KUALA LUMPUR: Thousands of kung fu fans were filled with awe when the Shaolin Kung Fu Masters Return! show opened at the Putra Indoor Stadium in Bukit Jalil last night.
A group of 50 early birds were seen outside the stadium as early as 6pm, two hours before show time.
As it turned out, the long wait was well worth it.
After the two opening acts, Star Publications (M) Bhd group managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Steven Tan and Songshan Shaolin Wushu Centre director-general Master Jiao Hongbo escorted a group of VIPs on stage.
Among them were Chinese Ambassador Wang Chungui, Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting.
The others were Tourism Minister Datuk Dr Leo Michael Toyad, Information Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said and Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen.
Then 18 Shaolin masters joined them on stage, bearing the 18 trademark Shaolin weapons, which the VIPs were invited to examine to verify their authenticity.
Some of the VIPs proceeded to do so with great enthusiasm, waving the weapons about to get a feel of them, drawing a ripple of laughter from the crowd.
As the lights dimmed again for the first act by the troupe, the thousands in Putra Indoor Stadium sat up in anticipation of the spectacular show promised.
And the Shaolin masters delivered.
Mesmerised by the well-choreographed moves executed by the troupe members against the backdrop portraying the Shaolin Temple’s main gate, the crowd cheered as the exponents kicked off with the Muyu Gong act, based on the fish-like percussion instrument used by monks when chanting Buddhist scriptures.
The serene atmosphere created in the initial part of the act was shattered when the exponents broke into action using the instruments as weapons before reverting to their earlier pace.
In the next scene, 18 kung fu masters exploded into action, armed with the 18 ancient weapons made famous by the legendary warriors from the Shaolin Temple in China.
Led by Jiao and principal coach Master Feng Genhuai, the troupe is back in Malaysia after first performing here two years ago.
The troupe is renowned the world over for their 1,500-year-old Shaolin skills, which the crowd saw in abundance last night.
In one of the show’s highlights, some spectators knocked on a 2cm-thick glass pane to check that it was real before it was brought up to the stage for the Zhen Chuan Bo Li act.
Channelling his qi (inner force) to the tip of a needle, the usually-cheerful Liu Xiaolong appeared serious just before propelling the needle towards the pane, which had a balloon behind it.
The crowd erupted into thunderous applause the moment the balloon burst and the glass pane was again brought to the spectators to examine the hole created by the needle’s penetration.
Later, 12-year-old Wang Heng kept the audience amused when he came on stage looking tipsy for the Three Drunks act.
While Wang performed the Drunken Fist, the other two “drunks” – Zhang Bin and Shi Jianhu – slashed and swung their sword and staff respectively in the display of drunken kung fu.
In an amazing demonstration of strength in another act, 20-year-old Shaolin master Miao Songfeng appeared totally unfazed when several men rammed a log against his abdomen.
The audience were also treated to a range of other skills that Shaolin exponents are famous for, including animal-style kung fu, the eight-step exercise and other techniques performed with a variety of weapons.
For the finale, the troupe chose a fitting ending in the form of the Da San Men, a re-enactment of the ultimate test a Shaolin student must overcome in order to leave the Shaolin Temple as a warrior.
In the act, two exponents fought their way through a dozen Shaolin warriors armed with various weapons, including swords, staffs and spears.
The show was given a Malaysian dimension with Azlina Abu Hassan from Kuala Lumpur and Ali Arami Azahar from Malacca as well as Gladys Molling and Jocelyn Narong from Sarawak opening the show with highly-polished wushu demonstrations.
There were also classy performances by world lion dance champions Kun Seng Keng Lion and Dragon Dance Association and the 24-member drum troupe from national drum champions Chong Hwa Independent High School.
The show is presented by The Star and S P Setia Bhd to raise funds for Tung Shin Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
Shaolin tickets will be available for sale at the ticketing counter at Stadium Putra in Bukit Jalil from 5pm today, while tickets at Menara Star will be available while stocks last.
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