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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

'Life Sdn Bhd': A showcase of the female spirit

Posted: 18 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Life Sdn Bhd brought to light brave stories of empowerment.

THE title said it all. Things got personal. Too personal at certain junctures. The latest edition of Life Sdn Bhd (Life), which concluded on Sunday at KLPac in Kuala Lumpur, was an emotionally raw experience. Themed the Power Of Women, the 11th edition of Life, directed by Datuk Faridah Merican, was packed with its signature real life stories by real people. These "sharing sessions" began in 2004.

For nearly two hours last Thursday, stranger after stranger bared it all in front of even more strangers. And that was not a bad thing.

Sometimes, we are too coy a people, to say the least, and we need a nudge in the right direction to say what's on our mind.

On stage at Life, we saw people letting it all go, stripping themselves of all the societal conditionings, and just sharing their life stories.

Yes, we needed such individuals, the brave and mighty – not in the conventional sense – to step up and speak.

Ching used to chase her schoolmates who made fun of her Tourette's syndrome around the school with a water bottle.

Ching used to chase her schoolmates who made fun of her Tourette's syndrome around the school with a water bottle.

The stories shared by six women during Life ranged from the heart-warming to the heart-wrenching. You had stories about inspiring teachers, mums and grandmothers. However, the tragic stories were the most powerfully gripping.

One such story was shared by Khayma Balakrishnan. Her fairytale childhood turned into a nightmare what with physical and mental abuse by her family. Any child or teenager would have crumbled under the weight of such evil and succumbed to depression or even suicide. The 25-year-old Khayma almost did.

Through resilience and an inner power, Khayma picked herself up and took matters into her own hands. Not only has she completed her degree, she is currently pursuing her masters and is financially supported by none other than herself.

Another tragic tale with a triumphant twist was by Ho Lee Ching. From the age of nine, she has suffered from Tourette's syndrome, a neurological disorder characterised by involuntary movements and vocalisations called tics. This, of course, made her the school joke.

For the longest of time, no one knew what was wrong with her. In such situations, children at school can usually be mean.

But Ching was a resilient one. She shared that being active in sports and martial arts, she used to chase these name-callers around the school with a water bottle and hit them with it!

The inspiring part was to know that this 24-year-old young lady has embraced her condition and she is who she is now because of that. For Ching, life is the forward path.

To ease the intense atmosphere, Life, was also punctuated with a classical rendition of Coldplay's Viva La Vida by the Power of Women String Quartet and an upbeat and catchy song called Mama Dah Marah by the all-male trio Lelaki 2.5, which drew much laughter from the audience.

At the heart of it, life is never easy, especially for women in this male-dominated world. They are looked down at, criticised, abused and not deemed as equals. However, women have always had a strength in spirit and have always defied gravity with their perseverance.

As one of the storytellers said, "the greatest pleasure in life is to be able to do what others say you can't."

Wonderful world of Jersey Boys

Posted: 15 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

The hit Broadway musical Jersey Boys promises a jukebox of hits and a trail of memories.

YOU might not recognise the group nor the singer. But you cannot mistake their massive pop hits.

The names The Four Seasons or Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, will forever remain synonymous with pop's golden age – whether in the United States or right here in Malaysia.

Ages ago and much closer to home, every music jukebox tucked in the corner of ice cream parlours/bars across the nation (Tai Chong Ice Cafe in Malacca town right up to Wing Look Restaurant in Penang) would have boasted more than a handful of 45rpm singles from The Four Seasons or Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons catalogue.

The New Jersey-raised group, with the classic line-up of Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi, has transcended the times with its music.

For a certain generation of Malaysians, the stories of how music fans – and dating couples – used to save up jukebox coinage (20sen to 50sen) to listen to the group's classic hits Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry, Walk Like A Man, Can't Take My Eyes Off You, December 1963 Oh What A Night and more, indicates how much it was right up there in the pop scene.

Walk like a man: The Tony Award-winning Jersey Boys musical tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons with their unforgettable songs. The highly entertaining show is set for a run at Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur from April 15-27.

Walk like a man: The Tony Award-winning Jersey Boys musical tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons with their unforgettable songs. The highly entertaining show is set for a run at Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur from April 15-27.

In recent times, the multiple Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Jersey Boys has kept Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons' legacy alive.

For the group's fans and newcomers, the tell-all musical Jersey Boys is set to roll back the years (and memories) as it makes its Malaysian premiere at Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur next month.

Since its debut at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego in 2004, the full-scale production – and touring companies – has brought to life the group's many stories and music to the stage.

Kuala Lumpur has waited long to get a taste of this entertaining musical, which is nicely balanced with pop music history and real-life drama (troubles with the law, reckless youth, mob connections and personal tragedies). 

The show tells the story of street-wise Frankie Valli (the original "Jersey Boy") and his posse from their early, brawling days in New Jersey, struggling to cut it as a group, to hitting the pop charts, and through a troubled financial period, which culminated in the induction into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

At 33, Frankie Valli finally made a solo breakthrough in 1967 with Can't Take My Eyes Off You, which scaled the pop charts. Frankie Valli: Solo, his debut LP, was released to satiate the fans' appetite. Can't Take My Eyes Off You is a key song in the musical Jersey Boys.

For younger fans, Jersey Boys has practically become the entry point for all things Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.

"How much better does it get than to see your life pass before you, with a 20-minute intermission, and never have to break a sweat?" remarked Bob Gaudio in the Jersey Boys programme book about the pleasure of seeing the musical brought to life in so many countries, while also attracting a new generation of fans.

Yes, the group's music (be it doo wop brilliance, pop harmonies, R&B cool or pocket symphonies) is the driving force of this show.

