REFLECTIONS OF THE MAKING OF THE MCOBA ROYAL GALA 2005
By Hisham Badrul Hashim
AS I look for the umpteen time the MCOBA Royal Gala 2005 playbill and rewind the precious Concert DVD, I couldn't help displaying a smile on my face. Three months of practices, long hours of "5 minutes from the top", the antics, the drama and tribulations of the making of the Royal Gala keeps flashing like a berserk film reel of the Cinema club. And the ecstasy was heightened, as I kept reading the rave reviews by Syed Nazri in the NST, which I have kept ever since that day. Funny, I'm still reeling from post-concert blues which is a feeling every true Ballerz would wake up to on the morning after every MCOBA Concert. That mixed feeling of euphoria and sadness.
And the feeling is amplified this year; what with the grand success of it all, and the fact that it was THE MCOBA Royal Gala, which was significant in itself--since it marked the end of the year-long MCKK Centennial Celebrations. The sadness in anticipation of the prospect of missing all the fun and action at Penthouse, since hereafter. The satisfaction of doing it together with 50 odd people (I stress ODD people) was indeed an experience one hardly can forget. I suppose it was the bonding of people of different ages, backgrounds, and batches that made it a worthwhile effort for a Malay Collegian like us. There were people involved that were just "sperms in someone's balls" when I left College. I was enthralled by the fact that we had young talents that need not go to "Akademi Fantasia". I was enchanted by people like Kechoque, Hisham Jambu, Kichi, Doc, Joe , Concon and Mat Poen, who fulfilled their ambition to be "ladies" on that night and show their talents. I was aghast and appall by the sight of Jo in his leotards doing the cha-cha. I was amazed by Amrul who had to deliver the most lines and even salvaging Pak Nik's line. I was awed by the presence of veterans like Pak Nik, Abang Amin and Najib for being there to carry on the tradition. I was thrilled by the slapsticks of Najib and cameo appearance of Zin Dahari. It gave me great pleasure seeing Arida and son, Shafiq performing on stage together. I was awed for the courage of Zaim Al-Amin who had to endure his bereavement of the untimely demise of his beloved mother, a week before the performance. When I asked him whether he was up to it, his answer was, " let's finish off what we started". I was impressed by Latt Shariman who had to do many things at the same time. I was daunted by Redza and Rizal for taking up a speaking part. I was inundated by the meticulous antics of Radin, Kipaw and Mat Noor for making it possible to perform favorably. I shall always be fascinated by the antics of Isham Rais and Palo Rossi at every practice. I was amazed by the hardworking crew members like Shahroy, who commanded the light and sound. As for easy going Abang Man, what can I say--he managed to pull it through. Above all I admire the tenacity and persistence of Saleh and his deputy, Mael for putting it all together.
All in all, it was indeed a fitting climax to the year-long 100th anniversary celebrations of MCKK. We managed to put up a definitive and seamless eastern-western infusion Broadway-styled musical Bangsawan, tracing the story of MCKK throughout the ages and the evolution of the characteristic and values of the Malay race. The conceptualized historical play stems from the title " Selagi ada peredaran matahari, bulan dan bintang " ("for as long as the sun, moon and stars traversed the Heavens"). It was an extraordinary show put up by a group of amateurs who on that night became Rulers, Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, Khadams, Siamese, Mat-Salleh, singers, petite "ladies" dancers, Indians, Chinese, "pak pacaks" and musicians--and who in the day are financial consultants, engineers, bankers, event manager, architects, quantity surveyors, lawyers, teachers, medical and retail specialists or hold other regular and normal jobs.
The success of the show reflects the multitude of talents acquired at school that remain hidden, surfacing only on occasions like the Royal Gala Concert show. All of them were volunteers who "stopped volunteering once they volunteered"--it was all about commitment and doing their best. They believe in what they do and doing it well was what they did. Realism to the minute detail such as shaving chest hairs on the "dancers" chest and having that "cleavage" was the order of the day. The musical was directed by the multi-talented Dato’ Salehuddin Hashim , or fondly Saleh, a respected corporate troubleshooter. And troubleshooting was what he did from the word "GO". The organization was worthy of an orchestrated strategic corporate maneuver with all its planning, managing, reviewing, and implementation. In the end, the show was worth waiting and watching. It was very creative and well-orchestrated. The long hours of preparation, practice and effort poured out obviously do justice to time well-spent.
