The Girl From Ipoh – Looked like tasty hor fun, but not quite…

“Doncha wish your hor fun was smooth like me,
Doncha wish your ngar choy was fresh like me,

Sang the all-girl LiT performers, half of what made up Low Ngai Yuen’s The Girl From Ipoh musical drama, which was performed from the 9th – 13th November 2005. I happened to catch the performance on the final night with my boo, parents and brother Vince + girlfriend Jo. Pentas 1 of KLPAC was packed. I wondered if it was the strength of the play or the attraction of the gorgeous Carmen Soo who brought in the eager numbers. Joanne Kam Poh Poh and former Miss Malaysia Elaine Daly were amongst the audience.

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The girlies from LiT opened with a medley, polished but perhaps slightly over-amplified over the sound system before Carmen appeared as Wong Mei Lee – a not-quite-Chinese Chinese girl from Ipoh. Her story began oddly enough, with her mention of sexual harrassment and abuse from her primary school teacher. Yes, the dude with the big black hose.

Fast-forward some years, Mei Lee assumes her identity as Hollie, the banana, as Malaysians would call it. Westernised Chinese. White on the inside, yellow on the outside. Daughter of a hor hee (noodles) seller, Hollie later uproots to the big city of Kuala Lumpur to further her studies. This is where her real adventure begins, her search for identity and true love. And her thoughts and dreams vivid in her mind are exposed through music and different characters and her love interests played by Tony Eusoff and Season Chee.

I wouldn’t even attempt to write a real review, which you can probably read off; or perhaps catch the sypnosis here. But at the interval, I had already felt a tad disappointed and somewhat annoyed. No doubt there were flashes of brilliance with Swee Keong who played Hollie’s father and the comical Tony, who played several characters. Sadly, I felt, there was an over-use of LiT. Musical sequences were too long and draggy. Instead of being highlights, they competed for attention with the main cast and actor, interrupting the flow of the story even more. Ultimately, it became boring. Is it a musical? Is it a drama? Is it both?

The singing was above average (being a LiT fan, I’ve to say I’ve seen better from them) but overall distracted the main story, which didn’t quite come together well in the end. An interesting concept really, the whole play revolving around her thoughts, the music in her head, her search for love and identity. But in the end fell short where execution was concerned.

But I have to say it again, Swee Keong stole the show. His intensity was genuine and real. And Tony, without being biased, provided the laughs, despite his brief 15-minute appearance. Carmen, played her sweet, naive role well, although can’t be described as brilliant.

In the end, The Girl From Ipoh, despite its many flaws, was still entertaining in a feel-good sort of way. It was funny and lightheaded in spurts and provided some drama as well. Could have been a whole lot worse, in Pygmalion proportions! Didn’t think it deserved the standing ovation that some quarters showed it after the encore, but not too shabby an effort.


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