Review: Musikal Masih Ada and the Turbulent Lives of Cancer Patients

The show marks Yayasan Kanker Indonesia’s 47th anniversary and ran for two shows on April 23rd.

By: May. 01, 2024
Review: Musikal Masih Ada and the Turbulent Lives of Cancer Patients
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On April 23rd 2024, Yayasan Kanker Indonesia (Indonesian Cancer Foundation) produced the original musical Musikal Masih Ada (Still Remains the Musical), in collaboration with Taman Ismail Marzuki, Jakpro, and new performing arts company Adpro. The musical ran for two shows at Graha Bhakti Budaya, Jakarta.

The musical is produced by Aldafi Adnan, directed by Pasha Prakasa, written by Palka Kojansow, and with music composed by Ammir Gita. The story is based on the real life experiences of Albert ‘Bertie’ Sompie, the captain of Indonesia’s national softball team and a cancer survivor and activist.

Musikal Masih Ada tells the story of Al (Gerardo Tanor), a professional softball athlete who’s diagnosed with late-stadium lung cancer. The illness devastated Al and his family who relies on him as the breadwinner: his mother Ida (Andrea Miranda) and his sister Pinkan (Ayu Gurnitha).

Review: Musikal Masih Ada and the Turbulent Lives of Cancer Patients

The family deals with the news differently; Ida tries to put on a brave face for Al’s sake, and Pinkan starts a job to keep the family afloat. Meanwhile, Al is still wary of getting an operation and asks his best friend Aryo (Dante Kidd) to bring him to a shamanistic healer (Beyon Destiano) instead. Needless to say, the healer turns out to be a quack.

Al finally relents and gets the operation. However, all is not over for the young man; the cancer has metastasized to his intestines. This, alongside his fatigue from undergoing seemingly endless chemotherapy treatments, has plunged Al into despair.

Review: Musikal Masih Ada and the Turbulent Lives of Cancer Patients

As Al’s condition worsens, Ida consults a representative of Yayasan Kanker Indonesia, Bu Ana (Galabby), who assures her that the mental struggle is part of the treatment and suggests talking to another cancer patient might help.

Ida and Bu Ana set up a meeting between Al and Shinta (Louise Monique) at the clinic. Shinta is a peppy cancer patient who’s full of joie de vivre. She recounts her own experience battling cancer with Al. Heartened by this new connection, Al continues his chemotherapy treatment.

Review: Musikal Masih Ada and the Turbulent Lives of Cancer Patients

Musikal Masih Ada is a short musical, running for only about one hour. This brisk runtime comes with its own pros and cons. On the plus side, the musical never drags, going from scene to scene succinctly. Combined with its relatively small cast and experienced crew members, it also allows for a smooth run on the technical side, 

On the flip side, however, we didn’t get to know any of the characters particularly well. Although written based on a specific cancer survivor’s story, the show comes across as representative of the experience of most cancer patients. This creative choice to make it relatable to as many of its audience as possible is logical, considering it is also part of Yayasan Kanker Indonesia’s 47th anniversary campaign. So, although it might not make the characters stand out on their own, the message is loud and clear: that battling cancer is truly difficult and requires a strong support system.

The performances are remarkably strong, as expected from this particular line-up; every cast member is already a renowned performer with an extensive portfolio. In a show as emotionally charged as this one, the evening is full of very emotive and polished performances. Some stand out moments include Andrea Miranda’s solo number, showcasing the heartbreaking depth of a mother’s grief; the amazing vocals of Galabby with delightfully colorful vocal tone; Beyon chewing the scenery as the villain; and so on.

Review: Musikal Masih Ada and the Turbulent Lives of Cancer Patients

That is not to say that the show is depressing to watch; Palka’s script masterfully includes more lighthearted elements. Of particular note is the Healer’s psychedelic number, full of hypnotic movement and deliciously dastardly lyrics. Another is the character of Shinta, who’s forward, flirty, and brimming with energy.

The show has a squarely modern musical theater sound. The songs are easy to listen to, with definite pop influences, but still with the storytelling flourish of musical theater. Musikal Masih Ada’s music is indeed a worthy new entry in Ammir Gita’s iconic body of work of contemporary Indonesian musical theater songs.

As for the artistic direction by Adri Pradipta, the show has a modern and well-polished visual style. The sets and costumes are very much serviceable and appropriate for the modern setting. But the highlight is definitely the lighting and projection work (lighting by Endang Purnomo and multimedia by Tito). The lighting is lush and dramatic – for example, the Healer’s scene is clad in bold purples-and-greens, indicating his eccentric villainous nature. The projection, while mostly serving as a backdrop, isn’t afraid to experiment with both the more literal (corners of the house or hospital) and the metaphorical (astronomical symbols at the Healer’s place) as needed.

Review: Musikal Masih Ada and the Turbulent Lives of Cancer Patients

All in all, Musikal Masih Ada is a testament to the power of musical theater as a form of storytelling. Although its character writing might be limited due to its short format, it is a well-executed show for its intended message. It is a testament to the artistic merit of the show’s director, Pasha Prakasa, and his team. It should also be noted, and applauded, that most of the crew and cast worked voluntarily.

I didn’t get to see the matinee show, but people who were lucky enough to be there shared that the audience was mostly made of invitees from the Yayasan Kanker Indonesia community – including a special appearance by Albert Sompie himself. And, from all accounts, the show really resonated with those who have experienced cancer themselves. 

The musical closes with a final song that shares its title with the show itself, ‘Masih Ada’. The lyrics include the line ‘masih ada asa’ – ‘hope still remains’. It is a timeless sentiment, as relevant today as it was in the Ancient Greek myth of Pandora’s box: when things are bleak, sometimes the only thing that remains is hope. And that is enough.

Review: Musikal Masih Ada and the Turbulent Lives of Cancer Patients


 



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