Experience the untold stories at Encore Melaka

Last June, I received an invitation to the grand launch of Encore Melaka, planned to happen on July 7, 2018.

Spot mum and Pearly walking towards the theatre!
The exciting spiel on the invitation read: “We are honoured to invite you to experience the untold stories of Melaka at Southeast Asia’s first 360-degree rotating audience auditorium, directed by the creative force behind the 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony.”

It continued: “Using state of the art technology, combined with contemporary choreography and delivery, Encore Melaka is a show that’s unlike any other.”

While I was thrilled by the prospect of a local theatre performance, presented on such a grand scale, it was regrettable that I had to decline and forgo this invitation.

That was because I was working within a tight schedule on my book project for My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, the sequel to My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.

The elegant Nyonya performing a graceful synchronized dance 
I was rather sad to give Encore Melaka a miss but this show was not far from my thoughts because I’ve always appreciated theatre shows – especially musicals – and never failed to take in a show or two when I was in the UK.

In recent trips, my sister, Pearly, arranged for us to catch Top Hat, a musical that was presented in another town – outside of London, and I cannot forget the fun we had (as my birthday treat!) when she also arranged for us to enjoy, Motown, an amazingly entertaining show that featured the music of Berry Gordy.

The cast with the Baba and Nyonya wedding couple moving in an undulating wave dance
In October 2018 after my manuscript was submitted to the publisher, I was then able to accept an invitation to attend the Gala Dinner to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the art of the 24 Festive Drums in Kuala Lumpur.

Narration was provided in three languages:
Malay, English and Mandarin
At the dinner, I happened to be seated next to Aman Yap of Dua Dance Theatre and Anthony Meh, Artistic Group Director of Encore Melaka.

Anthony, who is a Johorean, introduced me the General Manager of Encore Melaka, Long Tyan Poh.

In the course of our conversation, I told them about the invitation I had received to the launch of Encore Melaka (which I had no alternative but to decline) and how keen I was to catch this show.

I did not need any persuasion to watch this spectacular show because I already had plans to make the 2-hour drive from Johor Baru to Melaka (and back!) just to enjoy this show.

Then out of the blue, Aunty Polly sent me a promotional video clip on Encore Melaka and it rekindled my interest for this show.

A water scene with showers falling from the ceiling!
So when Pearly shared her travel plans from the UK to KL and JB over the Lunar New Year season, it was just the impetus I needed to make ticket reservations to watch Encore Melaka with her.

An online check revealed that there were two shows on Sunday so my choice was the 2.30pm matinee, for a comfortable drive to and from Melaka in a day trip from JB.

Online info also revealed that Encore Melaka has partnerships with travel agents for hotel packages that included show tickets at special rates.

Another water scene with dancers splashing in the water
It was a quick and painless process to make my reservations through a travel agent and once payment was made, I received my receipt and e-voucher as attachments by email.

So all I needed to do was to show my e-voucher to receive my tickets at the counter.

While making the reservations, I had already considered the facilities for wheelchair access and expected a fair walking distance for mum, to the Premium Seats.

The drive from JB on that clear Sunday morning was smooth and uneventful. Closer to Ayer Keroh, our navigator – Ruby, our eldest sister – turned on her map to guide us to the theatre site.

It was no easy feat to dance in the water
From the Plus Highway, the route took us into dual-carriageways and onto secondary roads that bordered traditional kampungs before we reached newly developed areas where modern shops lined the roads.

Not only the road names were unfamiliar but the entire area was brand new because it was part of the reclaimed land off the Melaka coast.

We followed the map and ventured on and on until there were no more buildings around except new roads and flat land as far as the eye could see…

“Follow the route,” the lady’s voice from the phone instructed and Ruby responded with disbelief as she turned the phone to show me that the screen was blank except for a spot in its center!

This was such a new and unchartered area that even the satellite map was not updated yet!

From online photos, I had an idea of how the theatre fa├žade looked like so we scanned the horizon for a boxy-looking building and just followed the road, trusting our instincts to take us onward.

Special smoke effects...
I was glad that it was broad daylight and we had many pairs of eyes to help find our way to this building.

Just as I thought, there was a separate multi-storey building for parking so before I turned up the ramp, I dropped mum and my sisters and let them take a slow walk to the theatre entrance.

When I walked over to the entrance, I noticed that the weather was turning cloudy and hinted of impending rain.

I was greeted by a staff member (he was wearing a T-shirt with the Encore Melaka logo and nametag that read, Raymond) who welcomed me and asked if I needed help with tickets.

Thinking about the changing weather, I instead asked him if they have an “Umbrella Service” because there was a stretch of open space between the carpark and the theatre and he replied in the affirmative, saying that they do have a “Rain Team.”

Dancers bearing lighted lanterns, move into the audience
I also told him that I have my e-voucher for tickets and when he spotted mum using a walking stick and escorted by my sisters, he asked where I had parked my car.

When I told him I parked in the multi-storey carpark, he radioed a colleague to take note of my car registration number and to permit me to park in the area reserved for people with disabilities.

He then gave me directions to exit the multi-storey carpark into this parking area where a guard opened the barrier for me to enter and park on road level, closer to the theatre entrance.

With the parking sorted out, I went to the ticketing counter to show them my e-voucher to redeem our tickets while my sisters and mum went to browse around in the theatre souvenir shop.

Then it was time to enter the theatre. I could not wait to enjoy the show by 200 local performers on a 240-meter long stage with a 360-degree rotating audience platform…

The grand finale on stage was also projected onto the wide screen
The staff on hand were welcoming and conscientious as they escorted us up the flight of steps to our seats which enjoyed a panoramic view of the stage.

I’m familiar with theatre rules and no-flash photography but just to be sure, I approached a staff to ask if photography was allowed and she replied, “Yes,” but no flash.

A flyer, handed out with our tickets, provided a synopsis of the show that had seven scenes. I took time to read it to mum so that she had an idea of what would be happening in the non-stop 70-minute show.

From the legendary founding of Melaka by Parameswara, the prince from Sumatra, the arrival of the Chinese fleet led by Admiral Cheng Ho, where many Chinese seafarers settled down with Malay wives in Melaka and the start of the Baba Nyonya heritage here, the scenes showcased colourful dance and choreography in the dramatization of the untold Melaka stories.

Mum, my sisters and I with the Baba and Nyonya wedding couple and some of the cast of Encore Melaka
After the usual announcements before the show started, we watched as the backdrop to the wide stage moved and closed to form a wide screen.

It was simply mind-boggling to watch how the ingenuity of modern technology had created multiple built-in hydraulic stages where the audience could watch various scenes happening on multi-level stages – all at the same time!

We agreed that one of the most mesmerizing parts of the performance must be the “water scenes” and Ruby even admitted that she was so enthralled that she forgot about using her camera!

Meanwhile, mum and Pearly were also impressed by the graceful synchronized dance choreography by the elegant Nyonyas.

The story-telling was in three languages: Malay, English and Mandarin and when the actor on the stage spoke in one language, subtitles were provided in two languages on the screen.

As for me, I expected a bit more from the entire show but Encore Melaka was indeed a commendable performance and we all agreed that it was a well-worth trip.

The grand finale brought the show to a close and after the show, groups of the cast were assembled in various lobbies for the audience to capture photo mementoes with them.

For more info about Encore Melaka, Tel: +606-2707777 or visit website: www.encore-melaka.com

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