We built this city

  • Arts
  • Thursday, 12 Jun 2014

Puan Sri Tiara Jacquelina has always brandished the unity card and Mud: Our Story Of Kuala Lumpur could be her finest hour yet.

Mud: Our Story Of Kuala Lumpur tells the story of friendship against the backdrop of the capital’s birth.

THREE friends of various ethnicities coming together in the face of adversity. Sounds like the typical plot in any unity-driven storyline for an artistic endeavour. And so it is, but these uplifting and politically correct tales of trials and tribulations never run out of style.

In fact, there couldn’t be a better time for such a balmy narrative, given the rancorous times we live in. Hence, the curtain call beckons to Mud: Our Story Of Kuala Lumpur, a musical set to hit the capital’s prestigious and historic 110-year-old Panggung Bandaraya from June 21.

The musical, a production of Enfiniti Vision Media and presented by Kuala Lumpur City Hall, frames buddies Mamat, Meng and Muthiah against the backdrop of Kuala Lumpur’s birth, when the city was merely dotted with kampung houses strewn across the muddy banks of the confluence of rivers Klang and Gombak.

“There’s nothing glitzy or glamorous about the presentation ... there are no big name stars here. It’s a heartwarming play about the community that built something out of nothing,” confessed producer, Puan Sri Tiara Jacquelina during a recent interview.

The managing director of Enfiniti also revealed that based on City Hall’s request to come up with something touristic in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2014, Mud sews together history, heritage and culture in a neat little package.

The musical features a multi-racial cast, paying tribute to the various races that built Kuala Lumpur.

Mud is based on 19th century Kuala Lumpur, when the city was ravaged by fires and a big flood washed away everything in its wake, destroying the-then status quo wooden buildings and structures, leaving the city a muddy mess, hence the city’s name.

It was British Resident of Selangor, Frank Swettenham, who directed that buildings, henceforth, be built of brick and tile. Heeding that requirement was the third Chinese Kapitan of Kuala Lumpur, tin mining tycoon Yap Ah Loy, who spearheaded the rebuilding of the city by setting up a brick factory (built from the abundant mud available) in what has come to be known as Brickfields.

Mud merges fact with fiction and chronicles the lives of the various communities that made sacrifices to pull in the same direction for the sake of development and unity, building the city into the diverse, modern metropolitan it is today. This is where the lives of three young men, a Malay, Chinese and Indian, coalesce.

“It’s a story of friendship that aspires to give people here in the city a sense of belonging, a story for people to share and one for tourists to take away,” revealed the award-winning producer of Puteri Gunung Ledang and P. Ramlee The Musical, intimating what she does best is tell stories.

Mamat, Meng and Muthiah are played by Amandus Paul Panan, Jayson Phuah and Prem Sagar, respectively – three young, up and coming actors who jumped at the chance to celebrate their cultural differences as a whole.

“Only Amandus has worked in a big production. They are all lovely boys and they’ve taken the chopping and changing of the script in the right spirit,” she said of the actors’ attitude.

Mud is generally an English-speaking experience, but like how slang words and expressions have been woven into the fabric of our multi-cultural society, there is also a smattering of Malay, Chinese dialects and Tamil thrown in for good measure.

The musical sees Amsalan Doraisingam wear the director’s hat and Pat Ibrahim the associate director’s and chief choreographer’s. Singer-songwriter Mia Palencia wrote the lyrics and music, while her contemporary Zalilah Lee serves as musical director for the production.

The hour-long musical, set to run for at least three years with daily shows, will give 86 cast, crew and behind-the-scenes personnel – a multi-racial lot, no doubt – full-time jobs in that time.

Puan Sri Tiara Jacquelina has always brandished the unity card and Mud: Our Story Of Kuala Lumpur could be her finest hour yet.

“Most of the people involved in the arts don’t get to make a living out of it, but this production will allow them to do what they love and earn their keep from it,” she enthused.

Each day, the 350-seater theatre will allow tourists and locals to appreciate KL in all its splendour. The theatre, which began construction in 1896 and was completed in 1904, had its interior completely damaged by a fire in 1992, coincidentally setting a familiar theme of the city’s genesis. The venue was rebuilt soon after, with up-to-date audio and lighting fittings installed, but failed to ignite the imagination of the public as an institution of the fine arts.

Enfiniti, with the support of KL City Hall, is slowly but surely returning the once-famous theatre to its resplendent glory. Part of that refurbishment has included the installation of what is reputed to be the first sprung stage in Malaysia, which caters to better and safer mobility for actors and dancers.

“There’s so much history on these streets and this building that it is only fitting for us to present this musical here. Our forefathers made all of what we see in KL and it’s only right we celebrate it,” shared the singer and actress.

Tiara has always prided herself in brandishing the unity card, and the way Mud is building up, this could just be her finest hour yet. And to echo Hal David’s words in the Burt Bacharach classic, “What the world needs now, is love sweet love ...”

For info on Mud: Our Story Of Kuala Lumpur, visit www.mudKL.com or check out the FB page MUDKualaLumpur.

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We built this city


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