A cheeky Sang Kancil tames a grumpy Dragon King in new children's musical

The young cast of the new theatre musical production 'Sang Kancil And The Dragon King' (from left) Putrina Rafie, Joshua Anthony Gui and Phraveen Arikiah. The show opens at PJPAC on Feb 29. Photo: Daniel Adams

For many children, the playground can be one of the most magical places, transforming into whatever your imagination calls for.

Upcoming new musical Sang Kancil And The Dragon King – which plays at the Petaling Jaya Performing Arts Centre (PJPac) in 1Utama Shopping Centre from Feb 29 to March 10 – taps into this wondrous space,

The show, presented by theatre outfit Liver And Lung, tells the story of Ben, an ordinary schoolboy with an extraordinary talent for painting who is heartbroken when he learns that his favourite playground is soon to be demolished and replaced with a concrete monster: a condominium.

On the eve of the playground’s demolition, magic unfolds as Ben is transformed into one of the most beloved characters in Malaysian folklore – Sang Kancil, the clever little mousedeer.

Playground rescue

Ben’s adventure is, of course, incomplete without a menagerie of misfits, including a clueless tiger, conniving crocodiles and the imposing Dragon King, who threatens to wash away the joy of the Lunar New Year celebrations. Will Ben be able to win over the Dragon King, transform back into a human boy and, perhaps, even save the playground?

The musical stars Joshua Anthony Gui (of Sepet The Musical fame), who plays Ben/Sang Kancil. Joining him are Putrina Rafie (who recently starred in the drama Fault Lines), and Phraveen Arikiah.

Sang Kancil And The Dragon King is more than just a musical. It’s a vibrant celebration of cultural stories, coming together to create a narrative that is as educational as it is entertaining,” says Shafeeq Shajahan, Liver And Lung co-founder, who also wrote and directed the production.

“We set out to create a musical that not only captivates children, but also reignites the youthful spirit in adults. The show represents the vast potential and promise within us all, a reminder that no matter our size, we can enact significant change,” he adds.

Sang Kancil And The Dragon King, built around familiar Malaysian folklore, follows Liver And Lung’s direction in highlighting local legends, complete with contemporary flavour while not forgetting cultural nuances.

It is also the theatre company’s first major show since last February, where it presented Melur The Musical, a gripping musical tale born out of the mystical legends of Malaya, notably the pontianak.

An adventure awaits

Sang Kancil And The Dragon King is devoid of jump scares, but it is bound to make your heart leap with joy, considering its singsong soundtrack for the entire family.

The 70-minute musical features original music and lyrics, developed in collaboration with singer-songwriter Irena Taib of local indie group The Impatient Sisters and Ji Yong.

The show’s music draws inspiration from a wide array of sources, such as the percussive rhythms of traditional kompang, the melodious strings of the cello and smartly done contemporary pop.

To ensure that the youngsters in the audience remain fully engrossed in the performance, interactive elements have been peppered throughout the show.

“The audience will be invited to join Ben on his magical journey, not just as bystanders but as active participants,” says Shafeeq.

“They will help Ben in making some crucial decisions, chant along during pivotal moments, and even partake in minor roles that push the narrative forward. Our goal is to blur the lines between the stage and the seats, creating a collective adventure that everyone is a part of. This level of interaction ensures that each performance is unique, powered by the creativity and spirit of our audience.”

On the subject of a contemporary musical production, Gui shares that while children’s theatre should be made with the children’s perspective in mind, it shouldn’t “fall into the trap of dumbing down the content for them.”

“It reminds me a lot about how Hayao Miyazaki writes and directs his movies – he creates for children, but does not shy away from the realities of the world by placing his child protagonists in a situation where there they will have to follow their gut and moral compass to find a solution to their challenges,” says Gui.

“With that, I hope that children’s theatre can become more commonplace in our society, so we create a generation that believes that going to the theatre is a normal thing, which then creates a market for creators to make poignant and thought-provoking stories for kids.”

Sang Kancil And The Dragon King will be staged at the Petaling Jaya Performing Arts Centre (PJPac) in 1Utama Shopping Centre from Feb 29 to March 10. More info here.

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