I bought my tickets in July. I’ll do the math for you – that is almost 3 months prior to the play, and the best seat I could get for TWO people, was row S - the last row - of the section right in front of the stage. I was quite bummed, BUT an incident that lasted for les than a minute made up for it, because had I not sat at that last row, I wouldn’t have been able to catch a glimpse of Nicholas Saputra walking back to his seat during the intermission. He oozed heat (read: hot). My sister and I were staring, admiring the great view, gasping with eyes wide open and dropped jaw like bloody fools. And I think the sound controller guys whose station was behind our seats and just in front of Nicholas’s seat, thought we were admiring them. No, Sir, sorry. Next to Nicholas Saputra you’re pretty much not there at all, but fear not, because with Kucai on stage, even Nicholas Saputra was pretty much not there either. Yes, the play was THAT good.
Soon after the lights were dimmed, I saw this little stick moving up and down below the stage. I figured, Erwin Gutawa (and his baton). He captivated the audience with the tense and dramatic music, you know, strings – woodwinds – brass – percussion the whole shebang, I mean – obviously I am no music expert so no, I won’t try to be a smart ass and comment about the music. However I will tell you this, Erwin Gutawa was responsible for the first of many – many chills on my spine that night. Not only because it sounded beautiful but also because I had a lot to take in and the Great Gutawa with his orchestra got me all geared up and gave me that slap with his music as if saying “yes - this is happening, yes - in a matter of seconds your long wait will be over, you will be watching Laskar Pelangi the Musical, but no - you’re not in Indoland, this is no Taman Ismail Marzuki, look around, this is the Esplanade and this, will be, Legendary”.
Then the curtains open. My eyes welled up – already. The group of Mining labours opened the show with the track that reminds me most of the play, one that I play in my head when I reminisce about the play “Hoi! Hoi! Hoi! Hoi! Hoi! Hoi!…” But my favourite scenes will have to be the class election and Lintang’s farewell scene. The casts were amazing. Those kids, dear god, they sang and dance and act all at the same time (LIVE - mind you), like they’ve been doing this since before they were in their mother’s womb. Just a word of advice, since you kids dance, sing and act so well, please for goodness’ sakes, do not even consider thinking about making a boyband – I mean, seriously.
The stage transformations throughout the performance were so effortless. There were the hills, the ‘lopsided’ school, the mining site, the market, the more modern school, and then there were the sets for scenes like the carnival and the scholastic championship. I’m pretty sure I’m missing some but my point is, all these scenes were changing flawlessly. Ok one of the hills got stuck for like 2 seconds, but that was all I noticed. I especially love the earthy tone of the whole play from beginning to end. Everything and everyone on stage were in earthy tone – except for A Ling who was in striking red - but despite the humble colour palate of the stage, the whole play was still very much vibrant thanks to the choreography, the music and the remarkable vocals.
The Choreography has got to be the one aspect that impressed me most that evening. The routine was so well done, it reminded me of raw nature, a chaos that makes sense, an artistic mess. It was not trying too hard to impress in order to stay true to reality. The props they used were so adorable, my favourite has to be the long grass the female villagers carried and was up almost to the stage’s ceiling. Even something as simple as checkered sarongs were such nice addition to one of their routines. J’adore.
Excuse the quality, but with some extra powerful vision, this image actually shows the Creative Team members. The gods and goddesses of the play.
At the far right, in black unbuttoned shirt, waving his right hand, is Erwin Gutawa, who before this was just a flying baton below the stage.
Then there is Mira Lesmana in bright blue, smiling proud and clapping, and I just noticed is barefoot. She is the Producer, Scriptwriter and Lyricist. Need, I, say, more?
A little further to Mira’s right is her partner in crime, Riri Riza, the Director. He’s the one in white looking back.
The one in unbuttoned blue shirt and a hat, is Toto Arto, also the Producer
The tiny lady in black baju kurung is Hartati, the Choreographer. A job well done, Madam - really.
Finally! The one in black and denim pants, with lean legs and for some reason well-moisturised hair, is Jay Subyakto, the Production Designer (any tips you can share, Sir? Beautiful hair you have there). Last year he and Toto Arto were actually presenting another production at the Esplanade called “Matah Ati”, how I missed that is just beyond me, I still kick myself thinking about it.
The play was actually a part of Esplanade’s annual event called “Malay Arts Festival” which could be misleading as people may easily assume – if they don’t pay much attention – that the play was a Malay local production or (God forbid) a Malaysian production. So maybe that’s one of the reasons why at the end of the play, when the whole cast along with the play’s creative team were giving their salute to the audience who were standing up, clapping and soaring, a big red-white banner was pulled down for display and some of the casts put up their hands aiming to the banner. It was the perfect final touch to the play. It was as if the people on stage were telling the audience that the main reason to their standing on that stage was to have that banner down for everyone to see. No stars, no crescent moon, no stripes, just the plain ol’ red and white.
Before the play I had my worries considering the ticket price that was much cheaper than when it was shown in Jakarta, then they were doing auditions in Singapore, then I read the article on ‘Hey Diaspora’ about absence of goats, I was worried of that possibility that I might not be getting the exact same show that was in Taman Ismail Marzuki. But believe it or not, until this very second I still cannot figure out when in the play was I supposed to see any goats? I can kind of spot the people they auditioned in Singapore, but it didn’t take away any points. Most of all – and this is major – I completely forgot I was expecting Dira Sugandi to play Ibu Mus as it was Eka Deli, but I’ll say this much, she did just as mean a performance as I had expected from Dira Sugandi. Heck, I even forgot I spent a whole 150 minutes sitting not just in the same room, but just approximately 4 meters away from Nicholas Saputra (…teteup…)
It was such an amazing experience to have been so impressed by Musikal Laskar Pelangi. It was an honor just to be in the presence of those artists who seem to exhale Talent. And to have fallen that much deeper in love with my country was, in lack of better words, inspiring.