Monday, February 8, 2016

Ola Bola: Another Review

I have never written a movie review.  Not that I don't watch movies.  I do.

For me to even be writing something now (let alone a review), when I haven't been blogging for quite some time (10 months to be exact), shows that this movie is really 'something'.

I chanced upon OLA BOLA's movie promo while reading a random gossip blog - it didnt catch my attention the way the wedding pix of the two celebrities featured in the blog. 

Next, a friend mentioned it on Whatsapp.  Me:  okay, will check it out when I have the time.

Then I got bored and wanted to watch a movie.  Read some movie reviews and checked some movie trailers on Youtube.

Liked what I saw, pestered my husband:

"Jom tengok Ola Bola?!"

He just laughed.

We don't watch local movies.
No matter how hyped they were.   
Puteri Gunung Ledang, Cicakman, Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, KL Gangster, Police Evo, The Journey - you name it, we've missed it.

Hubby says: "Nanti keluar TV, tengok la..."

Chinese New Year came and I tried my luck again:
"Jom la tengok Ola Bola..." (mode manja :P).

This time around my suggestion was seconded by my son.  Found out that his friends had recommended him to watch it. They say it was an 'inspiring' movie.

So the three of us went (hubby reluctantly, so). 

                                                                    * * * * * * * * *

It was full house; the audience, a mixture of gender (though it's about football),  colour (because it was promoted as a muhibbah movie), and age (groups of youngsters, elderly couples, families, etc).

The setting of Ola Bola was 1980s Malaysia.  Good depiction of that era - ruffled hairdos, retro fashion, vintage cars, etc.  It certainly made me feel 10 again :).

Lots of scenes that made you go:
"Awww... I remember that!"
... like adjusting the arial to get the best TV reception :D; the whole family camping around the TV to support the Malaysian team, and the joget lambak

The most poignant scenes, were the ones which showed the characters tapping rubber in the wee hours of the morning, collecting the rubber scraps, mixing the latex, flattening and rolling the rubber
... they reminded me of my beloved late grandfather... :'(. 

The movie is supposed to be based on a true event:  Malaysia's 1980 pre-olympic saga.  The main characters were fictional, but based on Malaysia's football legends - Towkay = Soh Chin Aun? Ali =  Hassan Sani? Eric = James Wong? Muttu = R. Arumugam?  The story revolved around their lives on and off the pitch.  A critic commented that the characters were too sanitized to be true.  Yup, the director tried to inject some moral values through the characters such as:

'Perseverance':  the filial son who juggled multiple jobs to support the family (Ahmad Maslan comes to mind...:P); the high achieving daughter who had to sacrifice her ambition to support her family; the  bread-winner who worked hard to feed his children. 

'Practice makes perfect':  the up-and-coming striker who practiced late into the night to perfect his skills; the novice sportscaster endlessly honing his skills on sportscasting.

'Hope':  the reserve who never gave-up hope to be in the line-up.

'Sacrificing oneself for the country':  the striker who played on despite his injury.

Hehehe... I better stop before this becomes a nilai-nilai murni write-up :P.

The quality of acting?  Boleh lah... considering the main casts were first-timers, but Bront (the only seasoned actor in this movie) was brilliant as Rahman the sportscaster (Hasbullah Awang?).  J C Chee was too jambu to be Chin Aun, but he's nice to look at... hahaha! The actor who played Ah Chai (the reserve) was hilarious, thanks to the punch lines and pun that came with the role.  The mere sight of him (a natural goof) and Uncle Frankie (the security guard) was enough to make people laugh.  Heck, even the monkey was very much in its role.

The football scenes were very real.  Small wonder as the actors were footballers first, actors, second. A touching moment was when the spectators sang "Inilah Barisan Kita", the 'original' anthem of Malaysian football.  Those were the days before the hollers of "Ole!Ole!Ole!Ole!"

The cinematography was excellent.  It made us go: 
"Cantik jugak Malaysia ni!".
I particularly liked the aerial and panoramic shots of Stadium Merdeka, the forests and mountains (Broga Hill?), the railway (Sabah?) and  the rubber estate (Segamat, I heard).  

