5 Things You Don’t Know About … PAN Productions
1. Happy birthday, Alizakri and happy birth, PAN
PAN was conceived during preparations for future co-founder, Alizakri Alias’s 40th birthday bash. “We put together a short musical skit entitled ‘All You Need Is Love’.” It involved characters from fairy tales singing 80’s music and in addition to the birthday celebration it was performed for a charity show. ‘All You Need Is Love’ morphed into ‘Always In Wonderland?’ – the very first PAN Productions’ production.
2. Peter Pan? No relation.
“Coming up with a name for our production company in 2010 was surprisingly difficult.” After some deliberation, it was decided that the name should be based on the initials of the founders, Peter Ong, Alizakri Alias and Nell Ng. Peter liked ‘NAP’ and ‘NAPpy’. Unfortunately (for Peter), he was overruled by the other two and PAN was born. Problem solved, right?
Wrong. To Peter and Alizakri, Pan was the name of the fun- and music-loving Greek god; that satyr who pranced among shepherds and flocks, mountains, forests, nymphs, “and all that folkloric jazz.” Nell, however, took a much more literal view. A pan is a cooking implement and so she designed a logo with a pot (companion to the pan) at its centre.
3. Let’s risk the risqué… later
Kander and Ebb’s ‘Cabaret’ was supposed to have been PAN’s first show, but “we thought we should first test our producing capabilities by staging something with fewer expectations. So ‘Cabaret’ became our second production, staged in 2011.”
In spite of their success with ‘Always in Wonderland’, “we were very nervous as to how Cabaret would be received. We were a very young production company (well, we still are – we turn 6 this year) with no track record and limited resources.” They pulled it off with a lot of courage, determination and help. “We’re very thankful to companies like Berjaya Corporation, MAC Cosmetics and Puncak Dana who believed in us from the get-go and allowed us to stage such an iconic work.” The production set new standards for musical theatre in Malaysia, and the rest is now history.
4. Success alone doesn’t put bread on the table
“PAN only does one major production a year because it is still only the three of us who get everything up and running. From sourcing funds to putting the production team together to securing licenses of various kinds, etc.” When PAN is not staging anything, Alizakri is a high-flying corporate person whilst Peter and Nell are reduced to freelancing (“We’re showgirl sluts – we will take any other paying job to keep the bills paid.”)
5. On top of everything else, there are those countless facepalm moments
“Producers (the people, not the musical) always have the most bizarre scenarios to deal with.” This is a polite way of saying that even kids’ theatre gets pounced on by professional let’s-find-the-hidden-offensive-element players. “When we applied to stage ‘The Wizard of Oz’, someone asked us if this production was about black magic or other ‘unhealthy religious connotations’. “
If these were questions about a little girl who flies over a rainbow, I don’t dare ask what they got about the racy ‘Cabaret’, the outrageous ‘Producers’ and the spell casting ‘Into the Woods’. Then again, who knows what malevolent messages we’d hear if we played ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ backwards.
“Yes, the process of producing a show could fill the pages of a novel or two…”
About PAN Productions.
Since 2010, this three-person team has kept itself busy “cooking up a creative storm” and raising the bar for musical theatre in Malaysia.