Bond-ing over

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ITS theme songs are almost as iconic as the movie franchise itself, the sultry rhythms that lend a distinct gravitas to each instantly recognisable.

Be it from the classic Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever by Shirley Bassey, to the latest, Skyfall, by British singer Adele, each song from the famed MI6 spy character James Bond’s films sets the dramatic tone of suspense and danger.

So entrenched is the soundtrack of a Bond film in the legacy of Agent 007’s enduring popularity on the silver screen that it would be of no surprise to see them translated to the theatre stage — in the upcoming Licence to Thrill: A Bond Concert, to be held at the Panggung Sari, Istana Budaya from Nov 14 to Nov 16.

The concept of a Bond concert is certainly not new, but newly formed production company Limelight Entertainment is confident that its maiden project has a wide appeal that transcends time.

“The concert experience will have audiences relive the world’s most loved secret agent moments,” said Limelight director and executive producer Brian Johnson Lowe (pic), who is also the co-founder of My Performing Arts Agency (MYPAA).

Spanning the course of over 50 years, a Bond-theme naturally brings to mind the long list of renowned stars that have sung in its soundtracks, including the likes of legends such as Bassey, Tina Turner, Tom Jones, Gladys Knight, Carly Simon and Sheena Easton.

There were the more experimental choices as well, from The World is Not Enough by alternative rock band Garbage, Madonna (Die Another Day), Chris Connell (You Know My Name), to a duet by Alicia Keys and Jack White in Quantum of Solace (Another Way to Die) — before harking back to a more classic Bond-esque style with Academy Award-winning Skyfall in 2012.

Befittingly, while the “theatrical homage” to arguably the most famous spy ever known will be produced by an all-Malaysian team, Lowe announced a line-up of vocal powerhouses that include the return of UK West End’s David Shannon and Simon Bailey.

The former’s heavyweight credentials include lead roles in The Phantom of The Opera, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon and Sweeney Todd, while Bailey also held key roles in We Will Rock You, The Phantom of The Opera, Les Miserables and Romeo and Juliet the musical. Both performed in Istana Budaya prior to 2012 and 2011 respectively.

It would not be a Bond concert without the divas. In comes veteran songstress Salamiah Hassan, Jaclyn Victor and Nicolette ‘Nikki’ Palikat.

Dressed in an elegant but understated ice-blue Kebaya at a press conference for the upcoming show, the ever-vivacious Salamiah nevertheless oozed the natural charisma and glamour that make her an obvious choice.

Without hesitation she named Sean Connery as her favourite Bond, citing an unforgettable scene from Dr No (1962), the first film of the franchise where a slinky Ursula Andress walks out of the ocean, as one that sent shivers down her spine.

Known for her belting vocals, former Malaysian Idol winner Jaclyn expressed her excitement in anticipation of the songs she would be singing.

“There’s so much intensity when you listen to the music and the way the singers actually sing them,” said the 36-year old, giving examples such as Golden Eye, A Licence to Kill and Diamonds Are Forever, “the minute you hear it you know it’s a Bond song.”

Bond girls (from left) Nikki, Salamiah and Jaclyn will take the limelight to belt out Bond classics. Photos by Sam Fong

Immediately launching into a line of Diamonds — to much applause — Salamiah pointed out that the key is to bring out the dramatic element, “You really have to go into the story and the movie [to deliver]”.

Lowe admitted that the team struggled to cast a third female singer, that is, until Nikki walked through the doors.

“She sang Skyfall while sitting down,” he commented on her audition, adding that they tried to contain their excitement the moment she started, “after she left, we were like ‘Wow!’”

A fellow finalist in the first Malaysian Idol, the 28-year old Sabahan, who unsurprisingly named Daniel Craig her favourite secret agent, is raring to go.

“The songs are such strong melodies in themselves, it tells a story on its own,” said the confident singer about what defines a Bond theme, echoing Salamiah’s earlier sentiment, “The singer’s job is to act it out.”

Led by award-winning set designer, also director and lecturer Melissa Teoh, the 90-minute long Licence to Thrill: A Bond Concert will have Berklee College of Music graduate and keyboardist Lee Sze Wan joining as music director, while Aswara Dance Company’s Mohd Yunus Ismail helms the show’s choreography.

Priced between RM78 and RM988 (which includes a private meet and greet, programme book and refreshments), tickets can be purchased at Istana Budaya, Rock Corner Music Outlets, Victoria Music Outlets or 8775 4666.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on September 15, 2014.