Hubby's verdict: "Deep", "Best Screenplay (for a local movie)"

My verdict:  a heart-warming rendering of the golden era of Malaysian football in the 80s.  Kudos to the film director and his team!  Rasa sedih pun ada due to the current state of Malaysian football. I don't watch football anymore...

But... GO WATCH THE MOVIE and watch out for a few cameos!!  Sorry guys, no spoilers from this first-time reviewer, too! :)

My suggestion for a similar-themed movie:  The 1988 Thomas Cup Semifinals.  You have   'muhibbah' characters similar to OLA BOLA:  Malay shuttler-brothers (Sidek brothers), the Chinese shuttlers (Foo Kok Keong, Ong Beng Teong, Cheah Soon Kit),  an Indian manager (Punch Gunalan), a foreign (mainland China) coach (Fang Kaixiang) against the Giants of Badminton (Indonesia).

Any takers??? :)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter Memories - Prague, April 2012 (Part 1)

Easter is a religious event observed by Christians all over the world to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.   From what I read on Wikipedia, Easter is preceded with Lent - a 40-day period of fasting, prayer and penance - followed by 7 weeks of religious observance and festivities.  I confess I have very limited knowledge of Easter.  My ex-boss, would know better I think :).

My early knowledge of Easter was that of Easter eggs and bunnies which I read in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Thirty years later, living in the UK, I discovered that Easter was very much THAT.  Come Easter, supermarkets would be selling Easter chocolate eggs  in multiple sizes and colourful packaging.  In school, my children would be colouring eggs in class and of course, there's the community's seasonal favourite - easter egg-hunts. 

I was told by a friend that in other European countries, Easter is celebrated for its religious significance.  In Greece, for example, Easter is celebrated at a grander scale, surpassing Christmas. Therefore, when my family and I decided to spend our Easter hols in Europe in 2012, I was looking forward to experiencing a different kind of Easter (Sorry!!! Blast from the past posting... hehehe!)

I was in Prague during the 2012 Easter weekend.  Prague (Praha to the locals) is one of the most beautiful place that I have ever been  to and having been there first (and then only to Venice and Paris), I always say this to friends:

"Bila dah pegi Prague, Venice dan Paris pun nampak tak cantik",
 ...which more or less meant that the beauty of Venice and Paris paled in comparison to that of  Prague.

Prague will be forever etched in my mind not just for its captivating beauty, but for an unforgettable incident that happened when we were there.  As the Malay saying goes: tempat jatuh lagi dikenang, inikan pula tempat bermain keta rosak ...huhuhu..  Our reliable Zafira chose to break down in fascinating, foreign and faraway Prague.  I can't quite fathom how it could have happened.  My husband did a comprehensive service of our Zafira at a workshop before we embarked on our Europe tour.  The tyres were even changed.  I remembered my husband being rather pleased with himself, confidently declaring that the car was never in a better condition and was ready for a long haul.  Thinking back, this over-confidence could have been our downfall (think Titanic :)).

Aside from this divine rebuke, other possible reasons for the car breakdown:
1) our IPad, IPhone and satnav were continuously plugged to the car's charger, and this might have exhausted the car battery
2) the over-excited drivers had revved up the car to its maximum speed on the German Autobahn on our way to Prague.  Terus Cik Ira terkejut dan semput... huhuhuuu....

Minutes before arriving in Prague, the car lost power and finally stopped by the roadside.  It was pitched dark, the temperature was cold, and we were in a foreign land (Czech Republic).  Luckily, before we embarked on our journey, my husband had bought the comprehensive RAC European breakdown cover.  Alhamdulillah...

Reading through the documents, I was a bit apprehensive when I discovered that I had to contact the RAC regional office which was in Paris, France.  Luckily, My Vodafone line did not let me down in my hour of need.  After an hour, RAC succeeded in engaging a local towing company to tow the car to Prague. In order to do so, they wanted to know where we were stranded and asked for our coordinates.  I can 't quite recall how we obtained the coordinates as our satnav had also gone bonkers.  Probably from the IPad or Amer's IPhone.  After ding-donging between RAC and the towing company, a tow-truck soon came to 'rescue' us.