From what was written, it was truly a great concert... The best part was when Salleh “psycho” each and every one of us to give our best shot--with a week left for the Concert, with his infamous words "...We have a CONCERT". After all, the spirit of Bargreaves Ballers was strong – the long practices, the "cirit-birit otak " rumble in Janda Baik, the Ramadhan retreat to Port Dickson, the family picnic at Ombak, the final touch-up at MATIC, the dance routines, the blending of music and acting, the last minute sound checks and heartaches at KLCC, appreciation dinners, newspaper review and also calls and SMS messages of appreciation from peers and outsiders--an experience that NOT SO MANY people knows. The MCOBA Theatre Group, or Bargreaves Ballerz as we proudly call ourselves (inspired by the confusing calligraphic of Hargreaves Hall at MCKK), is a group meant to facilitate exchanges of ideas, scripts as well as information on logistics, and also to ensure all year-long camaraderie amongst the regular `amateur veterans' of the prestigious MCOBA Annual Dinner & Concerts. Though the namesake was quite recent, we have been around since 1991. This year marks the 15th Anniversary of our establishment and the launching of the official Bargreaves Ballerz Corporate Logo. We call ourselves a Bargreaves Ballerz, a member of the MCOBA Theatre Group. To some people, we are just the clowns who made possible all the MCOBA Concerts, but to MCOBA, we are their cultural arm. Nevertheless, most important to us, this is the closest thing to being a Budak Kolej again.Zaim Al-Amin subsequently wrote:
I share Hisham's inmost sentiments about this year's Concert. It could justifiably be known as the MOAC (Mother Of All Concerts). For someone who have been involved in almost all past Concerts (all but one), I can safely vouch that this year’s concert was the most special. I've been a Bangladeshi Worker, an Indian Government Officer, a Japanese Colonel (Sukamaki), a Lunatic, a fake Malay General (Hazami), a Malay Government Interviewer and others. But nothing beats this year's Typical Indian (Krishnan).
Perhaps it's the event in itself; being the curtain raiser for the MCKK 100 Year Celebrations. Perhaps it's the multiple Royal attendances. Perhaps it's the theme. Perhaps it's the huge (albeit initially spartan) ballroom. Perhaps it's the settings. Or perhaps it's the abundance of multi-talented cast this time around. Or perhaps it's the new Ballerz Logo (courtesy of Radin), or the new Ballerz T-Shirt (courtesy of Lord St. Bul), or perhaps it's the new Ballerz `Mawi' Cap (courtesy of S.A. Latt).
Or then again perhaps it's the sheer tradition of the Bargreaves Ballerz. The coming of age of a joyful spiritual group, consisting of men of different age and background, made common by each other's passionate commitment towards the MCOBA Concerts.
It's about the awesome sweeping power of our accumulated love for MCKK; of having shared the same balcony and common rooms, of trying to pay due homage to our beloved alma mater. In any little way we could. Of trying to be boys again. Even my wife and kids sensed it. That extra something; sometimes manifested in things like our Kopi Dangdut Dance done after each practice session at Penthouse. Or displayed in those exchanges between Lord St. Bul, Isham Rais and Rosli WooeR each time they crossed paths. Or on stage during the grand finale. Or on the dance floor after the Concert. At other times, you know it's just there.
That's why whenever the Ballerz get together, anyone could sense that this is a very special gathering. There's so much energy, the air seems to spark with electricity. We are all leaders in our own right, yet we all know when to work together under a common cause. That's the power of human synergy at its best. This year we even manage to form the Bargreaves Ballerz Futsal Team (Jerseys, Cheerleaders T-Shirts, and Red Bull courtesy of Lord St. Bul; 100-Plus courtesy of Shahroy), and we delivered a respectable performance during the MCOBA Futsal Tournament 2005, despite our lack of time to “java jive” and gel as a football team.
True, the concert can teach any young upstart the cardinal principles of event, financial, logistics and other management. What the people saw was a seamless, hilarious one hour Bangsawan performance. What they did not see is the hours of toil, sweat and countless other pains (Abang come, Adik also pain) that went with it.
