Balinese hero I Gusti Ketut Jelantik fights Dutch soldiers in a scene from 'Khatulistiwa,' a new historical musical performed at Taman Ismail Marzuki in Jakarta on Friday (18/11). (Photo courtesy of ZigZag Indonesia)

Great History Lesson Despite Few Bum Notes: New Musical 'Khatulistiwa'


NOVEMBER 22, 2016

Jakarta. Indonesia's national heroes have been remembered and celebrated in a new musical, "Khatulistiwa," premiering at Teater Jakarta in Taman Ismail Marzuki, Jakarta, on Friday (18/11). 

Featuring 100 performers, the musical was produced by the Josodirdjo Foundation and marketing service company Zigzag Indonesia. The main sponsor was CIMB Niaga bank.

Josodirdjo Foundation founder Tiara Josodirdjo said the musical celebrates the sacrifices that Indonesia's national heroes made and encourages young people to make bigger contributions to their country.

It took one year of preparations and rehearsals to produce the show.

Musical director Adjie N.A. said the show was an interplay of various storytelling media.

"We use multimedia installations, costumes, songs and dances that suggest specific places and eras," Adjie said.

The songs are made up of nearly 50 new arrangements of traditional and modern Indonesian songs from different regions.

Entertaining history lesson

The musical recreates historical battles featuring heroes and heroines from all parts of Indonesia — Cut Nyak Dhien and her daughter Cut Gambang from Aceh, Sultan Hasanuddin from Makassar, Sisingamangaraja and Putri Lopian Sinambela from Toba, I Gusti Ketut Jelantik from Bali and Christina Martha Tiahahu from Maluku.

There weren't just war heroes, the country's "intellectual activists" including Dewi Sartika, H.O.S. Cokroaminoto, Ki Hajar Dewantara and the country's founding fathers Soekarno and Hatta also made appearances.

The ensemble cast gelled well, including Rifnu Wikana as Cokroaminoto, Rio Dewanto as Ki Hajar Dewantara and Sisingamangaraja, Dea Panendra as Martha Christina Tiahahu and new star Kelly Tandiono.

Singer Sita Nursanti delivered the cameo of the night with her Dewi Sartika aria, which was met with rapturous applause.

Bum notes

Emotions got the better of some of the performers, though, particularly while singing. Some of the vocals were ruined by over-emoting.

The dialogues, too, veered from the heroic to the cliché.

The first act, though action-packed, moved at snail pace. By the time the play got into second gear in its second act, many in the audience were more than just a little twitchy.

Luckily, a stirring rendition of "Indonesia Raya," the national anthem, ended the show on a high note.