On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

A welcome break

While some politicians are still indulging in racial remarks, young Malaysians were celebrating their icon Datuk Sudirman Haji Arshad at the preview of ‘Chow Kit Road! Chow Kit Road! The Musical’.

I ATTENDED the preview of Chow Kit Road! Chow Kit Road! The Musical on Thursday. It was such a refreshing change after the prolonged and practically endless talk of late about politics.

Compared with the heated, and sometimes destructive, political discussions that tear people apart, this musical will do the opposite and bring people together. One could definitely feel the positive vibes generated at Istana Budaya where the show will run until May 26.

While some politicians are still indulging in racial remarks, young Malaysians were celebrating their icon Datuk Sudirman Haji Arshad at the preview.

It was really an eye-opener because most of the performers and reporters present probably were not even born when Sudirman was at the height of his popularity.

But they have read about, as well as heard and watched the pint-sized singer on YouTube, and they are mesmerised by him, as we older Malaysians had been in our time.

That was the magic of Sudirman – he could bring Malaysians of all races together. He didn’t need to make a speech. All he did was sing and that was enough.

His songs, now classics, were all in Malay but every Malaysian regardless of their ethnic background could identify with them.

Thanks to the efforts of a group of talented Malaysians, we are now able to re-live our memories of this singer.

The musical is written by Amry Ruhaiyat and Saw Teong Him, and Jamie Wilson of Akash is the music director. The hugely talented Saw, as we all know, is the famed director of the movie Puteri Gunung Ledang.

The Penang-born filmmaker also directed the musical Hoore! Hoore!, a film that was also based on the songs of Sudirman, last year.

Chow Kit Road! producer is Sabera Shaik, founder of the Masakini Theatre Company.

It has been an expensive journey for the people who produced this musical simply for the love of theatre. The production cost alone is RM1mil and they are doing this without any support from corporate sponsors.

The timing, from a fundraising point of view, could not have been worse. Yes, the general election is over and the musical may be a welcome break after the exhausting campaign period. But I doubt the corporate sector is in the mood to listen to the producers’ pleas for financial support.

The feel-good musical features 20 of Sudirman’s songs, including Pesta Dunia, Basikal Tua, Milik Siapakah Gadis Ini and Langit Petang.

The story revolves around the life of a brash, jobless young man named Ilham, played by Anding Indrawani (Akademi Fantasia alum and actor), who grew up in the notorious neighbourhood of Chow Kit in Kuala Lumpur. He becomes involved in a bet where a snobbish socialite is challenged to turn him into a gentleman.

Three mak Datins have thrown each other a challenge – if Datin Jamilah (Adibah Noor) manages to transform Ilham into a well-mannered youth with a proper job, they will fork out the money to build a community centre in Chow Kit.

She is successful but in the process, her daughter Maya (Nadia Aqilah) falls in love with Ilham, much to Jamilah’s chagrin.

But I wouldn’t want to spoil your interest by revealing how the story ends.

I believe all Malaysians should support this show, so bring the whole family to watch with you. If you found time to listen to political ceramah and donated to political causes, whether at the ceramah or directly to the parties, it’s time to lend your support to the arts.

The artistes, through musicals like this one, have succeeded where politicians have failed in bringing joy, inspiration and greater meaning to our lives,

There’s also a personal interest here: Saw is a former schoolmate of mine at St Xavier’s Institution and Adibah is a colleague at Suria FM, a radio station under the The Star Media Group.

Incidentally, the opening day this month of Chow Kit Road! Chow Kit Road! almost coincides with the date of the late Sudirman’s legendary concert in Chow Kit Road on April 14, 1986.