Kudos due to Dato' Saleh who, as usual, had the answers to everything. And Abang Mail with his reliable efficiency that rivals that of the Germans. And of course, Abang Man who came despite looking like he needed to be warded for three weeks (he had fever, remember) and almost magically produced all the necessary “barco effects” and, later, the DVDs (rekod-rekod tak main la, oghe la ni dah pakai DVD).
And I always have admiration to people who had to brave against the logistics for their sheer determination and commitment: Najib `Jigger Jag' for coming all the way from Muar (todate, I can't really fathom how he did it, with the regularity of practice that we had); Abang Amin Al-Rashid coming all the way from Teluk Intan; Mat Poen all the way from Port Dickson; Amrul Hazarin all the way from Semenyih and of course, the champion this year is Arida & Sons (bunyi macam syarikat jual carpet kat Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman) who came all the way from Kuala Nerang, Kedah. I suspect that even if Kuala Nerang was flooded then, he would still have made it all the same.
And of course I admire Pak Nik, who tried his best to deliver his lines which was always funny in his unique ways. And each time he forgot, it became funnier. And my hats off to Amrul too, for swallowing up any lines given to him and reproducing them perfectly each and every single time like a faithful tape recorder. And Bro. Razak with his `buluh perindu' voice and funny antics and authentic Negeri Sembilan dialect.
And the dancers; I am still amazed each time I saw their perfect gyrations that would make any self-proclaimed transvestite cry with shame. Their dance routine did justice to the majestic performance. And of course, Lord St. Bul’s and Arida's singing were simply fantastic. And the band was simply marvelous; never missing a beat from beginning to end. And to think we worried about them during the earlier stage of rehearsals! Add all that to Rehman Rashid's emceeing. And of course, his now legendary rendition of the song Ampun Tuanku (sung to the tune of “New York, New York”). He looked as if he was fresh from Broadway!
And of course, to my fellow Malaysian Wong Ang Kut (semua mau angkut) and many times sparring partner, the very special Sdr. Hisham Badrul Hashim. Nobody came close to him: he's holding the record `sebagai orang yang paling banyak memegang rekod'. No, seriously, if MCKK or MCOBA should come up with a record book of sorts, he'd be holding the record as “The Old Boy In The Most MCOBA Committees”. Just take a look at the credits at the back of the MCKK Pictorial Book; his name is deservedly everywhere. And that is not counting the sub-sub Committees like Jawatankuasa Ehwal Senikata Untuk Skrip (JESUS), Jawatankuasa Induk Latihan Amali Teater (JILAT), Jawatankuasa Utama Brainstorming Untuk Rehearsal (JUBUR) and others. And he's also a very active member in the Bargreaves Ballerz egroups, and we wouldn't be very much the same without him. Just look in the e-group archives; after every Concert he'd come up with delicious reviews; not unlike the last one.
I believe we've received rave reviews and deserving accolades. This we got aplenty from the newspapers, the audience, batch-mates and in my case, colleagues (there are 5 MCOBs in Protank). And there are these people, who used to pass negative comments about past Concerts; this year they're jealously silent. I consider that as a compliment as well.
In retrospect, this year's Concert was perfect. Right from the earlier meetings, the Brainstorming at Janda Baik, the Practise Escapade and Sembahyang Terawih at Cape Ricardo in Port Dickson, and the Full Dress Rehearsal at the MATIC Auditorium. And of course, at the end of the day, even the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre spartan Grand Ballroom was transformed into a majestic Balai Rung Seri.
Looking at the Royal Guests was enough to gauge the success of the Concert. Their Majesties (with the exception of YDPB Negeri Sembilan) came in harboring doubts and suspicions about this whole Concert; what with all the royal decorations on stage. They'd be thinking in their royal minds: either this is another boring modern Bangsawan attempt or an Instant Café-like show full of innuendos and jokes done in bad taste. This was heavily reflected in their serious and sober mood during the early part of the evening.
Even during the first few lines, they maintained their composure; and there was static electricity in the air--as if a little bad joke could spark off something ugly. I must admit that I was a wee bit concerned--Hisham's lines and mine could do just that--our controversial and racially sensitive lines could light off an uncontrollable flare within Their Majesties' table.
