The art and culture venue Encore Melaka is breaking new ground

The weekend night market on Jonker Street, the Melaka River Cruise and the various historical sites and museums might be the obvious things to tick off the checklist when visiting Melaka.

These places are some of the most popular tourist spots in Melaka.

Need something new? Why not include the performing arts and live theater in the equation?

The Encore Melaka theater complex, which opened its doors in 2018, now offers an exciting program of theatre, comedy, pop concerts, classical music and film for residents and visitors to explore.

This transformation marks an exciting new chapter for the venue. It was closed for more than two years due to the pandemic.

From independent shows to major productions, the venue has shown its diversity.

Some upcoming performances include theater classics Emily from Emerald Hill (June 25-September 18, weekend shows), with veteran actor Pearlly Chua returning as the quintessential Nyonya Grand Lady in this long-running monodrama,

It is also Encore Melaka’s first English theatrical production.

Chua, who has played Emily more times than anyone, landed the role in Singapore in 1990. Written by Singaporean playwright Stella Kon and directed by Chin San Sooi, this one-woman play is set between 1915 and 1963 and has two roles: Emily and the audience (as Emily’s friend, to whom she confides her life story).

Bahasa Malaysia theater show Tanjong (June 4-6), presented by the community-based Kelab Teater Asar Negri Sembilan, a Chinese concert Homage to Teresa Teng and Fei Yu-Ching (June 11) and pianist Kok Kee Boon’s recital (June 18) give the venue a good mix of shows over the next month.

Visitor numbers have steadily grown as more and more theatrical productions visit this venue.

Last month, Encore Melaka opened its doors to the public with the music and drum show by indie artist collective Orang Orang Drum Theatre Fix the broken sky. It played in front of a total of 1,500 spectators in five series of shows. The venue also hosted screenings of indie films Mentega Terbang by Anomalist Production and a Chinese pop music concert.

Theater to boost tourism

“Ticket sales have been on schedule and we’re seeing a lot of interest in these live shows even though there are no foreign tourists,” said Datuk Zoe Tan, chief operating officer of Yong Tai Berhad, the real estate company that manages the venue.

Originally, the Encore Melaka was the home of the in-house fair Encore Melaka: Impression series, which told the timeless story of Melaka through a contemporary theatrical production.

The performance, which has had nearly 500 shows since it opened in July 2018, stalled in early 2020 when the MCO was announced. Since then it has been on hold. As of press time, no dates have been set for the show’s return.

The strategy has now shifted towards a broader range of live entertainment, including arts and cultural shows. The idea is to reposition Encore Melaka as a notable live performance venue outside of the Klang Valley.

It is arguably the only state-of-the-art venue in Melaka to rival well-known Klang Valley venues such as Istana Budaya, the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Center and the Petaling Jaya Performing Arts Centre.

The theater complex in Impression City, Kota Laksamana features video projection mapping, multi-level hydraulic sets and advanced lighting systems. The theater seats 2,000 spectators.

Located just outside the tourist center of Melaka, it also features a 360° rotating viewing platform.

“What we really want to achieve through our diverse program is to let artists know that there is a venue outside of KL where they can perform their shows.

“But beyond that, our goal is to raise people’s awareness of the local performing arts scene and show that Melaka isn’t just about tourist attractions and historic sites.

“Our ultimate dream is to have big touring shows like musicals and international acts using our venue. It will be exciting to see such shows playing in Melaka in the future,” said Wong Yean Jau, Marcom Manager of Encore Melaka.

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