That was my first time on a tow-truck.  I've never been on one in Malaysia and there I was on board a tow-truck in Czech Republic!  How cool is that?? :)  But at that particular time, 'cool' was the furthest from my mind, just anxious and bewildered.   The tow-truck driver spoke only a smattering of English  and naturally I was worried.  What if he was a con-man? What if the repair of the car costs thousands?  What if we have to scrap the car?

Alhamdulillah, aside from a bumpy journey (due to the cobbled street of Prague Zone 1), everything went well.  30 minutes later, the driver dropped us at our apartment in Wenceslas Square... to be continued

The view from our apartment ...overlooking the art nouveau Grand Hotel Europa

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2015... It's good to be back...

It's been a while since I last blogged... 
Well.. "a while" is really an understatement! :P
Truth is I've been pre-occupied with more important things... like my dissertation, my family and my job.  One's done, but the other two are still "on-going"!

2014 was a challenging year... writing and working at the same time, made worse by being posted some hundred miles away from home... the hazards of being a government servant :P
Those long daily commute from dawn to dusk... family literally broken apart (but thank God, was not drifting apart)... macam2 dugaan...

Despite all that, took everything in stride, believing that there's "hikmah" in everything that has happened. Prayed to the Almighty to give me the strength to carry on and to face the challenges, and told myself to be thankful with what I have.
True enough, berkat kesabaran, eventually was transferred to a place much nearer to home, with a respectable position.  Alhamdulillah...
I'm going places and the children are too - excellent results in their exams.  Alhamdulillah...

I hope that 2015 will be a better year, and I hope to be a better person (in whatever "hats" I'm wearing).
I'm taking up things from where I've left off like gardening, playing the piano, compiling a book about my travels, and most importantly unpacking my Bristol things still in boxes after 2 years! Hehehe!

HAPPY 2015!!
It's good to be back :)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bristol 10Km Run 2013

I woke-up at 6.00 this morning to the noise of  Bristol City Council workers, unloading cones from the lorry onto the road.  Today's the big day - Bristol 10 km. Run 2013.  10 000 miles away, another BIG day: Malaysians casting their votes in the country's 13th General Election.  But that's story for another day :).

9.00 a.m. - all ready for the event
According to the event link, the race would start at 9.30 a.m from @ Bristol.  So, there I was, perched on the window, ready with my Samsung.  A large crowd had also assembled along the harbourside to cheer the contestants.  

Moments before the race, a lone wheelchair athlete whizzed through, signalling the race was about to start.  When the spectators started to cheer and clap loudly, I knew that the contestants were coming!

Here they come!
The first wave of runners

Go! Go! Go!

They came in droves!

Full speed ahead!!

All the way to Portway and then back again

There were some colourful characters...

Sponge-Bob was running for Ella :)

Going bananas! :)

An unidentified cape crusader :)

tutu and fro for a cause :)

'Gromit', 'Yogi Bear', 'Roadrunner' and an alligator, unfortunately, escaped from being 'captured' by my smartphone!  Huh!

The runners started from @ Bristol, ran through Hotwell Road up to Portway, before turning and heading back to @Bristol via Cumberland Road.  No end-of-race pictures from moi, though.  Too busy finding out about election results :)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Of red curtains and red lights...

It's been a long day.
been writing my thesis...
- that never-ending 'story' of mine :P -
on this shabby chic dressing table of Francie @ my landlady :)
(now converted into a messy study table ... hehehe!)

Outside, it's already dark
could see and hear cars passing by...
That's the good thing of living in the city
you are never alone and time passes-by with a blink of an eye...

Time to close my red (pink?) curtains...

View from the window with the red curtains :P

As I was doing that, I remember a time
at this very hour
different place, different city
a  lady was doing the same thing as me

not to retire, rather, "on fire hire"...

Enough of this poetry, now the juicy story!!!

Red Light District Amsterdam...
Sorry, not much to see say, really.
I went, I saw and I reflected (research mode...kekeke!)
They were just like you and me!
Could've been even doing their PhDs!! :)
Some of the pretty girls really looked intelligent, seriously!

I didn't take any photos.  I couldn't.
No, no, no!  Not because tak sampai hati or anything like that.  It was just the ruling.  There was even a signboard prohibiting people from taking photos.  You wouldn't dare take photos unless you want your precious camera to be bashed on the streets or flung into the canal!

