When I heard of this project for the first time, it was through the comedian Kuah Jenhan of the Malaysia Association of Chinese Comedians fame. He was co-writing the musical with Harith Iskander. I was tempted to see it because I have grown up with Lat's comics like I did with Dandy and Beano, both British comics of old which I was told is his influences. I was expecting to see the story which I have seen in this comic comes to life.
Lat, the Kampung Boy - The Musical is what I expect it to be and a bit more. It did bringing the character of Lat and other characters, which I have read in the comics more than 30 years ago, to life and it also tell the personal story of Datuk Mohamad Nor Khalid. So, it has to tell the story which you expect to see and then wham!, it hits you with another side of the cartoonist.
The characters can be seen at two places when you enter Istana Budaya, the place they are staging the show. It is in every nooks and crannies of Istana Budaya lobby. The father, the mother, the school, the kampung house and a few scenes which will make you just want to snap a few pictures, like so many fans did. The cartoon is also used on the set but not that many of them (which is a shame). Then you will see the characters being embodied by the actors on stage. It is surreal up to a certain point.
I love the cast. Awie is great as an adult Lat. The kid who played Lat when he was in his kampung, Kota Baru and then in Ipoh, both in Perak. Frankie was there when he made the transitions from his tin mine laden (where monster lives!) kampung to the town where he learned about his musical inclination. Atilia, whom I always love hear her sings, is great as his wife, Pae, short for Faezah.
My only complain is the timing. Either they didn't planned it well or there are too many sets for them to manage. It started a bit late (at 8.40pm), has a 1 hour and 30 minutes of 1st Act, has a 20 minutes interval (which I personally think is too long) and then a 1 hour 2nd Act. I was already bored by the 2nd Act as I am not watching the cartoon anymore but the real life of the persons (Datuk Lat and his wife were there on that third night) who were actually sitting 3 rows in front of us. It is not that the musical is bad or the acting is bad, mind you, but it did feel a bit dragging in a bit.
I consider Douglas Lim is the saving factor which brings comic relief whenever he is on stage as the adult Frankie. He did put in a few snide remarks with reference to politics and will be familiar for those who have seen his stand-up comedy before.
However, as a musical goes, it is well executed and the sets are amazing. At the end of it, I know more of Lat than I have known before and I am amazed how someone from a rural kampung in Perak can be as popular of him. I consider him to be brave enough to allow his name to be used as he is still alive and well (some of the musical did touch on his characteristic and some conflicts in his life). And the merchandising is great. I even get myself a t-shirt which I consider to be cheap.
Go watch this musical which is still being staged until 5th April 2011. Experience Lat, the Kampung Boy and know the story of this national treasure.