On 27 and 28 May 2018, List Sotheby’s International Realty led several members of Singapore’s flagship media including The Straits Times, Lianhe Zaobao and Mediacorp Channel 8 to Malaysia to preview a special trial show of Encore Melaka, the 70-minute live-performance immersive cultural extravaganza featuring a cast and crew of 200 local performers at the newly constructed Encore Melaka Theatre developed by Yong Tai Berhad.
Directed by famed Chinese director Wang Chaoge, who proudly wears the tag of “China’s most expensive female director” like a badge of honour, the show was a rich and colourful, at times moving, re-telling of Melaka’s 600 years of heritage through touching life stories of the locals. Encore Melaka is the 10th installment of the Impression Series, a series of spectacular world-class performances blending light, shadow, music, dance, folklore and history, set amidst breath-taking natural landscapes, including the most famous productions Impression Liu Sanjie and Impression West Lake, as well as the immersive visual and auditory theatre experiences such as Encore Dunhuang. Encore Melaka made international news when it was announced as it is the first of the Impression Series to be based outside of China, with Melaka being chosen out of more than 100 cities around the world.
After driving from Singapore to Melaka via the second link, we headed directly to the Encore Melaka Theatre to meet director Wang. The venue is currently Southeast Asia’s largest theatre with its own permanent show (think the Esplanade Theatre but with a year-long production). Costing some MYR 400 million (more than S$135 million), the theatre features a 360-degree rotating auditorium large enough for a 2,000 strong audience, comes with multiple stages and is equipped with advanced audio and a state of the art 3D video mapping projection system.
Before the interview started, everyone was given an impromptu display of Wang’s directorial ability as she immediately controlled the room and instructed where the cameras should be, where the journalists should sit, and even what they should be sitting on, immediately raising the level of tension in the room. But once the interview went underway, she became all excited, chatty and humorous about sharing her thoughts about the production. Within a matter of minutes, she had won the room over with her confident and direct demeanor (even with the occasional jest about “throwing you into the Straits of Melaka” if you disagreed with her) and her clarity of thoughts on what she wanted to achieve with the show. As an experienced director, she was every photographer and videographer’s dream subject, as she was aware of what they needed from her and gave good poses and angles all throughout the interview even without being asked.
The Encore Melaka Theatre is the first development to be built in the 138-acre Impression City, a tourism-focused integrated development. Impression City is the brainchild of Datuk Wira Boo Kuang Loon, the Chief Executive Officer of developer Yong Tai Berhad. But more than a mega real estate project, Impression City is part of the Datuk’s larger vision to turn Melaka into an even more successful tourist destination than the UNESCO World Heritage Site already is. During his interview, Datuk Boo shared that the challenges he faced over the last five years was so grueling that he would not wish it upon anyone. Everyone in the room turned silent upon hearing how his earlier partners turned their backs to him and none would support him in his vision, citing that the production would be too enormous to realise, and how the Datuk had to look for a new location for the theatre when the first land owner reneged on the agreement after watching how successful and lucrative the “Impression Series” was in China and asked for twice the original amount for the piece of land. We also heard how the unfortunate incident of the Malaysian Airlines flight carrying tourists from China which went missing just one day before the Datuk was leading a businsss entourage to China to pitch to investors, essentially dashed all hopes of winning over any Chinese investor. Another challenge came when he found a second plot of land to build the theatre, but the site was rejected by Wang who told him that the story of Melaka needed to be told near the Straits of Melaka and not at a place with “just a pool of dead water”.
Five years later, Datuk Boo stands proudly before the magnificent looking Encore Melaka Theatre right next to the vast and beautiful Straits of Melaka. Calling himself a “Melaka Boy”, Datuk Boo has accomplished his dream of creating a world class standard cultural event for his hometown, and it is one that the more than the 16.8 million annual visitors to Melaka can attend at night, offering another option for them to enjoy besides just going for big meals at night because there is nothing else to do, explained Datuk Boo.
On the day of the special preview show, the theatre was filled to capacity with 2,000 invited guests as well as local and international media. When the show was over, the verdict was clear – the audience were unanimous in agreement that Melaka now has a show which beautifully portray’s the city’s multi-cultural heritage and it is a show that all Melakans can be proud of.
Yong Tai is also developing a new hotel within Impression City known as The Dawn Melaka, just 800m from the Encore Melaka Theatre. The Dawn Melaka is a stylish urban hotel consisting of two blocks of 648 units (standard, pool-side, jacuzzi and executive suites) with splendid views of the Straits of Melaka, the hotel swimming pool as well as the Encore Melaka Theatre. The Dawn Melaka’s fully furnished rooms range from 494 sf to 988 sf, making them the largest hotel rooms in Melaka (with the average room size in other Melaka hotels being 320 – 350 sf). The hotel’s site measures around 5 acres (217,800 sq ft), and the hotel has a 99 years lease from January 2017 and is expected to be completed by Q4 2020.
With an initial cash outlay from just MYR 105,400 (S$ 36,000), a total outlay from MYR 527,000 (S$ 180,000) and an assured annual return of 7 per cent for the first three years, The Dawn Hotel @ Impression City Melaka is a smart investment for those who are looking for good returns from a non-prohibitive sum. During the promotion period, there is even an interest-free loan offered by the developer to qualified buyers, which would result in S$64,300 to S$80,600 worth of savings in interest.
List Sotheby’s International Realty, Singapore, is the authorised marketing agency for The Dawn Melaka.