A few years ago, I attended a concert performance at Istana Budaya and the experience left me making a mental note not to return to the venue as the seat was so uncomfortable. The seat was hard and too close to the front leaving me, an average height person, with hardly any room to position myself comfortably for 2+ hours.
More than 6 years later and I was back at Istana Budaya at the invitation of Enfiniti Vision Media to watch a matinee of “The Secret Life Of Nora”. Although I dreaded having to be cramped into those seats again, I was optimistic about the musical since it’s Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina’s latest project and the lady is a perfectionist.
It’s no secret now that the story is about two unlikely people who find themselves bound together by a mission to eradicate the threat of an evil operation, it’s part James Bond and part Austin Powers. Nora, the popular and protected prima donna is trained by Roger Foss, suave British secret agent, to become the spy organization’s latest recruit under initially false pretenses.
This is Malaysia’s first bilingual musical and has a stellar cast headed by Tiara Jacquelina in the lead role of Nora and Ryan Silverman as Roger Foss. Ryan Silverman played Raoul in The Phantom Of The Opera and Tony in West Side Story. Then there’s Adibah Noor as Nora’s manager, Stephanie Van Driesen (who played the lead role in Cabaret) as Betty and Aznil Hj. Nawawi as Mr. J, the arch villain.
Settled into my hard seat, the musical didn’t start at 3pm as people were still streaming in then. Just before it started, there was a gentle reminder to switch off all electronic devices and not to use cameras but that was lost on the photographers seated next to me and in front of me who were clicking away happily throughout the performance.
Throughout the entire 2.5 hours of the musical, I sat entranced and transfixed. The sets were lavish beyond description thanks to a “smart” set of six three-storey towers that were cleverly created to provide for every scene in the musical from Nora’s club to Mr. J’s club and laboratory to the jungle where Nora was undergoing physical training.
The lights on the set were spellbinding, the costumes were glitzy and glamorous, the dancing was well choreographed, there was great chemistry between Nora and Roger, the jokes were corny but occasionally funny, Tiara’s voice was in top form, the lines were witty, Aznil Hj. Nawawi fit the role perfectly. It was a visual feast in so many indescribable ways.
What else can top all that? Throw in some Cirque Du Soleil moves like aerial choreography, the lead actors being hoisted in mid-air while singing, mesmerising dance moves, an exotic albino python (wonder if it was also made up by M.A.C Cosmetics? Fascinating Eye Kohl perhaps?) and you’ve got all the right combination for a world class musical. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did and I’m so proud that it’s a home grown production.
It’s a musical about girl power and self-discovery. The spoilt and self-centred Nora became one tough cookie. The songs were enjoyable especially the original songs with humourous lyrics. Their version of Pink’s “Get This Party Started” and Britney’s “Toxic” were very well done. Altogether, it was fun, flirty and fantastic.
One more thing – how I coveted that ♥ shaped chair used by Mr. J. To be thoroughly entertained for almost 2.5 hours, now that’s one musical I would like to watch again tomorrow. If it wasn’t for the hard seat, I could have imagined myself at a West End theatre in London.
The Secret Life Of Nora plays for 15 evening shows and 6 matinee shows till 16 October and ticket prices are:-
– RM30 and RM50 for Upper Circle Seats
– RM110 and RM220 for Grand Circle Seats
– RM120, RM230 and RM350 for seats at the Stalls
Subtitles are available (in Malay/English) at either end of the stage but can be quite difficult to see depending on where you’re seated. To purchase tickets, log on to airasiaredtix.com, call 03-8775 4666 or visit Istana Budaya Box Office.