This was my first time ever watching a musical in person and boy was I excited! Kindly take my review with a pinch of salt given my novice status in watching plays.
Upon arriving at the Petaling Jaya Performing Arts Centre (PJ PAC) last Friday night, I was greeted with a long line of people buzzing excitedly under their breath, waiting to enter the theatre to watch the much anticipated Fortune Kooky musical comedy. Doors were scheduled to open at 8.30pm, yet a long queue had already formed 30 minutes prior to that as it was free seating. Looking around, I could see people of all ages, from as young as 6 years old to much senior looking individuals. It’s beautiful to see how the art of theatre can bind everyone under a single roof to enjoy a night of laughs and entertainment.
Minutes passed, and we were finally let into the hall after a minor delay. Scrambling to find a good seat, I soon realised that there were some “frozen figures” on the side of the stairs. After settling in on the fourth row, my eyes scanned the stage area and I saw 2 more “frozen figures” at the edge of the stage! By frozen figures, I am referring to some of the main stars of the show, frozen in place, visible to the crowd. It was incredible. Not a single muscle of theirs was moving despite the chaos that ensued as the crowd entered the space.
The musical began at 8.50pm, with a loud, pre-recorded gong and some amazing live music. There was a small band of 5 musicians that played gorgeous tunes throughout the show. Seriously, I could not keep my eyes from constantly watching the skilful moves of each musician. Also, huge props go out to the insanely accurate timing of the composer. It was so smooth that you almost forget it’s being done live!
The opening number of the show was with a song that had a catchy chorus which goes “Give Me More Money…”. It appeared to be the main theme song for the entire musical, as this same song appears again at the very end of the musical and even during some tense and sad scenes with a more mellowed melody. As reported by Bandar Aktiviti Seni KL, over 12 original songs were written specifically for this musical and the creative team was extremely happy with the outcome of the songs.
In the opening number, we’re introduced to the main characters - Jared, Rachel, Jared’s mom, Jessica, Arvind, Denise and the God of Wealth/Ah Long played by the talented cast of Ronnie, Angie Cheah, Rachel Li, Lakshmi Ahrunagiry, Kirthana Kuhendran, Nikkhil and Alvin Looi respectively.
Fortune Kooky, directed by Nicole Ann Thomas, revolves around Jared and his mom who live a simple life with his mom’s humble Char Koay Teow hawker stall that has been the family’s bread and butter for years. Jared and his mom are constantly ridiculed by Jared’s haughty cousin, Jessica, who loves flaunting her wealth. Thus, we follow along in Jared’s trials and trepidation to provide a better life for his mother and girlfriend by trying to get rich with the invention of a stay-at-home fitness app dubbed “Portagym” alongside his buddy Arvind.
Jared and Arvind rack their brains, trying to think of the best way possible to get some funding for their idea. Alas, Arvind falls into the trap of borrowing cash from a loan-shark, providing everyone some short-lived happiness. Unfortunately, disaster strikes as some issues with low-quality equipment sparks lawsuits against their company causing Jared and Arvind to lose all their cash, leaving them both in distressed situations of their own. At this point, Arvind is in scalding hot water with the loan shark while Jared is seen drinking at a bar - reminiscing all his lost wealth and pondering his fight with Rachel. He had been rather distant with her since coming into some money and has broken his promises to her.
While Jared continues to wallow in sorrow, the God of Wealth, who has always been looking over him, appears and meets Jared face to face for the first time. He then offers some kind advice, helping Jared understand that money is not everything in life. Jared sobers up, apologises to Rachel and forms a plan to save Arvind from the conniving loan shark with the help of Denise.
All in all, it was an extremely engaging show due to the amazing music and singing. Everyone had such strong, beautiful voices and it truly kept the audience immersed. Jared was a likeable main character, with a sorry-like, helpless personality and a kind heart. He had powerful vocals and truly commanded the stage during his solos. Jessica was yet another scene-stealer! It’s definitely no easy feat coming up with a musical, what more to have a comedic element to it. I personally believe Jessica single-handedly made every one of us in the hall laugh at least once. She was definitely the star when it comes to ensuring comedy. Jessica also had a very commanding aura as she stepped on stage. All eyes were on her.
The Ah Long and the God of Wealth were both played by the same person, but are stark contrasts in their roles. It was incredible to see the transition from the sophisticated and aloof God of Wealth to the creepy and mischievous Ah Long. Rachel was a great love interest to Jared and she showcased the definition of sincerity in love. There was good chemistry between her and Jared, and I was definitely rooting for them all the way! Jared’s mom was adorable and depicted your typical Asian mum, without going too overboard. She was just the right balance of annoying, sweet and loving. Denise also executed her role as the over-dramatic theatre friend of Rachel extremely well. She rolled her eyes, grunted, sighed, screamed and did all that was necessary for the crowd to find her extremely annoying yet still somewhat likeable.
With all that being said, there were some aspects of the show I believe could have brought it to the next level. I was not a huge fan of the plot in itself. It was extremely simple and straightforward. No surprising twists or turns - which was the spice it was lacking. However, the amazing music that accompanied this simple plot was more than enough to compensate for it. Apart from that, I found the more emotional scenes to come off as lacklustre. Unfortunately, I did not feel anything when Jared and his mom shared an emotional centre stage piece together. I personally feel that Jared’s struggles and diligence were not highlighted enough for me to empathise with him. However, I still felt tons of joy when he got married to Rachel and had a beautiful happy ending!
“I am the God of Wealth, not the God of Happiness”, is a line that really stuck out to me from the musical. The major themes of money, family and happiness really hit home as a young fresh graduate still working her way through life. It was extremely wholesome watching a show that so perfectly depicted the importance of having support and love around you. Regardless of the wealth you own, what good is it without the people you care about?
Thank you to the entire cast for an extremely enjoyable first musical. It was inspiring to watch the stunning potential of local talents. I have fallen in love with their performances and am already planning to watch my second show soon.