Laskar Pelangi (The Rainbow Troops), The Musical, recently staged at Esplanade – Theatres On The Bay, is an Indonesian musical performance based on a novel written by Andrea Hirata (who was present at the musical). Laskar Pelangi is a story inspired by true events in the village of Kampong Gantong, Belitung Island, Indonesia set in the 80’s whereby the island used to be one of the richest islands in Indonesia – home to tin mining. The islands’ inhabitants who mostly worked as coolies, believed that they wouldn’t be able to change their fates, nor their childrens’ , even when a school, SD Muhammadiyah, was opened.
The musical performance started with Ikal’s homecoming, one of the Laskar Pelangi, who had returned to his native island to meet his best friend, Lintang, as well as to pay tribute and remember his 8 other Laskar Pelangi and two teachers, Muslimah and Harfan.
Carrying the branding of Laskar Pelangi, the book has since been turned into an award-winning movie and now, a musical, and was definitely one out to impress the Singapore audience.
From the onset, I was impressed with the sets that the production crew had built. It was grandiose and it gave a good representation of what life was like in Kampong Gantong many years ago. However, with many scene changes taking place throughout the entire musical, I began to find it a little bit distracting that the sets had to keep changing and with each set change, lights had to be dimmed and the scene changes took between 2 – 3 minutes each. With a performance of 18 scenes, much time was wasted on the scene changes. I hope that perhaps the design of the set could be better utilised to cut down on scene changes.
The musical ensemble that performed on that night that I watched, 1st October 2011, was extremely stellar as I didn’t detect any errors, if there were any, in the music that they were playing. It sounded exactly as how I’ve listened to many times over, having listened to the musical soundtrack previously. The entire cast was also extremely in tune with their energy and I was very much impressed with the young cast that was performing as they belted out their vocals to each and every single tune with pride and gusto and emotion. The performer that impressed me most was David Samuel. P, who was playing the Harun character, the big boy who’s slow with his movements. Given the challenge he had to play that character of a boy who suffers from a certain deficiency, he definitely impressed me most as he couldn’t show as much emotion or energy as the rest of the cast.
There were, but several minor technical errors during the entire performance. They weren’t negating factors but perhaps showed a lack of communication between the production crew and the crew that was managing the lights and sound. There were two occasions when the microphones of the performers were turned on a bit late and there was one occasion when either the light plotting wasn’t rectified or the plotting of the set was wrong because light was shining behind the set when it should have been focused on the entire cast which was seated on the set. This was for the scene when Muslimah was reading out the letter Lintang had written to his schoolmates.
I was also a tad disappointed that the musical didn’t allow room for more dialogue as I felt that dialogue would have been able to deliver certain scenes better. The transition from scene to scene was a tad too abrupt for me as there wasn’t much break from the music except for a few scenes.
Nonetheless, I was extremely impressed by the Indonesian spirit in the theatre, clearly felt around me as most of the audience were Indonesians. Indonesia Raya indeed! I cried watching the musical as I related some of the scenes and also the ‘never give up’ attitude that Harfan taught his students as it reminded me a lot of my father who coincidentally is also Indonesian, and came from an extremely poor family but has since built his own success story from owning nothing other than the clothes on him in the past to being able to provide homes for people who need one.
I definitely look forward to seeing more of such performances from Indonesia and clearly, the musical theatre there is still at is nascent stage and perhaps would be a great idea and time for me to make my move there.