Sunday, December 18, 2011

Malaysian Girls – The Review

by Dave Avran, with input by Dani’el Dharanee

The musicomedy kicks off with Tabitha Kong as Serenity Billion, who co-founded the Malaysian Girls beauty pageant with the just deceased Samsara Jaya, mourning his untimely death just weeks to showtime and pondering the future direction for both herself and the pageant.

Cue in sinister music and in struts THR deejay Aanantha as Dato’ Ray Sanjay, Samsara’s cashy, dashy and flashy brother, with his PA Siti Farrah Abdullah as the overly ambitious and not too scrupulous Jasmine Hibiscus, and her two hatchet men Freddy Tan as Gucci Lim and Alvin Looi as the token gay male, Bata Tan.

Ray, although being clueless in the pageant business, is determined to turn the 1Malaysia pageant into a bigger, bolder idea of international beauty while Serenity wants to keep it respectable, dignified and uniquely Malaysian. In comes the Minah Salleh Zoe Taylor as shrilly voiced and highly opinionated Sydney Belle, Miss Australia 1999, and therein starts a classic love-hate relationship where Ray and Serenity clash.

Clash entertainingly it does, powered by the writing of Mark Beau de Silva, and embellished by top 40’s music as well as 14 original compositions by singer-songwriters Khairil M. Bahar, Ariff Akhir, Ian Chow, Wani Ardy and Min’z. These specially-commissioned songs were played live by a six-piece band partly hidden on stage.

So what can you expect from the show? *Warning* plot spoilers ahead!

First, the cons: As a reviewer who is unabashedly biased towards all things Malaysian, this is the toughest part.

As the female lead, Tabitha Kong’s petite size did at times do her injustice in taking attention away from her performance.

Aanantha’s role consisted mostly of macho posturing and “jantan” poses, not all that different from his role in an earlier play Taming of the Shrew – A Bollywood Cabaret.

Too many solos and duets among the main cast at the expense of the rest of the characters.

For a show that runs for 2 hours, the plot and characters are not well fleshed out. An example of this is the romantic interest between Serenity Billion and Ray Sanjay and the lukewarm ending to the vicious clash between both sides with Serenity simply declaring she is a Malaysian and the rest of the cast tamely following suit without resistance.

The lyrics also could have been better developed but I’m willing to discount this as you will probably be too distracted by all the female flesh strutting up and down the stage.

More “Aria” moments are desperately needed to keep the show from getting draggy and stretched.

The choreography lacked the explosive energy and variety required to wow the audience.

Most of the cast were pretty average on the dancing scale. The better dance moves were actually delivered by the Minah Salleh.

The stairs smack middle on the stage were one of the more interesting features of the set but perhaps they also served as a weakness. Each time the girls danced up and down the stairs on their six-inch heels I said a silent prayer that none of them would fall.

Now that the bitching’s over, let’s get on to the pros:

Sydney Belle’s Aria – totally unexpected but a very appreciated and pleasant surprise.

The cleverly split costume change for the entire cast in the Hindi number “Jai Ho”, which also served to bridge the intermission.

Vapid answers to contest questions and a hilarious traditional costume segment.

Lots of sashaying, costume changes and pleasant melodies.

Siti Farrah as Jasmine, is perhaps the best actor of the production pulling off rude, aggressive, cunning and wicked not only effortlessly but flawlessly. It’s a crime she wasn't given more solos.

Miss Brickfields probably had the best lines amongst all the finalists, and delivered them superbly.

Anrie Too as usual delivered impressive acting and showcased her vocals well.

There were nuggets of meaningful messages throughout the show, especially about inner beauty making Malaysian girls quintessentially Malaysian.

The jokes, the biting sarcasm and the message of the musicomedy make the show worth watching. Add the songs, over-the-top dramas and glamorous costumes, and Malaysian Girls will definitely satisfy your craving for year end candy.

The best one-liner was delivered as Gucci Lim walked in unannounced on Jasmin.
I didn’t know you could say “pantat” on stage!

Most thought provoking line “Sometimes you find your family in friends”.

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Klue, Doh! – The Review

Question: What do you get when you brew a potent mix of 1 murder, 2 perspectives, 2 cops, 3 murder weapons and 6 dysfunctionally wacky suspects?

Answer: You get a hair raising runaway train wreck called Klue, Doh! where the audience is thoroughly perplexed while being entertained. There’s hope for Malaysian theatre yet.

