This week, Liver & Lung, the award-winning musical theatre company behind Sepet The Musical have announced a brand new musical adaptation of the legend of the Pontianak for 2023.
Set in colonial Malaya, Melur The Musical is the spell-binding story of two women, Melur and Cempaka, as they navigate British rule. Things take a cruel turn when Cempaka's husband, a British-born general in the East India Company, commits a murderous crime and the characters experience the wrath of a supernatural creature, now a blood thirsty Pontianak determined for revenge.
Earlier this year, Liver & Lung was one of twenty companies to receive the BOH Cameronian Grant for New Productions. As a result, Melur The Musical is set to premiere at PJPAC in early 2023. The production pays tribute to two of Malaysia's most terrifying stories. The first is the Pontianak but the second is a secret that the Liver & Lung creators are still keeping to themselves.
"I love horror. There is something really unique about it as a genre because it reveals a lot about how a society feels, what it desires and, of course, what it's afraid of," Shafeeq comments. "It's especially interesting that Malaysian cinephiles have always been drawn to the genre. I think it says a lot about who we are."
The musical draws on local influences but aims to contemporize them for modern audiences, a now common theme in Liver & Lung productions.
"With long, jet black hair and sharp nails, the Pontianak is not the vibrant, pregnant woman she once was. Instead, she is a demonic force of nature that forces us to challenge societal notions of femininity and motherhood," Shafeeq adds. "My mother told me the story of the Pontianak and in many ways this musical is dedicated to her and all of the South East Asian stories she brought me up with."
Also, for the first time ever, Liver & Lung is opening its doors and auditioning up-and-coming Malaysian singers, actors and creatives to work on the production.
"The Pontianak is one of South East Asia's most terrifying legends and I am so excited to bring it to life on stage. Audiences should expect a fully immersive experience with haunting original music and a set that will transport them to a yesteryear that we have all forgotten," Shafeeq writes. "We're going all out."
This would not be the first time Liver & Lung has produced a period musical. In 2019, the company launched the critically acclaimed Malaya Relived trilogy, a series of musicals retelling critical cornerstones in Malayan history. The trilogy won them two BOH Cameronian Arts Awards, including Best Performance and Best Supporting Performance.
Melur The Musical will feature original music and lyrics, inspired by traditional Malay folk songs and horror influences across generations. Shafeeq will compose the musical with frequent collaborators: Badrish, co-composer of Sepet The Musical, Irena Taib, musician in local indie-band The Impatient Sisters and Vasiliks Konstantinides, Cypriot musician and accompanist. The musical will be produced by Su En Hoh.
While no ticket information has been released, audiences may follow Liver & Lung's Instagram account and subscribe to its YouTube channel to keep updated.