Cinderella: a feisty musical fairy tale with a cause


In the upcoming 'Cinderella' musical at PJPAC, Mia Sara Shauki (left) plays Cinderella, and Joanne Kam plays the Evil Stepmother. Photo: PJPAC

The timeless tale of a kind-hearted girl who must overcome a harrowing ordeal to claim her rightful place as a princess is about to receive a Malaysian twist.

PJPAC is set to debut its production of Cinderella, a musical comedy for the entire family. The show, which is set to run from May 30 to June 2, will be staged at PJPAC’s main theatre hall.

Directed by theatre producer-actor Joanna Bessey, now head of the Enfiniti Academy of Performing Arts, this fun-filled version of Cinderella aims to immerse the audience in the performance.

With plenty of interactive moments and lively musical numbers that encourage crowd participation, the show is bound to stretch the original story, with added laughs and smiles thrown in.

On paper, the Cinderella cast looks the part to bring the house down.

‘She (Cinderella) is not a damsel in distress that needs rescuing. In many ways she rescues herself,’ says Bessey, the musical show’s director. Photo: PJPAC‘She (Cinderella) is not a damsel in distress that needs rescuing. In many ways she rescues herself,’ says Bessey, the musical show’s director. Photo: PJPAC

The line-up features talented actors Mia Sara Shauki (Cinderella), returning to theatre after films like Geng Kubur, Kau VS Aku, and Ceroboh; Brian Chan (Prince Marteeny), known for his award-winning role in Ola Bola The Musical; and Nabil Zakaria (Buttons), with credits in Ola Bola, Tiger Stripes, and the upcoming Harimau Malaya. Joining them are seasoned comedians Joanne Kam (Evil Stepmother Datin Rosie) and Papi Zak (Fairy Godmother).

Izzaldin K and Sheikh Irfan Mansor, along with Amsalan Doraisingam (Cinderella’s father, Datuk Buang Wang) and Alya Amani (Dandini, the Prince’s Assistant), a model and host, complete the ensemble.

“It is something that’s going to appeal to the entire family, from the grandparents to the kids and everyone in between,” said Bessey, who is looking forward to a rollicking series of fairy tale nights.

“There is a reason why this folktale has lasted the test of time before it was popularised with a novel, a Disney film and other movie adaptations. Somebody standing up for themselves, overcoming abuse, and rising to the occasion – these are themes that are still relevant to us,” she added.

A cast that clicks

At a recent Cinderella preview at PJPAC, the cast were already raring to hit the stage, with a sneak peek of two choreography works, handled by Christine Chong.

The routines were accompanied by familiar pop hits, brought to life by music director Stephanie Tham.

All eyes on Mia Sara Shauki as Cinderella and Brian Chan as Prince Marteeny. Photo: PJPACAll eyes on Mia Sara Shauki as Cinderella and Brian Chan as Prince Marteeny. Photo: PJPAC

Papi Zak, known for his role as Mat Raya in the Langkawi island folktale Walimaturus – The Wedding Banquet last year, and Kam, celebrated as “Malaysia’s Queen of Comedy, both bring their stage presence and expertise in comedy and musical theatre to the production.

“This style of comedy (panto), which involves a lot of improvisation, especially when interacting with the audience is something I wanted to have in the production, and it’s a skill that comics instinctively have,” said Bessey, seeking a flamboyant presence on stage.

“The challenge was to make sure that they (the comedy names) can keep up with the acting and dancing that comes with theatre. Often I have to manage their effect on the rest of the cast as their natural wit ends up disrupting rehearsals with jokes,“ she added.

The rehearsals have been a blast, with Bessey highlighting the chemistry between the whole cast, a mix of seasoned veterans and newcomers.

“It is clear that the balance between experience and youth is blossoming into a positive collective that benefits from each other,” she said.

Comedian Kam is ready for her family-friendly role as the Evil Stepmother. Photo: PJPACComedian Kam is ready for her family-friendly role as the Evil Stepmother. Photo: PJPAC

Filling up the rest of the Cinderella world on stage is the “The Ensemble”, a lively bunch of actors who take on a variety of roles, from the townsfolk to carriage riders and even Cinderella’s helpers. The Ensemble features Arief Danial, Feyee Bethany, Janelle Arnelia, Julia Batrisyia, Swarna Naidu, and Tan Guan Lin (Johnson).

The shoe fits her

With all the excitement that has been surrounding the cast, it is easy to forget Cinderella’s overarching storyline revolves around the oppression of a woman’s liberties, mostly through the evil stepmother and her step-sisters.

“The Cinderella that I portray has a lot more fire to her – she speaks up, she fights back and more importantly, she forgives even when it seems difficult. Those are the values that I want to embody, and hopefully, it resonates with anyone who has faced struggles growing up,” said Mia, about her lead role.

In real life, Mia has had her fair share of unpleasant experiences as a woman in a demanding acting industry.

In an online post late last year, she opened up about challenges while on set, describing moments where she felt uncomfortable. In the same post, she called out productions with poor work ethics, citing that inappropriate jokes about her and around her are still issues that she’s coming to terms with today.

Papi Zak - as the Fairy Godmother - all ready to bring the house down in the upcoming production of 'Cinderella'. Photo: PJPACPapi Zak - as the Fairy Godmother - all ready to bring the house down in the upcoming production of 'Cinderella'. Photo: PJPAC

“With shifting cultural influences and social media, it can be difficult to navigate through this subject. My aim for this production is that audiences, especially young women and kids can identify what is abuse, even in its less obvious forms,” said Mia.

The show’s script, adds Bessey, promotes female empowerment, while also keeping things fun.

“As a family show, we aim for children to enjoy the music and dancing while also recognising important lessons that adults often overlook, such as the impact of verbal abuse,” said Bessey.

“We didn’t need to do much rewriting because the story of Cinderella is already rich with these themes. That’s what makes it so powerful for kids. When Buttons stands up for Cinderella, or when Cinderella stands up for herself, we see them overcoming oppression throughout their journey,” she concluded.

Cinderella is set to play on Stage 1, PJPAC, 1 Utama mall, Petaling Jaya from May 30 to June 2.

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

Musical , Cinderella , PJPAC , comedy , family , theatre

   

Next In Culture

Weekend for the arts: 'Inventory Of Intimacies' exhibition, Jai draws at Ilham
Does street art belong in a museum?
Mid-year planner: performing arts and more in the Klang Valley
Italian artist Cattelan’s latest satirical work is a bullet-riddled golden wall
US Library of Congress spotlights its American 'treasures'
Reimagining M. Nasir's musical legacy through art
Late author Ursula K. Le Guin's home to become a writers' residency
Oldest privately owned book sells for RM18mil at British auction sale
Miniature diorama project revives 15th century Melaka
Picasso Museum opens vast online archive of works by the iconic artist

Others Also Read