So, I just walked, looked at what's happening around me, then went back to the hotel, feeling satisfied for having "been there, done that"... Oit!  Me didn't do nothing, ok?!  :).

Really, the way some men described the place... like it's a MUST-VISIT place when you're in Amsterdam??  It's like a market, really, where the 'sellers' pedal their wares and the 'buyers', negotiate the price before buying.  Strictly business.  I'm sure it's pretty much the same in Lorong Hj Taib or Kowloon...
(Been there, but done nothing, ok?! Hahaha!)

To get an idea how the place looked like, go Google.  If you are really curious, go see for yourself.  Don't bring the kids!  The girls might be put off, but the cheeky boys... WILL BE BOYS, I suspect! :)

Anyway, I managed to take some photos... not of the sexy ladies but the beautiful scenery around the area.

The beautiful view of St. Nicholas Church, from the De Wallen
Red Light District.  

Red curtains synonymous with the Red Light District

The Oude Kerk (Old Church) near the Red Light District

As for my curtains, no wonder they were on SALE! Hahaha! :)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Soppy Hmv for Hubby

My laptop could not have chosen a better time to go KAPUT!  With all the writing to be done... GRRRRRR!

 Alhamdulillah, I married a techie - THE BEST, one could ever ask for (in a techie and a hubby :)).  Yeah, who would sacrifice a week's sleep (thanks to the 7-hour time-zone difference), patiently guiding an impatient and banyak songeh 'client'-cum-wifey, to trouble-shoot online??? :P

Thanks Jeej.

Thank you for your time, patience, money and LOVE.  God knows how much you have sacrificed for me all these years, and not hope for anything in return. I'll try my best to finish this PhD before I get permanent HEART damage... coz I miss all of you  terribly! :(

So, for your birthday, I've made this very soppy hmv for you... :)

Ngeee.... jangan malu marah eh! :)  Love you!


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Amsterdam 2012: 'Foot' Notes

As I said countless time, the best way to explore a place is by walking. my well-travelled half told me that, actually, but I must say that he was right.  Yeah, it's tiring but at the end of the day, you will be happy with the experience, have loads of nice photos and will definitely sleep soundly.  Bom meletup pun tak dengar, penat sangat...huhuhu!.  

Anyway, to explore a city on foot, you have to stay in the centre itself.  The downside is, room rates can be a bit pricey compared to accommodation out of town.  However, you can ronda-ronda from dawn till dawn the next day (kalau larat la :)).  If you stay at the outskirts, yes, accommodation is cheaper but you will have to travel by bus, tram or train into the city.  You would have to pay a bit for your journey to and fro, not to mention the time spent on the road.  The problem is not so much with the fee (tambang), really.  Ada duit semua boleh jadi, kan??.  Rather, public transport is not available 24 hours.  So you will have to plan your journey so as not to miss the last bus/train that goes to your lodging outside the city.  Anyway, it's your money; you decide what's best for you and your family :).

Continuing where I left off, in Amsterdam, we went from place to place via boat and walking.  The canal cruise was like killing two birds with one stone - we got to experience the boat ride and it got us from one place to another...

As we took the Museum Line, our first stop was at Rijksmuseum.  However, we did not visit the place because it was under renovation.  After 10 years (mak ai!!) of building work, renovation and restoration, the museum will be open to public again on the 13th of April 2013.  Boleh pegi lagi ni... Ngeh!Ngeh!Ngeh!

Tak taulah mana satu depan, mana satu belakang muzium.  Yang pasti, masa tu under renovation :(.  So, we just took pictures and rested for a while at Museumplein which was at the back (or front?) of the museum.

The iconic I amsterdam.  Mesti ambik gambar kat sini! :)

The I amsterdam was the main attraction at Museumplein.  It was the first, of three.  The second one was erected at Amsterdam Schipol Airport in July 2012.  The third one changes location around the city, making appearances at shows, festivals and major events.  I know my sister and her friends had their I amsterdam photo taken at NEMO 2 years ago.

