The late Dato Sudirman Haji Arshad would have been proud to see that 20 of his songs have made it to the stage of the Istana Budaya, thank you to Producer Sabera Shaik and Masakini Theater. It would have made a good 59th birthday present for the well-known versatile entertainer from Temerloh, Pahang whose birthday falls on the 29th of May. Sadly, he left us 21 years ago.
The cast of Chow Kit Road! Chow Kit Road! the Musical include famous names like Adibah Noor, Tony Eusoff, Junji Delfino, Shanthini Venugopal, Anding and Nadia Aqilah. Written by Amri Ruhayat and directed by Saw Teong Hin, it tells the story of Ilham, the son of a prostitute whose dream was to become someone and live a life outside Chow Kit Road where he has spent his entire life.
Having been to Broadway and West End shows as well as several other local productions (my first exposure to the local theatre scene was “Hang Tuah” starring Datuk Rahim Razali back in 1977) I would opine that this has been the best, if not among the best and I will tell you why later as I go along.
“Ku menyusuri jalan berliku…”
That line from the second verse of Sudirman’s song “Merisik Khabar” aptly describes the trials and tribulations of Sabera Shaik and the cast and crew. Having corporate sponsors pulling out in the middle of the preparation period almost torpedoed this musical. While other plays had to give up due to similar problem, this came as a test of the CKR team’s perseverance. Thanks to the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture, corporate sponsors such as the Utusan group, Sri Kulai, Sogo, Suria FM and one hair and make-up academy (forgive me for not being able to recall the name of all the sponsors) for believing in the production team and lending their support.
I was also made aware of individuals who came and gave as much as they could afford to, to help with the budget so on and so forth. One particular moment that moved me was when the producer had a meal at a family restaurant and the owner said to her, “I heard that Chow Kit Road! Chow Kit Road! is facing problems. You don’t have to pay for this meal.” And this spirit is reflected well in CKR the Musical. This is why I said that Masakini has done very well; with limited budget, evident in some scenes where the props were a wee bit too bare especially in the ballroom scene, they have pulled off one of the most entertaining plays I have ever watched. And the way Jamie Wilson arranged Sudirman’s songs was absolutely fantastic.
Having seen how big corporations rush to sponsor foreign artistes and plays, it is shameful to hear that sponsors cannot even spend a small fraction of what they would normally pay for foreign stars on local productions such as this. Yet they have the cheek to advertise themselves to the world as corporations with the human touch; this just reeks of the same absurdity some so-called human rights activists in Malaysia do, tweeting about having coffee at Starbucks while the hundreds of people they incited to riot were getting beaten and arrested by the police who were trying to maintain law and public order. To quote a line from Tokoo, a character from CRK the Musical:
“Kemanusiaan konon…ini semua hipokrit!”
Maybe they ought to watch Chow Kit Road! Chow Kit Road! the Musical and learn a thing or two about being human.
Chow Kit Road! Chow Kit Road! the Musical is definitely a must-watch not just or theatre-lovers or fans of the late Sudirman, but by all Malaysians as this is a play that involves different ethnicities playing out issues that our society often turns a blind eye to. The show ends on Sunday, 26th May 2013. Grab your tickets now and be truly entertained!