SHE was dressed all in white. It looked like she was radiating light. It was quite an ethereal sight.”
That was Clifton Ko Chi Sum’s memory of his first meeting with Anita Mui Yim Fong (1963-2003). If the Hong Kong filmmaker-turnedmusical producer seemed unusually poetic, it was because he was in the presence of Hong Kong’s most iconic entertainment diva.
“I was starstruck, and completely rooted to the spot. Many thoughts ran through my mind, but I could neither speak nor move. At that time, Anita was already a big-time star, an icon in the Hong Kong entertainment industry. And, I was just a smalltime film director.
“She noticed me staring and immediately offered a smile. Then, she approached me and offered her hand as she introduced herself. After that, she sat down and continued with her work,” recalled Ko, who mused that Mui’s beauty was further matched by her kindness and generosity as well as her professionalism and perfectionism.
Speaking at a media conference in Kuala Lumpur to promote A Mui Live 2014, the 55-year-old director regaled local media with tales of Mui’s splendour.
“On the set, Anita was a complete professional. Even though she was a big star, she actually behaved like a newcomer during filming. Unlike others who would crack jokes and even play the fool on the set, she would sit quietly and study her script thoroughly. She took her work seriously and made sure every take was perfect, and was careful to never waste any time.
“When we filmed Anita’s parts in a movie, she would perform every scene perfectly in one single take. At most, she would deliver a second take to offer another option. But, never more than that,” said Ko, singing praises of the Hong Kong star who was dubbed the “Madonna of the East” and had some 40 films and 50 albums to her name.
“To me, Anita was the quintessential entertainer. A superstar much like other stage divas such as French singer Edith Piaf and Chinese songstress Zhou Xuan. Except, Anita’s life was 10 times more tragic. Born in poverty, she had to work hard for everything in life. Then, when success came to her, it seemed like she had everything, fame and fortune, except for the one thing she wanted most of all – love,” Ko continued. Mui died at age 40 in 2003 from cervical cancer.
Ten years after her death, Ko decides to celebrate Mui’s remarkable legacy of music and film with a tribute musical in her name. The Malaysian leg of the musical comprises four shows and is organised by E House Theatre & Production and performed by The Spring- Time Group (TSTG) from Hong Kong. The production house previously brought in Shooting Star – The Musical (a tribute to Hong Kong stars Leslie Cheung, Danny Chan and Paul Chung), which was also directed by Ko.
Playing the part of Mui in the tribute show is Margaret Cheung Kwok Wing. The freelance Hong Kong theatre professional, who has some 20 stage productions under her belt, is the fifth performer to play the part of Anita in the musical.
“I did not ask for her to look like nor sound like Anita. Nor did I want her to impersonate Anita in any way. In any case, that would not be possible. No one can replicate a superstar like Anita. All I wanted was for her to exude a similar charisma, stage presence and showmanship.
“Margaret impresses in so many ways. Her stamina and dynamism are among her strongest points, as are her charisma and showmanship,” Ko said in praise of Cheung, who has to maintain high energy levels for 105 minutes to deliver a total of 36 songs.
Ko said that right from the start, A Mui Live is a one-woman show. “One woman on stage, singing, dancing, acting, in a live show. It is definitely more challenging than Shooting Star – The Musical.”
A Mui Live 2014 will be staged at Pentas 1, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, Jan 16-18 at 8pm with an additional 3pm matinee show on Jan 18. Tickets: RM168, RM88, RM68. Purchases of 20 tickets and more get a 10% discount. For enquiries and reservation, get in touch with TicketPro (03-7880 7999 / www.ticketpro.com. my), KLPAC (03-4047 9000 / www. klpac.org) or E House Theatre & Production (016-715 4345 / http:// ehousetheatreproduction.blogspot. com).
‘To me, anita was the quintessential entertainer,’ says Clifton Ko Chi Sum, producer of aMuiLive2014.