There's loads of people here, btw. I wonder how some of my friends managed to take their I amsterdam photos, privately.  Datang subuh-subuh kot!  During our visit, there was even an 'invasion' of British school children...hehehe!  Saksikan... :P

Anak sapa la ni... :P

Our I amsterdam!! :)

From Museumplein, we walked to the Van Gogh Museum which was just nearby. There was a long queue to get into the museum.  Luckily we had bought tickets, online :).  Memang peminat Van Gogh, gitu...huhuhu!  Kagum, because he was a self-taught artist who only started painting at the age of 27!  Whoever said that you need talent to be an artist!  Well, maybe he HAD talent which he wasn't aware of, earlier on :).  Among the permanent collections here were Van Gogh's Self-portraits, The Bedroom, Irises, Almond Blossoms and and of course, Sunflowers :).  As usual, no photos allowed in the museum.  So we had to content ourselves with photos outside the museum.

Some fancy pebble work... @ the new entrance of Van Gogh Museum
designed by Kisho Kurokawa Architect & Associates

During our visit, Van Gogh's work were being exhibited at the Hermitage Amsterdam (from 29 September 2012 - 25 April 2013), as the museum was undergoing renovation.  Yeah, one thing about Europe:  there is bound to be restoration work everywhere you go.  If you're lucky, artefacts will be moved to another place/museum.  I remembered seeing Rembrandt's "Night Watch"  and Vermeer's "The Milkmaid" (which were permanent collections in the then-closed Rijksmuseum) either in Amsterdam or Paris, but not too sure whether they were originals.  But then again, do museum's really show  originals??  Maybe I watched too many spy movies... :P

From Van Gogh, we hopped on the boat again, but I'm not going into that, as I've blogged about it.  I'll just write about the places that we explored on foot.  Well, our quest for a place to pray led us to Fatih Camii Moskee in Rozengracht, Jordan, Amsterdam.  It's a Turkish community mosque named after an Ottoman Sultan.  What's unique about this place was that it used to be a church.

Around the area you can find many halal restaurants.  Next to the mosque was a Turkish pattiserie which sold turkish delight and cookies.

From Rozengracht, we walked until we reached Prinsengracht Canal.  There were many places of interest there such as Westerkerk, Anne Frank House, a Delftware shop, not to mention the canal itself.

Canal, bicycles and the beautiful buildings... uniquely Amsterdam :)

Clockwise:  Cryuff, grafitti, tingkap belanda and dutch politeness

We strolled along Prinsengracht, took photos along the way and discovered a thing or two about the place, like... have you ever wondered why the buildings have those giant hooks at the top??

It turns out that it is used for hauling furniture into the building.  I guess the buildings are similar to those in England - narrow stairs, and equally narrow doors :).  But, here's the interesting part:  according to our travel companion Amir, in the olden days it was used by women to haul up their drunken husbands into the building... thus the origin of the word 'hangover'.  Hmm... Iyolah tu Mir?? :P

Anyway, it was nice walking by the canal and tau-tau, we had reached our hotel in Spuistraat.

Up next:  Redlight District

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Amsterdam 2012: Canal Cruise

Hello again!  It's 2013 and yet I'm still not done blogging about my 2012 escapades!:P  Yeah, will still try to write about my past trips in-between writing my thesis.  Wish me luck on writing (both)!! :)

To continue where I left off, I'll write about my canal cruise experience during our Amsterdam 2012 trip.

As I vividly recall, Amsterdam was a beautiful and unique city.  It had an interesting cityscape (the man-made canals), beautiful architecture, and various places of interest (museums, especially).  It is probably one of the few places in the world where sex trade is legal, and soft drug trade in 'coffee shops' is tolerated by the authorities.

To get around in Amsterdam, it is better to use public transport as driving is discouraged in the city centre.  When we were there, we had to park our car in a parking lot outside the city.  It was difficult to find parking in the city centre anyway, and if there were any at all, the fee would be exorbitant.  The preferred mode of transportation among locals, obviously, was the bike.  

City of bikes! :)

We didn't rent bikes, though.  With 3 kids in tow, we felt that it was more practical to go around on boat and foot.  I would say that walking is the best way to explore a place, but it can be a bit tiring.  So, to save you from aching feet, try the hop-on hop-off canal cruise.

