Theatre space Panggung Bangsawan Melaka (the old Cathay cinema to locals) is joining forces with KL-based theatre group Muka Space for an 18-month theatre series called Rasa Melaka The Musical, held in conjunction with Visit Melaka Year 2019 and supported by the Melaka state government.
Muka Space co-founders Dr Deric Gan and Easee Gan, both born in Melaka, reveal that rehearsals have gone on smoothly and the preview shows will begin next month.
Muka Space, formed in 2013, has produced and presented several community-based arts shows as well as contemporary theatre productions at KLPac through the years, including Richard III (2016), Peking Man (2017) and The Ring Of The Nibelung (2018).
Last year, Muka Space and the Malaysian Puppetry Association collaborated in a series of street puppet theatre shows (The Story Of Ah Loy) in Kuala Lumpur.
Right now, the Gan brothers believe there are many stories yet to be told about the charm and appeal of their home state.
“Inspiration can be found if you take a walk through the old part of town. Just to meet and talk to people. There is also so much to be discovered in the secret alleys and rustic buildings in Melaka,” says Easee.
Oral history, he mentions, is also a big part of how the show’s storyline was shaped.
Just like Mud The Musical: The Story Of Kuala Lumpur, which still stands as the local theatre scene’s longest running musical (over 2,000 shows from 2014 to 2017), there is a lot of expectation to see that Rasa Melaka The Musical hits the ground running, attracting both locals and tourists.
In the hands of the Muka Space team, it looks like the musical will unfold with a contemporary approach yet not forgetting its Melaka roots.
The musical will be directed by Deric, who also serves as playwright, with Easee as producer. Music is composed by Jacqueline Teng Jye Yee, Andrew Lim Kai Xuen and Toh Shir Ling, with Lee Yueh Yi as music director and sound effect designer. Cheong Lin Poo, who graduated and trained in dance in Hong Kong, is one of the choreographers for the show.
The multi-lingual Rasa Melaka is set in the post-Merdeka era, with a feeling of uplift and joy permeating the air in 1957. Melaka, just like the rest of the country, was ready to take on the challenge of being a part of an independent nation.
The story actually starts in 1956 when Tunku Abdul Rahman announces the Federation of Malaya's independence and calls out “Merdeka!” at Padang Bandar Hilir (now Pahlawan Square). Three young children: Malay girl Melia, Chinese boy Lak, and Chetty girl Kashvi witness the arrival of Malaya’s independence.
In 2008, Melia, Lak and Kashvi, now all in their 60s, reflect on those historical and colourful times with their grandchildren by their side.
The show tells the stories of the various communities in Melaka - from the late 1950s to the present day. The 60-minute musical, says Easee, will be filled by poignant moments and humorous turns, reflecting the lives and struggles of the people of Melaka, with traditional folk-based music accompanying the script.
“It is an accessible show for all to enjoy and relate to,” says Deric.
The musical will be told in three acts and it is influenced by the work of German playwright Bertolt Brecht.
“Rasa Melaka will break away from certain conventional theatre elements, at times, not showing a specific time or place. It will even break the fourth wall, with performers showing up any where they like in the theatre (space) ... even coming into close contact with the audience,” says Easee.
Rasa Melaka: The Musical will be the first production in the “Rasa City” series, which aims to give the masses a taste of Malaysian history, arts and culture.
Rasa Melaka The Musical will be showing at Panggung Bangsawan Melaka, 20, Jalan Munshi Abdullah, Kampung Jawa, Melaka. Preview show run is between April 15 and June 14. The full shows starts June 15 to October 15, 2020. Showtimes are 8pm (Mondays to Thursdays) and 3.30pm/8pm on Fridays to Sundays. For tickets, call Panggung Bangsawan Melaka (06-281 1666) or Muka Space (011-1360 9939). More info: www.rasamelaka.com.