KUALA LUMPUR: Malacca will become the first city outside China to stage the 10th production under acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou’s “Impression” series of outdoor musical shows.
Impression Melaka, is a project between PTS Impression Sdn Bhd and China Impression Wonders Art Development Co Ltd, which will be endorsed by Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz today as a National Key Economic Area project under Pemandu.
This follows a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by PTS Impression CEO Boo Kuan Loon and China Impression Wonders Art Development Co’s co-founder and CEO Wang Chaoge in February in Malacca, witnessed by then Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen, and the project’s official launch in Beijing in May.
The immensely successful Impression musicals were founded by Zhang and his creative partners Wang Chaoge and Fan Yue who were also directors of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
All the Impression shows are live outdoor performances involving huge casts, humongous stages and amazing special effects.
The first was launched in 1998 in Guilin called Impression Lui Sanjie on a 2km-long setting along the Li River. Since then, there are Impressions in nine locations all over China, including Lijiang and West Lake, using spectacular natural backdrops.
Impression Melaka, however, will be performed on a gigantic stage built to look like Admiral Zheng He’s junk with a revolving seating area for 2,014 in the middle.
It was Wang who decided on Malacca as her company’s first foreign foray after being pursued by a persistent Boo who brought she and her team to visit his hometown.
Boo, 42, who describes himself as a true-blue anak Melaka, is a property developer who wants to create a destination theatre experience to benefit locals and give tourists a reason to stay overnight in Malacca.
“Most tourists come to Malacca for day tours but don’t stay overnight because there isn’t much to see or do at night. Impression Melaka can change that as there will two performances every night,” he said.
Boo added that it was a feather in Malacca’s cap that Wang’s company chose the city for its first foreign production out of 150 proposals from cities around the world, thanks in part to its Unesco world heritage status.
Although Impression Melaka’s storyline and music are being written and the stage designed by China Impression Wonders Art Development Co, Boo stressed it would not be a Chinese story but one that reflected Malacca’s vibrant cosmopolitan history and heritage.
As Wang said in an interview with Lifestyle Magazine, “When we go outside the country, we’re not taking Chinese culture and exporting it to them, but rather we export our art and performance – Impression Melaka is about Malaysian culture.”
She was also quoted as saying at the Beijing launch that Impression Melaka would “showcase the city’s glorious past and modern day life.”
Nevertheless, the junk-shaped stage recalls Zheng He’s five visits to the port in seven voyages between 1405 and 1433 which led to a longstanding relationship between the Malacca sultanate and China.
Impression Melaka, a RM300mil project, is funded by local and foreign investors and will be the only one in the region for the next three years, said Boo.
He said the 75-minute long show, with a cast of 200, is projected to sell 1.3 million tickets a year, at about RM130 a seat.
Like other Impression shows, most of the performers will be ordinary folk living in the vicinity who will be trained by Zhang, Wang, Fan and their team.
While its location is still under wraps, Boo said the theatre will require 8.1ha, while another 32.4ha will be developed for other related developments, such as restaurants and a tourism village.
Impression Melaka is scheduled to open in October 2014, in conjunction with Malaysia-China Friendship Year to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations and in time for Visit Malaysia Year.