There were many type of cruises available and we hopped onto one: Lover's Museum line, which took us around museum routes around Amsterdam.  The fare:  16 Euros for an adult, half of that for a child.  Don't forget to take a canal cruise map or two :).

The route map

The boat schedule

As we boarded our boat near the Amsterdam Centraal Railway Station, a multilingual tour guide cheerfully welcomed us with a fake American accent. There were not too many people in the boat that morning, so we got to sit near the window.  Looking around, I saw a building that strikingly resembled my husband's former workplace in Subang Jaya.  Check it out ... hehehe!

'Twin Tower' of Menara Mesiniaga?? :)

How was the experience?  I would say it's pretty much the same with the canal rides that you might have taken elsewhere, but of course, the scenery is different.  There were few futuristic-looking buildings like the EYE Film Institute of Netherlands...

Is it a spaceship??  No, it's just the EYE :)

... but I prefer the traditional dutch buildings along the canal :)

Alternative facade - another  reminder of home @ USJ :)

The boathouses along the canal.  Macam best je...

Replica of an 18th century Dutch East India Company (VOC) cargo ship 

Our boat :)

I took loads of picture during the canal cruise.  Alas, most of them were stored in my recently stolen Blackberry!  DAAANNNNGGGGG!!!!!!!!
Moral of the story... promptly transfer your pictures into your laptop, external hard disk or some place SAFE after each vacation :P.  They are your priceless memories ;'( ....

Canal-cruise verdict:

Canal-cruising is the most efficient way to see the wonders of Amsterdam in one day, as you won't be able to do so, walking.  If you have a tight schedule, take the canal cruise.  You can sit back and enjoy the sights of the monumental buildings and various landmarks (Anne Frank House, Westerkerk, Rijksmuseum, Nemo, etc), activities and life along the canal, and the various bridges (1500 altogether!).  If you feel like stopping at certain places, you can alight at the various stops.  That's what we did:  we hopped off at the Rijksmuseum, gawked at some Van Gogh's work (at another museum!), had lunch, lepak and ambik gambar kat Museumplein (I AMSTERDAM), and hopped onto another boat again. Remember though, the cruise is only for ONE ROUND TRIP.  Janganlah pulak ingat dengan tiket one way tu, boleh pi mai pi mai ikut suka hati korang! :P.  Kena tengoklah tiket tu untuk trip yang macamana... ;P

There are night cruises, too, though I doubt much can be seen in the dark.  Maybe, for a romantic rendezvous, sightseeing is the least of (their) concern...

I CAN'T ASSURE you, however, that the canal cruise is BEST for you, IF YOU ARE:

1)   One of those who suffer from motion-sickness @ seasickness @ mabuk laut @ yang sewaktu dengannya...  Maybe you should take tram rides, then :).

2)  An avid shutter-bug.  You will not savour the boat ride as you will be busy taking photos.  As the boat moves, you (and your shutter) will have to be quick, or you'll miss a fantastic shot :P.  You'll end up with many photos (mostly, composition entah apa-apa), a headache and  a keterkilanan yang teramatnya (as in "Kejapnya!!!  Tak sempat rasa naik bot pun??!!").  You can't have it all :).  Not if you are an amateur photo-hobbyist (pro bolehlah kot.... :)).

Well, that's all for now.  InsyaAllah, 'foot' notes next time ... (if I have the time :P).  Wassalam...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Lion King @ Bristol Hippodrome 2012

Just came back from watching The Lion King musical at Bristol Hippodrome...  Still in awe! :)

... to think that I nearly gave it a miss because I was down with a bad flu!  My son (who was not too keen) was supposed to take my place but at the eleventh hour, I decided to JUST DO IT.  Flu, fever, cough and all :P

How can I not go?  We bought the tickets, months ago in spring, to secure good seats.  Besides, it was going to be my last 'night out' with hubby and the daughter before they go back to Malaysia.  Huhuhu!  

Truth is, hubby yang beria-ia nak tengok.  The Lion King musical has been playing at the Lyceum Theatre in London since 1999.  13 tahun tu!  When we heard last year, that it would be embarking on its first-ever UK tour, starting with Bristol Hippodrome, hubby decided that we just had to see the show.  Tak tau bila pulak nak sampai Malaysia.  It was 'now or never'.

