At first glance, the exterior of the auditorium is gorgeous, with LED lights and porcelain tiles laid to resemble waves or scales. No doubt a reference to its location next to the Straits of Melaka! Upon stepping into the cavernous auditorium, my jaw dropped a little at the sheer size of it. Up to 2,000 people can be seated on the platform that rotates 360 degrees.
For that matter, as the scenes played out and changed before our eyes, it felt as if the stage was revolving. But it was actually us, the audience, that was moving. The platform circles around so smoothly, it’s not noticeable unless you’re very prone to motion sickness.
As the lights shining down on us dimmed and the stage came alive, I couldn’t have been the only one whose heartbeat quickened with anticipation.
Beginning with the founding of Melaka by Parameswara, Encore Melaka takes audiences through time to the arrival of Cheng Ho and how it came to be a melting pot of cultures. The narration is in three languages: English, Bahasa Malaysia, and Chinese. With only 70 minutes to cover Melaka’s rich historical background, it’s a whirlwind feast for the eyes and ears.
The best bits are presented first. Cheng Ho’s voyage is fleshed out through visually-projected ships and the rousing beat of traditional drums. As part of his entourage sets down roots in their new home, audiences ‘leap’ ahead through time to the matrimonial rites of their Baba Nyonya descendants. The chair dance of the Nyonya maidens, dressed in brightly-coloured kebaya, is especially delightful to watch.
Some parts of the storyline does venture into melodramatic territory and the flow could be improved. But just when things seem to veer off track, the dancers launch into a mesmerising dance that mimics the fluidity of water.
You’ll Enjoy It If…
You like cultural performances, musicals, light and sound extravaganzas, or you’ve got a soft spot for Melaka. Young kids may get fidgety towards the second half if they’re not into the arts. But you never know, this could be the defining experience that sparks in them a love of stage performances.
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