What’s the story behind Kuala Lumpur? Feel-good musical Mud shines a light on
our capital’s birth.
It started in the night. The fire. No one saw it coming. The people scurried aimlessly, desperately trying to save their burning city.
But it was too late. The hellish inferno had devoured their homes. And if the fire was not enough, it began to pour torrentially. Without mercy, it continued to rain.
With their wooden umbrellas, the people dragged themselves, wading through the mud, seeking salvation.
The waters rose, gushing forth like a tidal wave mixed with mud, and Kuala Lumpur was engulfed by this most unfortunate flood. Whatever hope that was left was shattered. It was in this hour of despair, a glimmer of hope sparkled. The people realised all was not lost.
This is the story of our capital city, our Kuala Lumpur. And in a moment of drama and tension, amidst thunderous and heart-stopping music, the audience at the historic 110-year-old Panggung Bandaraya in Kuala Lumpur last week experienced this very flood, mud and all – well, the type of flood and mud that theatrics could afford – leaving them, including this writer, awed.
This is Mud: Our Story Of Kuala Lumpur, a musical production by Enfiniti Vision Media and presented by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall.
The tale of friendship and multiracial unity, hosted in the heart of the capital, is set to attract tourists and the local masses.
As the script goes, Mud is a blend of fact and fiction. It details the lives of the diverse communities that pulled in the same direction for the sake of development and unity, building Kuala Lumpur into the modern capital it is today.
Essentially, the musical is about three best friends – Mamat, Meng and Muthiah – making a living in Kuala Lumpur at the dawn of the 20th century. Their struggles and youthful antics are set against the backdrop of a booming trading centre, which was eventually engulfed by fire, water and mud.
The musical features arts veteran/writer Amsalan Doraisingam handling the director’s duties while renowned choreographer Pat Ibrahim holds down the roles of associate director and chief choreographer. Singer-songwriter Mia Palencia wrote the show’s tunes (lyrics and music), while her contemporary Zalilah Lee is the musical director.
The hour-long musical, set to run for at least three years with daily shows, has a total of 86 cast, crew and behind-the-scenes personnel.
The three leads were played by Amandus Paul Panan, Jayson Phuah and Prem Sagar and the chemistry between the trio was evident from the start. They were practically brothers.
What made it more interesting to watch was that their relationship was raw, flawed and in no way pretentious. A true spirit of camaraderie was present on stage as the trio poked fun at each other.
Equally strong and delicious to watch was the ensemble. They wooed and mesmerised the audience with their larger-than-life presence and every time they sang and danced, they filled the stage with an infectious energy and aura. Their individual quirkiness and their own little stories made it even more delightful to watch.
On several occasions, the actors interacted with the audience, inviting them to be a part of their lives.
During a kenduri (feast) scene, the village women performed the traditional tarian pinggan (saucer dance) for the audience, who clapped rhythmically while the actors danced.
During another scene, some audience members were asked to help the villagers as they scrambled back and forth filling the buckets with water to extinguish the fire. In that brief moment, the audience took responsibility in saving the burning Kuala Lumpur.
My favourite scene is undoubtedly Muthiah’s cry for divine help in a temple. The flute and the dim lights transported the audience to a spiritual realm, where all things are ethereal and sacred.
In this moment of despair, the life-sized idol projected on the LED screen transformed, in a burst of flame, into a lady in a white saree. The duo communicated through what looked like an interpretive traditional Indian dance and it was simply magical, almost transcendent.
If only Mud had more songs. This writer was left wanting more. Don’t get me wrong. The numbers were lyrical and exhilarating, but I wish there were more.
Having said that, Mud is a very entertaining, touching and enchanting story.
And even if you remove all the razzmatazz that went into the staging, Mud will still stand strong for it is, at the end of the day, a story of our people, our struggles, our city … our Kuala Lumpur.
'Mud: Our Story Of Kuala Lumpur' is playing twice daily at 3pm and 8pm at Panggung Bandaraya, Jalan Raja, Kuala Lumpur. Tickets are RM60 and RM45 (with MyKad). Visit mudkl.com or their Facebook page for details.