West The Musical (Oct 27-Nov 9).
Although not yet in the calendar, rumours are abound that P. Ramlee The Musical will also be restaged sometime this year.
Music-wise, look out for Konsert Orkestra Tradisional Malaysia Bersama Bintang (Jan 24), which showcases Datuk Jeffrydin, Datuk A. Rahman Hassan, Datuk L. Ramlie and A. Halim; Hands Percussion’s The Next (Jan 21-23), featuring guitarist Man Kidal and Taiwanese aboriginal singer Sangpuy Katetapan; Konsert Gemersik Ahmad Jais Dalam Kenangan (Aug 28-31); Asia Pacific Electone Festival (Sept 27) and An Evening With James Bond (Nov 14-15).
Other highlights include a theatre adaptation of Indonesian novelist Hamka’s Di Bawah Lindungan Kaabah featuring actors Adi Putra, Izzue Islam, Erra Fazira and Ziela Jalil (May 9-18). Also expected to stir the audience are Teater Projek Kahwin (June 6-14) and Teater Isabella (June 21-27) starring Aaron Aziz.
Dance lovers can look forward to the International Ballet Gala 2014 (Aug 9-10), Inspitari (Oct 10-11), Yunnan Showcase (Nov 21-23) and Dramatari Gema Zafana (Dec 5-7).
More info at www.istanabudaya.gov.my