I wasn't too keen to see the show because I was skeptical:  how can you successfully turn an animation film - about ANIMALS - to stage? I balked when hubby went for the premier seats.  Seeing the horror on my face, the ticket attendant showed me the video of the musical, to assure me that hubby would indeed be paying a worthy price.  I had to agree at that point, that the show looked pretty impressive.  Yes, I was won over, but still... skeptical :).

In the cold windy night, we walked down from my school, where we parked our car, to Bristol Hippodrome.  Sebelum tu, singgah dulu school untuk solat dan jugak pulangkan buku library yg dah overdue...hehehe!  Sebelum masuk theatre, sempat pulak pekena ayam goreng kat kedai kebab sebelah tu :).   

As expected, the auditorium was packed to the brim.  Luckily it was not hot at all.  I remember bundling myself for the Phantom of the Opera musical at Her Majesty's Theatre in London last autumn, and ended up removing layers of clothing, lest I die of extreme heat! :P  In the hippodrome, I  kept my coat on throughout the show.

The place was a hive of activity as theatre ushers pedalled Lion King merchandises, parents minding their excited kiddies, people taking photos...  wait!  Ambik gambar?!   Boleh ka??  I looked around for stern-looking ushers that might be lurking behind my back, ready to pounce on me, at the mere sight of a smartphone... Ada ka??  Takdelah pulak... apa lagi... Klik! Klik!  :)

From where I was sitting, I had a good view of the stage.  The conductor had taken his place in front of the stage but I couldn't see his ensemble, except for two musicians perched in the box seats with their drums and percussion.  Signs of great music to come :)

The show started with that familiar yell from Rafiki, the mandrill:  "Nants' Ingonyama Bakithi Baba!!!"
(There comes a lion, father ... in Zulu).

... And animals started striding down the aisle to the rhythm of  "Circle of  Life".  Yep!  Elephants, giraffes, antelopes!  That caught the audience by surprise and the actors were rewarded with a round of thunderous applause.  My advice at this point:  If you want to be in the thick of things, get the stall seats near the aisle :). There's a reason why they cost a bomb! :)

From the start till the end, there was never a dull moment.  Really!  Superb acting (especially the actor who played Scar), humour and entertainment (especially the antics of Zazu, the three hyenas, and of course, Timon and Pumba), memorable songs (Circle of life, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Hakuna Matata, He Lives In You, etc), great props, colourful costume and ingenious puppetry.  Credits should be given to multi-talented director, Julie Taymor, who also designed the costume, masks and puppets.

You can't compare Lion King with, say, Phantom of the Opera, because they are two distinct genres.  Phantom's strengths are its songs, storyline and special effects.  The strength of Lion King lies in the songs, costume and puppetry...  I love those actor-puppets!  One of my favourites were those men-giraffes!  The actors must have been very strong and agile in order to move about in those stilts!  My all-time favourites have got to be Zazu, the red-billed hornbill and Timon, that pesky meerkat.  Hats off to the respective actors!! :)

The African theme was evident in all aspects of the musical; my African friends would approve :).  However, there were some moments of  'Britishness' like when Zazu pleaded not to be sent back to Glasgow (I went like:  Did I hear that right? LOL!); and when Timon and Pumba started to 'riverdance' to scare the hyenas?  Hehehe!

The Lion King brought back fond memories when I was raising the children.  My son used to chant: "Wimoweh! Wimoweh!" when he was younger, and we would all end up singing along coz it was so catchy!   Even now, I still sing: "Hakuna Matata. *Timon and Tomato (instead of Pumba)" when preparing food in the kitchen :).  * Timon or timun is cucumber in Malay.

Having said this, does not mean that this musical is only suitable for parents with children.  If you have enjoyed watching the Lion King films, you will love the musical, too.  The Lion King musical will be in Bristol till 17 November 2012.  It's next and final stop for 2012, is Manchester.  The troupe will continue their UK tour to Dublin and Birmingham, in 2013.

Verdict:  Don't be skeptical.  Just go and enjoy yourself! :)  Make sure you get STALL seats near the aisle as the scenes actually start from here a number of times.