Words and photos by Nazreen Tajul Arif
If they say that laughter is the best medicine, then I was certainly cured of my fever after watching LAT: Kampung Boy The Musical (Sebuah Muzikal) recently.
From the use of animation of the famous Lat cartoon of himself (it’s so well-known that no introduction is needed of who it was), the endearing representations of the cartoonist from a little ‘kampung’ boy to a famous towner, down to the haunting yet melodious live orchestra behind the curtains – the musical has certainly surpassed my expectations.
Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid, fondly known as Lat, has become a household name, synonymous with his no-nonsense, often whimsical cartoon depiction of the way Malaysians live.
Little Daniel Shazique Eezkandar, who played the young Lat, a cute and cheeky yet sweet character, who often seeks solace in his cartoons and drawings.
He found his hero in his father (Jalil Hamid) – a John Wayne fanatic – who often told him in the Perak slang that “bughuk ghupa kalau lelaki nangis” (it’s hideous if a guy cries). To put it simply, he wanted Lat to persevere and toughen himself up, even though people criticised him over his penchant for cartoons.
The jokes were at times hillarious, punch lines were delivered on time albeit a few hiccups – Awie, as adult Lat even sneezed and commented on the extras’ inter frame while he was delivering his lines. But it all made Lat: Kampung Boy the Musical amusing. My friend, Nurul Izatuleffa, who was a first-time theatre/musical attendee, found that she could relate to Mrs Hew (Sandra Sodhy), Lat’s English teacher the most.
And no, not because of the beehive hair-do that the character sports, which by the way has become an icon of some sort as the audience identified with the style; but it was because of her LWYD and DWYL philosophy.
Short for ‘Love What You Do’ and ‘Do What You Love’.
Lat was played superbly by Awie, who channelled him down to the T; even the curly wig seemed to suit him perfectly well. Being a rock star, there were no complaints in the voice department. The songs were flawlessly delivered by the orchestra directed by local jazz legend Michael Veerapan. Even when he was attached with the crime desk at the NST, under the glare and watchful eyes of Pak Samad (Tan Sri A. Samad Ismail, played by Omar Abdullah), Lat just couldn’t get his knack of scrawlings and doodlings off of him; he is and always will be a cartoonist at heart.
Atilia Raja Harun was cast as Faezah, or Fae’, the groovy chick who played hard to get in the beginning of their courtship – only to fall for Lat after realising he was from the same ‘kampung’ as she was. As fun as it was to see the talented singer becomes an actress, her character could do with a bit more ‘flavour’, not just as a stay-at-home, neglected wife of Lat after he became famous.
After all, women have became empowered even in those days – just look at Mrs Hew.
The comic relief (well, sort of), came in the form of Douglas Lim, who played Frankie, Lat’s school friend whom he met time and again – even in the cold, snowy London and then back while queing for cendol in Kuala Lumpur. A once ‘kacang lupakan kulit’ (one who forgets one’s roots and background) guy, Frankie came back to the country to live his life like a true Malaysian.
Even forging his way out of paying for his meals.
Lat: Budak Kampung The Musical certainly reminded me of my own ‘kampung’ – I’ll make sure I’ll pay a visit to it more often now.
Produced by Tall Order Production, collaborating with the Malaysian National Institute of Translation and the Information, Communication and Culture Ministry, Lat: Budak Kampung The Musical is on at Istana Budaya until 5 April 2011, with shows at 8.30pm (weekdays) and 3.00pm and 8.30pm (weekends).
For tickets, call 03-41498600 or go online at www.ticket2u.