Jersey Boys, which is divided into two acts, sports a total of 34 tunes lifted from virtually every stop in Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons' career.

There is even a "the ones that got away" list in the programme notes that underlines the group's vast treasure trove of songs. Of course, some tunes had to be left out. But the crucial ones made the setlist. The Jersey Boys show represents an aural snapshot of the glorious 1960s pop scene and this bunch of dreamers from New Jersey. 

The show looks back to the early days, when the group was known as Four Lovers (You're The Apple Of My Eye), before the cast on stage carries on with the big hitters like Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry, Walk Like A Man, Dawn (Go Away) and Rag Doll. If anything, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons has been more than just a cheesy nostalgia act.

The Four Seasons made its early foray into the mainstream scene with this 1962 album, Sherry and 11 Others, which features Sherry and Big Girls Don't Cry.

"We weren't a social movement like The Beatles were. Our fans were the guys who were flipping burgers and pumping gas and the girls behind the counter at the diner – the real blue-collar workers. The people who bought the records looked exactly like the guys on the bandstand," added Gaudio in the same interview.

The group's pop hits cannot be denied. But it proved its chart savvy with the croonsome Rag Doll, which knocked off the Beach Boys' I Get Around from the top of the US pop charts in the summer of 1964 before The Beatles A Hard Day's Night took over. For Mojo magazine readers/music geeks, this musical also doesn't disappoint with a dip into the "cooler" side of the group's songbook.

The spaghetti Western-inspired Big Man In Town, the acid fried pop guitars on Let's Hang On, the Northern soul romp on Opus 17 (Don't Worry 'Bout Me) right to the Nuggets-worthy raw rock 'n' roll on C'mon Marianne and the relentlessly funky Beggin', are all set to show Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons' creative range.

From the obvious cuts to the lesser-known fan-favourites, Jersey Boys packs them all in. It's very much an all-ages musical with an edge. The spread of Frankie Valli solo cuts is also on parade, but none bigger than the massive hit Can't Take My Eyes Off You from 1967, which has become a true highlight for this musical.

Valli, 79, who still tours worldwide, fully endorses Jersey Boys as a celebration of his group's music and its members' lives.

"I think it is (successful) because the Jersey Boys story is told with as much truth as possible ... as far as our own lives were concerned, we were very upfront, and that has an awful lot to do with the success of what's resulted," he wrote in the programme notes.

Jersey Boys is set to run at Istana Budaya, Jalan Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur from April 15-27. Tickets are now available through all TicketCharge channels. Ticket prices range from RM200 to RM680. Early bird ticket discount offer (15% off) ends today. 

For more info, log on to www.ticketcharge.com.my. Hotline: 03-9222 8811. Show info: www.facebook.com/jerseyboys.malaysia. The show is organised by Milestone Production Sdn Bhd. The Star is the gold sponsor and Red FM the official radio station.

Asian art auctions in NY expected to top RM328mil

Posted: 18 Mar 2014 02:15 AM PDT

Ancient ritual wine vessels, modern contemporary paintings and masterpieces representing Buddhism, Hinduism, Daoism and Shintoism are among the highlights of Asian art sales in New York next week.

The Asia Week auctions at Christie's and Sotheby's will feature thousands of items in a series of sales that could top US$100mil (RM328mil). Last spring's auctions totalled more than US$130mil in sales.

"We've got collectors coming from China, Hong Kong and India and Europe, of course," said Hugo Weihe, Christie's International director for Asian art.

Asia has become a dominant player in the global art market, particularly in post-war and contemporary art sales.

"I think one of the most wonderful and fascinating things about Asia Week is that it covers literally the whole of Asia," said Henry Howard-Sneyd, vice chairman of Asian art at Sotheby's.

"We offer art from predominantly China and from India, but of course we also have material from other parts of Asia as well," Howard-Sneyd said.

Weihe said in addition to the aesthetic appeal of the works, collectors view art as an alternative asset class.

"People see it as something beautiful you can live with, but it is also going to hold its value over time. And if you look historically the way prices have risen, it is a very good proposition," he explained.

The US$10mil 'Min' Fanglei bronze ritual wine vessel seen on display at Christie's Auction House in New York. – Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

China, second largest art market

The global art market totalled US$65.9bil last year, an increase of 8% and the highest level since 2007, according to a report by the European Fine Art Foundation.

Although the United States is the biggest art market with an estimated US$25 bil, sales in China were nearly US$16bil, a rise of 2% from the previous year. It accounts for about 24% of global art sales, the figures showed.

Weihe said a Chinese "Min" fanglei, a massive bronze ritual wine vessel, which sold for US$10 million previously and dates to the 12th to 11th century BC, is the top lot of Christie's March 18 to 21 sales.

Another highlight is Indian artist Tyeb Mehta's Untitled (Bull), a 2000 painting of a falling, flailing bull, which has a pre-sale estimate of up to US$3mil.

Paintings, sculptures, manuscripts representing Asia's various religions and drawings by the Indian artist Francis Newton Souza will also be featured.

At Sotheby's, a Chinese bronze owl-headed ritual wine vessel dating from the 8th to 7th century BC could fetch as much as US$6mil.

"It's designed with the combination of owl and also a very abstract form. And, so you can use it both as a vessel and you can treat it as a sculpture," said Tao Wang, the head of Sotheby's Chinese works of art department in New York.

The Cantilevered Road to Shu, a huge landscape painting by Chinese artist Yuan Yao, who worked in the mid-18th century, could sell for upwards of US$2mil.

Painting No.3 by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, considered one of India's leading abstract painters, has the same pre-sale estimate. – Reuters

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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