The cast of Rocking Broadway

A WHIMSICAL parade of some of the best-loved rock musical songs on Broadway and in the West End is set to take centre stage at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPaC).

“It is the rock musical concert for those who enjoy rock ‘n’ roll, youthful exuberance, chart-busting hits that roar, soothing rock ballads, Motown songs and contemporary rock music,” says artistic director Pun Kai Loon of Rocking Broadway.

The Dama Asia showcase is touted as the first rock musical concert of its kind for Malaysian theatre.

The music theatre company has made its name over the past 26 years for staging big-stage entertainment, including Empress Wu The Musical, The Moon Speaks For My Heart, I Have A Date With Spring and Butterfly Lovers.

It says volumes for the company to be able to stage sold-out shows since its humble start as a Chinese classical instrumental ensemble.

“Funding is always a problem for the arts community, and more so given the current economic slowdown, but there have been some policy initiatives undertaken by the authorities to address issues and concerns facing the industry.

“The arts community has long been in dire need of constructive interaction and conversation with policy-makers. As such, the recent initiatives to bridge the divide between the public sector and the theatre fraternity are positive developments. To this extent, the recent establishment of the Cultural Economy Development Agency (Cendana) is timely to help foster the development of the arts.

“We hope that the dialogue and process will continue and lead to further concrete policy measures for the performing arts industry. As it is, the current arts scene is rather fragmented as practising organisations and individuals struggle to subsist on their own,” says Pun.

Malaysia does not lack talent or craftsmen, but what we are sadly lacking is a comprehensive and effective master plan for the development of the performing arts, he adds.

“It would be a boost for us in the theatre fraternity if concrete action plans can be instituted within a comprehensive tripartite approach, where the private corporate sector can be encouraged or incentivised to play their part in helping to cultivate, nurture and develop the performing arts industry. At the moment, contribution to arts development is also relatively weak.

“The recent setup of ReformARTsi, a coalition of Malaysian artistes and arts organisations, is positive for the arts scene. With its goal of promoting and advancing performing arts further, it would be constructive indeed if there could be greater engagement with the coalition in future policy discussions on the performing arts industry.”

That said, Dama Asia has been building its talent base with its young artiste training programme, some of whom are in Rocking Broadway.

A stalwart of Dama is Penang native Tan Soo Suan. “It is a new adventure and discovery for me to explore rock musicals. I got the chance to understand the history and I love it very much. The hardest part would be the vocal need for strong belting. We are working on it to cope with the challenges.

“The easiest part would be having a wonderful young vibrant cast to be on

the stage with me. It just makes me feel younger,” says the 42-year-old trained soprano.

The award-winning vocalist and resident singer with Dama Asia says the different techniques in producing the tonality and voice quality for rock songs is a real challenge, apart from “learning those songs that I have not heard before”.

That said, Tan feels “some Malaysian audiences, I think, would be just like me. This musical concert will be a discovery of the history of rock musicals.

“There will be a parade of different musicality and voice tonality offered by my fellow cast members. For those coming, be ready to sing, clap, move your bodies with us.”

Other cast members include Freida Ooi, Iz Sulaini (Khairullah Ezuan Sulaini), Michelle Tan, Pryanka Rasa, Izen Kong, Imran Rauf and Nabilah Hamid.

Iz Sulaini says working with Dama Asia is a dream come true. The singer-composer and actor says he had to turn down other offers to devote rehearsal time for Rocking Broadway. However, the 36-year-old managed to squeeze in Magical Movie Moments II with the KLPaC orchestra in mid-October.

The One In A Million Season 2 contestant feels the dance choreography will be challenging as “I am not a naturally strong dancer”.

Pun says Rocking Broadway, produced by Dama’s Khor Seng Chew, will be as tribally loving as Let The Sunshine In and Aquarius (Hair); as feminist as I Hate Myself For Loving You (Rock Of Ages); as in-your-face as Tear Me Down (Hedwig And The Angry Inch); as headstrong as We Will Rock You (We Will Rock You); as greasy and cheesy as Summer Nights (Grease); as balladly beautiful as Don’t Cry For Me Argentina (Evita); and as familial entertaining as Stick It To The Man (School Of Rock), and more.

It promises to rock your world!