Performing arts venue KLPac and in-house theatre outfit The Actors Studio in Kuala Lumpur are leading from the front with the early announcements surrounding their 2023 programme highlights, which sees nearly 50 shows lined-up across an eventful calendar.
Theatre life, arguably, is still in a recovery mode, but with a mixture of revenge programming, supportive crowds, arts grants, cross-disciplinary shows and new talent pushing through, the creative scene in the Klang Valley is slowly finding its way back.
At KLPac, the optimism has never dimmed despite the pandemic challenges.
In 2023, it is wasting no time in filling up its venues, outdoor spaces and collaborative pursuits.
For the deep thinking theatregoer, KLPac is kicking off the New Year with theatre show series Her Story (Jan 12-15) followed by His Story (Feb 23-26) under the direction of Fa Abdul of Big Nose Productions. The series features 20 insightful monologues.
Other collaborations of note in the first quarter include MyDance Alliance’s Dancebox (February), Five Arts Centre’s critically acclaimed A Notional History (March), KL Shakespeare Players’ Shakespeare Demystified: Macbeth (March) and SIFU Productions’ indicinelive! 8 (March / April).
To add cultural diversity, then international theatre productions landing in town are bound to attract the headlines.
Mark Atkin, His Stories And His Music (February), which features the Australian Aboriginal musician's lifestory, is a collaboration with the Australian High Commission in Malaysia, while a dance show by renowned Taiwanese indigenous group Bulareyaung Dance Company (July) is a collaboration with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Malaysia.
On the heritage front, The Actors Studio’s much-anticipated staging of Jebat (September), written by U-En Ng and directed by Joe Hasham, is not to be missed, while there will be pop nostalgia concerts across the coming months to keep the masses entertained.
The Radiohead tribute True Love Waits (August), which was planned in 2018, is also finally set to hit the stage, with KLPac's music director Ian Chow overseeing an updated line-up for this alternative rock tribute concert, featuring strings, electronica and more.
Aside from the standard classical repertoire by the KLPac Orchestra, the KLPac Symphonic Band and the KLPac String Orchestra, there will also be child-friendly concerts such as the popular outdoor “Music Play Date” series and interactive “Music In The Jungle” shows for the young audience.
Beyond the stage, KLPac and The Actors Studio have a host of educational and workshop offerings (speech and drama classes right to gamelan lessons). The “Backstage Bites” guided tour experience of KLPac will also be running throughout 2023.
There is no shortage of headlining shows at Petaling Jaya Performing Arts Centre (PJPAC), which will be looking to consolidate its position as one of the main venues for performing arts and more in the Klang Valley.
Top on the list at PJPAC is Melur The Musical, a Pontianak-inspired musical which is set to haunt the venue in February.
Liver & Lung, the musical theatre company behind Sepet The Musical, has announced the cast for its upcoming horror musical production, featuring seasoned actors Tria Aziz and Kai Chalmers and up-and-coming musical theatre actors Mila Mohsin and Anwar Rusdini.
Set in colonial Malaya, Melur The Musical depicts the spell-binding story of two women, Melur and Cempaka, as they navigate British rule. Things take a cruel turn as a murderous crime and the wrath of a supernatural creature come into the picture.
Contemporary dance and technology will measure up equally in Psychosynthesis, a show by Kenny Shim Dance Collective (KSDC) and Asia Ballet Theatre (ABT), which also lights up February at PJPAC.
The dance production features local talent working in tandem with science, multimedia, theatrical lights and setting design to stage a visual and kinaesthetic portrayal of Covid-19 and the repercussions of the global pandemic.
Dama (formerly known as Dama Orchestra) is also set to make a return in 2023 with two shows at PJPAC. All That Glitz And Glamour (On The Silver Screen), celebrating golden age Hong Kong and Shanghai film music, is set play in April, while In Perfect Harmony Too will add Merdeka month feelgood at PJPAC in August.
Over at Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) in Petaling Jaya, two classical Chinese music concerts look to make next March a dream for music fans. The Master concert, featuring nine Malaysian artists playing different Chinese instruments, and Melodious Dulcimer: A Concert of Kenwy Yangqin Ensemble (from China) are two of DPAC's early highlights for the year.
The 25th anniversary of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) will also be a celebration to keep things busy at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP) venue at KLCC. The crowd-pleasing "pop concert" content (Dayang Nurfaizah to Ramli Sarip) is prominent in the programme.
But let's focus on classical music, which is still what the masses (presumably) expect at the DFP.
MPO's 2023 season programme starts off with a New Year's classical evening treat (Jan 14), with MPO conductor Gerard Salonga set to dive into pieces from Shostakovich, Strauss and Dvorak to lilting waltzes by Joe Hisaishi and Richard Rodge. An "MPO Goes Broadway" show (Jan 28) offers a standard mainstream show, featuring classic stage tunes from West Side Story, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables and The Phantom Of The Opera.
A family fun day show Let's Tour The World III is scheduled for March 18. On April 1, the MPO salutes Rachmaninoff’s lush and brooding romanticism. The show, conducted by Junichi Hirokami, will be celebrating 150 years of the Russian composer's music.
The Music Of Star Wars concert is another blockbuster fanboy (and girl) experience set to play at DFP on May 27, with the MPO led by Salonga.