PETALING JAYA: The last three years have been particularly tough for local performing arts practitioners. Along with everyday industry challenges, there was the pandemic to contend with, too.
Yet many remained defiant in the face of adversity, staying the course, and still creating despite the obstacles at every turn.
And on Sunday night, the 18th annual Boh Cameronian Arts Awards (18BCAA) celebrated the resilience of the performing arts landscape, at a prestigious ceremony centred around the theme “Setia Pada Senimu” (“Faithful to Your Art”).
First launched in 2002, the Boh Cameronian Arts Awards is dedicated to raising the profile of the arts in Malaysia, and to recognise the contribution of artists in various areas of the cultural scene.
This year’s ceremony, held in PJPAC, honoured the best Malaysian arts productions from 2020-2023. Awards were presented in 30 sub-categories in dance, music, musical theatre, and theatre, as well as an overall “Best Of” category.
Each subcategory winner received a trophy and a cash prize of RM1,000, while each “Best Of” winner received a trophy and a cash prize of RM5,000.
The ceremony opened with a spirited performance of “A New Day”, sung by hosts Ronnie, Angie Cheah, Nave VJ and Tria Aziz alongside a troupe of local dancers.
Tria also performed the show’s theme, “Setia Pada Senimu” later. Both songs were written by Terence Toh, Lydia Tong and Kelvin Loh of KULT Productions, with choreography by Kenny Shim.
In the Dance category, Ballet Theatre Malaysia’s “Alice in Wonderland” picked up awards for Best Lighting Design (Tan Eng Heng), Best Set And/Or Visual Design (Passion Ma), and Best Costume, Styling and Makeup (Queenie Chong).
Lee Ren Xin and Tan Bee Hung of Five Arts Centre’s “Anggota” won awards for Best Group Performance and Best Choreographer in a Feature Length Work.
For Music, the Lee Rubber Chinese Orchestra KL won the Best Group Performance and Best Production accolades for “Dream of the Red Chamber”.
Cecilia Yap picked up the award for Best Solo Performer for her work in Viva Opera’s “A Pilgrim’s Songs”, while the Kuala Lumpur City Opera Principal Artists & Chorus went home with the Best Group Performance award for “Brindisi”, featured in “A Grand Night of Opera”.
In Theatre, theatrethreesixty’s “24 Jam Dalam 37 Tahun” won awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Shah Shaha), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Anissa Azis), and Best Director (Chris Ling).
The Iron Gang Puppet Theatre group also went home with two awards, namely Best Lighting Design (Nicxon Tan) and Best Music & Sound Design (Fazz), for their work on “Ibu”.
For musical theatre, theatrethreesixty’s “Follow the Light” picked up the highest number of awards for a production, with a grand total of five.
Its cast won the Best Ensemble award, while Nick Choo picked up prizes for Best Original Music and Lyrics, Best Original Book, and Best Musical Director.
“I’m very happy and grateful to have won three awards tonight, but none of it could have been possible without theatrethreesixty, including and especially director Christopher Ling, plus everyone else who was involved in making the show happen,” said Choo.
Ronnie from KULT Productions’ “Fortune Kooky” was named Best Lead Performer.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to veteran Dondang Sayang champion Mohd Baharim Mohd Sharip, who has dedicated five decades of his life towards mastery of this traditional artform. The legendary performer received a standing ovation from the audience.
The night culminated in the “Best Of” category, which celebrates innovative, outstanding productions that set new benchmarks in performing arts excellence.
Out of the 101 productions in the local arts scene from 2020-2022, five were shortlisted, including La Danza Theatre’s “N2” and the Young Choral Academy’s “Dark Light”.
All five nominees performed excerpts from their productions through the ceremony. Three walked home with the coveted accolade: these were the Five Arts Centre’s “A Notional History”, the Lee Rubber Chinese Orchestra’s “Dream of the Red Chamber”, and theatrethreesixty’s “Follow The Light”.
“This is unexpected. Already being nominated was great, but winning? Wow!” said Lee Rubber Chinese orchestra project manager Chan Kok Hoong.
“I’m really grateful to my team, and to Kakiseni for supporting the arts. I think this will help more people be aware of the potential of Chinese orchestras.”
Meanwhile, “A Notional History” director Mark Teh said his show was made “so collaboratively. Amongst other things, the performance is about the production, control and editing of stories, histories and national narratives – so it’s poetic to share this between the performers and the team”.
Finally, Ling, director of “Follow The Light” and 18BCAA show director, said: “I’m completely elated, and taken aback, too. Getting recognition from peers is really one of the highest honours. I’m glad we got to celebrate the last three years.”
For a complete list of winners of the 18th Boh Cameronian Arts Awards, visit their website.