But when Amhari Keng came in with his funny Siamese banter, and Kechoque & Gang performing their lovely dance, everything went fine, and the rest was, rightfully, history. Of course, kudos as well to Zulkipaw, Radin, Mon, Shahroy and rest of the stage and lighting crew for a job well done…as always. Like the band, they too did not miss a single beat.
I'd hate to miss out mentioning names, so I am listing hereunder the names of each and every single Bargreaves Ballerz who have made the MCOBA Royal Gala Bangsawan play what it was.
In appreciation of the MCOBA Royal Gala Concert participants:-
Dato' Salehuddin Hashim (Co-Producer, Stageplay Director)
Mohd Ismail Ibrahim (Co-Producer, Production Design/Publications)
Zulkifar Sulaiman (Technical Producer)
Tunku A'mash Tunku Adnan (Music & Entertainment Producer)
Ezani Abu Bakar (Music Director)
Radin Shamsulkamar (Facilities & F&B Director)
Azman Mohd Yusof (Audio Visual Director)
Hisham Badrul Hashim (Script Coordinator)
Nik Ahmad Azmi Nik Md Daud (Asistant Producer)
Hishamuddin Rais (Assistant Stageplay Director)
Salazmin Salam (Light & Sound Director)
Zaim Al-Amin (Casting Director)
Ahmad Mohd Noor (Logistics Director)
Rosli Mohd Ali (Sound Tech)
Shahrol Nizam Yusoff (Crew)
Mohd Rais Abdul Rahim (Crew)
Sharil Fariz (Crew)
Abdul Razak Khalidon (Tuanku)
Tunku Ahmad Burhanuddin (Tuanku)
Nik Adnan Omar (Tuanku)
Amrul Hazarin Hamidon (Tuanku)
Amin Al-Rashid Abdullah (Chief Khadam/Memanda/Tok Perdana)
Mohd Najib Salim (Assistant Khadam/Memanda/Tok Memanda)
Latt Shariman Abdullah (J.P Rogers)
Amhari Effendy Nazaruddin (Kundasik)
Ariff Adry Adnan (Sami Siam)
Muhammad Hafiz Othman (Siamese Dancer)
Shahril Shamsuddin (Siamese Dancer)
Hishamuddin Md. Noordin (Siamese Dancer)
Mohd Dzulfrizal Zulkapli (Raja Rezza)
Hisham Badrul Hashim (Wong Ang Kut)
Shahredza Minhat (Wong Keng Kang)
Zaim Al-Amin (Krishnan)
Shaiful Azhar Ahmad (Chris Ananda)
Nik Ahmad Azmi Nik Md Daud (Night Club Singer)
Dr. Mohazmi Mohamed (Cha Cha Dancer)
Mohd Hafiz Ismail (Cha Cha Dancer)
Azlanhazli Sanusi (Cha Cha Dancer)
Malek Maulud (Mama San)
Rashidi Aziz (Sheikh)
Zin Dahari Zainal Abidin (Ayah Pin)
Ezani Abu Bakar (Keyboard/Saxophone)
Dr. Hanis Ahmad (Saxophone)
Raja Shahruzzaman Sultan Idris (Bass/Vocals)
Ahmad Ridzuan Dahari (Guitar)
Saiful Tahir (Percussions)
Nazari Khalidun (Drum/Percussions)
Shamshui Amri Omar (Rebana Ubi/Guitar)
Mohd Nasir Ahmad (Tabla/African Drums/Conga)
Mohd Shafiq Ahmad Ridzuan (Violin)
Eizrel Arizan Salleh (Trumpet)
Raja Abdul Halim Raja Shah Kobat (Lead Guitar)
Raja Zailan Putra Azam (Vocalist)
Azhar Talib (Hulubalang)
Nor Azmi Ahmad (Hulubalang)
Numan Mohd Salleh (Hulubalang)
Mohd Yazli Rosli (Hulubalang)
Azri Azizi (Hulubalang)
Md Shazaril Zakaria (Hulubalang)
Stay tuned for the next Bargreaves Ballerz’s event…