Comedian Douglas Lim and designer Raja Malek hope to score with 'OlaBola The Musical'

OlaBola The Musical promises to be a stage production to remember

OlaBola The Musical, the stage adaptation of director Chiu Keng Guan's hit 2016 movie OlaBola, opens on Feb 8 at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur and runs until Mar 11. Directed by Puan Sri Tiara Jacquelina, the ambitious show is based on the true story of Malaysia's national football team Harimau Malaya that dreams of making it to 1980 Olympics.

The show features an ensemble cast that includes Stephen Rahman-Hughes, Iedil Putra, Douglas Lim and rapper Altimet. Star2's Life Inspired team sat with Tiara, Stephen, Douglas and Raja Malek to talk about the project. Check out our interviews with director Tiara here and actor/special movements choreographer Stephen here.

For the final part of this story, we speak with Douglas, a stand-up comedian with a history in TV (the sitcom Kopitiam) and a career in theatre (Lat The Musical, P. Ramlee The Musical, Tunku The Musical, Cuci The Musical). And we chat with award-winning set designer Raja Malek, who worked with Tiara on Puteri Gunung Ledang The Musical.

Douglas Lim

How did you get into OlaBola The Musical?

I got a call from Tiara asking if I would be interested. My schedule was hell, but (Tiara's production company) Enfiniti agreed to work around it. I was really grateful. Being involved in an Enfiniti production is a no-brainer. I was in P Ramlee The Musical and loved every minute of it. Being offered a comedic role in OlaBola The Musical was too good to pass on.

Can you talk about your role as Mr Wong? 

My role as Uncle Wong is your classic comic character. Getting into character was no problem as I'm actually very similar – grumpy, cynical, but ultimately proud of my country’s achievements. I don’t think there’s a message. Uncle Wong is basically a reflection of the average Malaysian at the time.

Douglas Lim in rehearsal for OlaBola The Musical.

What challenges have you faced working on this musical?

The same challenge in every musical – dancing! I'm a horrible dancer, but our choreographer is very supportive, not to mention the ensemble that always goes above and beyond to help me and my two left feet.

What do you find most rewarding about working on this musical?

Working with a very talented and enthusiastic bunch of young people. I’m also a fan of Altimet, Stephen Rahman-Hughes and Iedil Putra, so getting a chance to work with them is great.

How does OlaBola story inspire you?

What the Harimau Malaya football team did that year was close to impossible – they qualified for the Olympics! OlaBola’s theme of sacrifice and achieving the impossible really resonates with me.

What are your expectations for the musical? 

I hope the audience will be transported – transported to the iconic Stadium Merdeka, transported back to a time where Malaysia achieved the impossible, transported to an atmosphere of harmony and celebration.

Raja Malek has won theatre awards working with Tiara Jacquelina on Puteri Gunung Ledang The Musical and P Ramlee The Musical.

Raja Malek

Can you talk about what's gone into this production and how this stage show differs from the movie?

Puteri Gunung Ledang The Musical was a complex production, but this on is a different level! It's exciting, it's daunting, it’s about football and I don’t watch football!

The first thing that came to my mind was the stadium. The bulk of the movie has spectators; how do you translate that to the stage? You can’t use 2,000 people on stage, let alone 60.

The idea I came up with was how to show the emotion with visuals and closeups. This is the magic of theatre. In cinema there are 34 frames and closeups. In film you get to do it once and that’s it. In theatre you can change it if the show is going on and it doesn’t work. That’s the beauty of theatre.

For example, we decided to use slow motion because football is about speed. So let’s reenact the important moments in slow motion.

How has it been designing the set for the musical?

It’s very true to the movie. It’s like when we did P Ramlee The Musical, all the scenes that happened in those places, that’s something I can’t recreate. So I reenacted the scenes from the movie – the locker room, how the set comes in and forms into stage.

I would say we have our brand of design that has multifunction that will have an opening, that moves and forms different shapes. Someone coined it as “economy of design”, where one design can become two or three sets at the same time or combined together.

How does the OlaBola story inspire you?

It took me awhile to get into the story because I’m not a big football fan to be honest. But with research and the script, you get into the spirit. There’s a scene in the army camp and you start thinking, how do you translate it on stage? How is it going to be choreographed?

The set comes in first and we find ways to work around it. We want to make people feel that era. To do this we used a lot of different techniques and colours. It's the closest we can get to that.


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