ALI Baba: The Musical returns to Istana Budaya, this time with a cast of teenage and adult actors, plus an older script taken from legendary entertainer Tan Sri P. Ramlee’s Ali Baba Bujang Lapok comedy.
While the first staging of the musical in Istana in 2006 was based on the Aladdin version of the Ali Baba tale, the upcoming performance returns to the classic Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves version from the 1001 Nights storybook.
Reprising his role as the leader of the 40 thieves is Aznil Nawawi, though this time he leads a mix of teenagers and children as his dastardly crew.
“It’s quite different (from the 2006 version) as I was the only adult then, now the main cast is made up of adult actors while the ensemble has both teenagers and kids.
“The dialogue is also less childish, with about 50% taken from the old script and 50% from the Ali Baba Bujang Lapok movie,” explained Aznil in a recent interview.
Aznil found that his teenage co-stars were more willing to try new things and leave their comfort zone. Admittedly, some were more rebellious, which he added was not always a bad thing as it brought new ideas to the set.
“I try to speak their language, but there’s a big age gap!” added the 50-year-old actor with a laugh.
The line-up of actors in Ali Baba: The Musical includes Fizo Omar, Ebby Yus, Najua P. Ramlee, Zarina Raja Lawak, Aziz M. Osman and Danish Zakwan. It also marks the return of Elfira Loy, now upgraded from ensemble to being part of the main cast.
Aznil half-joked that his participation in this year’s musical was an accident.
“Ali Baba was a sudden addition to the Istana Budaya line-up after several other productions pulled out. In their rush to put out a poster, they used the old one which featured me which caused people to start calling me, asking about my returning to the role of Ali Baba – something I wasn’t aware of either at that point.”
After speaking with director Lokman Abd Ghani, Aznil cleared his schedule and joined in, less than a month before the show was set to start.
“It’s not a problem coming in so late. I played the same role six years ago. In fact, it feels a bit like deja vu stepping into these Aladdin-shoes again,” he quipped.
Another actor roped in by Lokman was P. Ramlee’s granddaughter, Najua P. Ramlee, who has known the director for more than a decade. Her very first performance was under Lokman’s guidance back in 1999.
“It feels surreal to be acting in something I’ve watched so many times growing up. It makes me feel almost like I’m working with him (P. Ramlee),” said Najua, who plays the role of merchant Kassim Baba’s wife Aloyah.
“The script has changed a bit since the medium is a musical rather than a movie. With musicals, the scenes have to be exaggerated because you can’t explain the plot as briefly like you can in a movie,” she added.
The 26-year-old actress admitted that she became star-struck on the set while working with Aznil, but was slightly disappointed that her role as Aloyah meant she didn’t have any scenes with the popular TV host.
“The hardest scenes for me were the serious ones. I’m happy-go-lucky while Aloyah is supposed to have a stiff upper lip and is a very proper housewife.
“The worst thing is that Ebby Yus (who plays Kassim Baba) is a very funny guy which makes keeping a straight face near impossible,” she said.
Aznil said that for all his years in show business, acting still came as a challenge to him.
“Hosting is a different creature from acting. It’s more about spontaneity and playing off the audience. But acting is about knowing the other people’s lines.
“I can’t ad lib or it would confuse the other actors. I warned the other actors to prepare, just in case I do go off script,” he joked.
“It gives me the jitters every time I’m on stage. I am glad that I will appear in less than half of the scenes, so there isn’t that much to memorise!” he candidly noted.
The actor said he aimed to portray a “cute” villain.
“The 1960s Ali Baba was one of the few times P. Ramlee ever played a villain, and yet the audience still loved him because of how ‘heroic’ he was in his own way,” said Aznil.
Surprisingly, his favourite scene is when his character is killed.
“For that scene, the director gave the green light to ad lib to my heart’s desire. If a villain has to lose in the end, he might as well go out with a performance the audience will remember. We’ll be open for 10 days, so expect 10 different versions of the play,” he teased.
Source: The Star Online