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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