Klue,Doh! is a collaboration, between theatre makers from Australia and Malaysia. The project is aimed at exploring the art of voyeurism within the confinement of the domestic space, where the audience are taken out of their comfort zone and shoved into a rollercoaster ride that baffles at every turn! Beware – there are no brakes on this ride!

Shades of Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap" surface like a submarine as you watch, helplessly and hopelessly drawn into the manically witty drama unfolding right before your very eyes not once but twice. Like any good mystery worth its salt, Klue,Doh! is as much about who actually did it, as it is about the madcap unravelling of events that gets you there.

Your first clue that you’re in for a rather entertaining evening is when you’re stamped with either a “suspect” or “witness” rubberstamp on your arm. Is it a murder mystery? Yes it is. Is it a comedy? Yes it is. Is it a tragedy? Yes, that too.

Viewers are split into two groups and ushered into two separate auditoriums that offer views of different rooms in the same house - the inner study which is the scene of the crime, and the main living room.

Basically you are fed part of the information watching round one of the play, and then get to piece it together when you switch to the other room. It is a simple but brilliant strategy, that forces a certain amount of improv from the actors to keep the rapidly unravelling runaway proceedings on both sides in perfect sync. It also requires the audience to pay careful attention to detail if they are to solve the murder at the end.

The suspects were well albeit stereotypically cast, with Anne James as the vengefully bitter ex-wife, stage veteran JD Menon as the naughty but lovable ruffian filmmaker brother-in-law, Terence Conrad as the nerdy and idealistic son, Davina Goh as the streetwise urchin desperate to climb the social ladder even if it means sleeping her way to the top, Jon Chew as the extremely gay wedding planner, Nabihan Yaacob as the initially obedient but increasingly sinister maid, and Iqmal Shafiq and Ley Shahrwind as the bumbling senior and eager beaver junior officer police officers.

Without giving too much away as the play is still ongoing, toilet hygiene entrepreneur and loan shark Datuk Jackson Mo is found murdered and every member of his household has a motive to kill him. Add in some creative licensing in the naming of the characters – for example the Datuk’s Chinese name is Mo Les Ting, his fiancee the ex-GRO from Jinjang is Charity Ho Mun Mun while the Indonesian maid is a mouthful at Gangbang Sukajolo Suprianto. Then there’s the rapidfire play between “Hammer” and “Paku”.

Although the play plunged straight into business without much character development, the cast and crew deserve kudos just for pulling it off so well. The sets, lighting and music are subtle but effective, with seemingly innocuous objects and nooks and crannies in each room and the dialogue itself turning out to be essential to the unraveling of this madcap mystery.

The stereotypical characters are in fact sly digs of Malaysiana that we will immediately recognise and identify with. The dialogue is sharp and witty, littered with clever references to current events (yes, footie included) to careful listeners.

I felt that Anne James (Datin Saras Mo the uppity ex-wife) was having rather an off day on the night that I watched the show, resorting more to physical comedy and slapstick rather than her normal acting performance.

JD Menon delivered his lines and ad libbed hilariously with superb comic timing, covering gaps in the flow with the confidence that can only come from years of perfecting his craft. Equally impressive was Nabihan Yaacob who nailed her character’s Indonesian accent and mannerisms, many times cracking us up with only her facial expressions.

Iqmal Shafiq also stood out as the non-underwear wearing ASP Hamzah, spot on with the various smug and bigoted idiosyncrasies we often associate with our men in blue.

Despite all the things it has going for it, Klue,Doh! is not without its flaws. Lack of character development aside, there were also gaping holes in the plot’s logic, as in the murderer using his own personal handphone when prepaids are so easily available. The storyline occasionally seemed stretched to fill in both rooms at the same time. Also, I found the video projections rather distracting and unnecessary.

The verdict? It's extremely entertaining and hilarious, and unless you're the type that gets offended by the F word and suggestions of a sexual nature, go watch it. It's highly recommended and well worth the price of the ticket to watch 2 plays in one.

Favorite line: “What are you doing?
Answer: “Nothing”
Rejoinder: “I am PDRM. I can arrest you for nothing”
Still cracks me up even as I write this.

Klue,Doh! is being staged from now until Dec 11 and 13-17, (8.30pm, with a 3pm matinee on Dec 10) at Black Box @ MAP, Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur. Tickets priced at RM68 (concession tickets are RM38) are available at and the PJ Live Arts Box Office at Jaya One, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

For more information, call 017-228 7849, e-mail or log onto

Online Ticketing:
Walk In: PJ Live Arts Box Office,
Jaya One Block K, 72 A Jalan Universiti,
Petaling Jaya 46200.

Phone: +6017 2287849