A group of immensely gifted singers/actors/dancers, seemingly born to play the roles they were cast in, in a spectacular musical rendition about the sports event that inspired generations of Malaysians. OlaBola The Musical may have been often praised for its irrefutable production quality, jaw-dropping choreography, heart-tugging lyrics, but the main factor the show feels like one showstopper after the next is due to Enfiniti Productions’ incredible portrayal of Brian Chan’s “Tauke” Chow Kwok Keong, Iedil Putra’s hilarious take on Rahman, Tony Eusoff’s respectable Harry Mountain, and many more immensely captivating performances.
Back for a second run due to popular demand, August Man Malaysia sat down with Chan, Putra, and Eusoff, as well as the equally talented actor Lim Jian Wen (Ong Tiam Chai) and Hafeez Mikail (Eric Yong), who is making his musical debut, as they were taking their break between rehearsals.
In the interview, the group revealed the greatest thing they share in common with the characters they play, the secret rituals they perform before getting on stage, as well as what they hope the audience takes away from the musical. Each was inviting, passionate, and excited about being in the once-in-a-lifetime hit, articulating how life changing and surreal it is to be in this moment.
What’s the greatest thing you share in common with the character that you play?
Brian: “Tauke” is a person with big dreams. In an era where being able to dream big was often discouraged, he is an underdog facing a copious amount of doubt. I’m 24, I have crazy dreams about being an actor, to bring my craft to New York, to Broadway. Thankfully, I’m able to find these parallels and relate to him.
Tony: First of all, I’m not a football player. Secondly, I’ve never been a coach in any type. [laughs] But if I were to make any parallels, it’d be the determination to reach a certain objective, to reach a certain goal. I’d like to think I’m the type of person that’s determined. When it comes to work, I don’t compromise. The work always comes first, and my commitment to the job, I put that on a pedestal.
Iedil: The whole happy-go-lucky, upbeat, and fun nature in the character. Rahman is a dreamer, and I’d like to think of myself as a dreamer as well. I like to dream big and always aim for something greater in life. The transition is quite easy, because the both of us are quite similar.
Jian Wen: OlaBola is really special to me. OlaBola the movie was my first feature film, and the musical counterpart is my very first musical as well. I’m a football lover. I always wanted to join the national team. In reality, I don’t think my standard is there, but being able to be part of this incredible ensemble has in part fulfilled that dream for me. To be able to wear the jersey.
Hafeez: I play football. Eric is a football player, he’s a Sabahan goal keeper. Aside from that, the rivalry between Eric and Ali is also something that I could find myself in. Eric is someone that’s very mature, whereas Ali is the hot headed one. I guess I could find myself in Eric in the way that he’s always the calm one in conflicts.
What’s the last thing you do before stepping out on stage?
Brian: The ritual. It’s very special with this cast. What we do is we’d go to one another, we give each other a good warm hug. The idea of it is to spread love and positivity before the show. After that, I always get a moment for myself. I’d get on my knees, I’d place my hand on the floor, and give my thanks to the stage, praying for a good run. I get up, and I’d mouthed the words, “Alright, Brian Chan, you got this”. [laughs]
Tony: Personally, I’d warm up my vocals. I’d try to do some physical stretches, because theatre is very physical, right? After that, I’d go through the lines in my head. It helps if I have my own space. We have our own dressing room, which is the very purpose of them, to have your own space. I mean I could do it if there’s people around me, if need be. I tend to be oblivious to my surroundings anyway. [laughs] But it’s infinitely better if I have my own space.
Iedil: I have this dressing room situation whenever I have to go on stage. I have a Rahman Spotify playlist actually. [laughs] During the makeup session, I’d bring my speakers in. Just so everyone could share the vibe. Because that’s the moment you meet the cast before they get into character. I’d just jam to whatever music that’ll be playing. I’d put it up on Instagram, and it became quite a thing actually. [laughs]
Jian Wen: Me personally, because I need to get into Ah Chai’s character, I’d kiss my shoe. [laughs] Because to me, I become Ah Chai the moment I do that.
How has this experience impacted you?
Brian Chan: To me, it was the role of a lifetime. It was the most challenging thing that I ever had to do, especially the first time around. To put this in perspective, I’m an actor first, a singer second, and then a dancer. In this musical, we had to do all three. We have to learn rapping, hip hop. Because of how challenging it was, I’ve learned that no matter what gets in my way, I’d be able to do it. No matter how daunting it is, it really wouldn’t be a problem anymore.
Tony: Like every other production by Enfiniti, they’ve always delivered. I’m just really grateful that they keep getting me back for more. They’ve been really gracious to me, keeping me relevant, and it’s been such a joy working with them.
Iedil: It’s huge! I’ve been involved with Enfiniti since 2011, so I’ve gone through the ranks, in a sense. I’ve been in the performing arts scene for over two decades. I consider the role of Rahman as one of the biggest roles. The expectations were sky high, because of the success of the film counterpart. My challenge last year was to find the extraordinary in Rahman, which I think I did. Personally, I love being Rahman, and it’s nice to be back with the family.
Jian Wen: I think the one thing that I learned from the experience is the importance of believing. We always doubt ourselves. After Ah Chai, I realised that as long as you work hard, you can make a difference. I like acting, but I never thought that I’d be able to. After the film, I told myself that I have to believe in whatever it is that I do. For OlaBola The Musical, it changed me. I started to have this newfound appreciation in music. Actually, I started taking vocal classes after the first season. [laughs]
Hafeez: It’s really good. Enfiniti Academy is really well known. The first season was so great the shows were sold out. When I got the part, I’m like, “I can’t say no to this”. The first season was so good, and I’m optimistic that Enfiniti Academy will make the second season even bigger and better.
What do you hope audience will take away from this musical?
Brian: The normal thing to say would be unity. Which is very true. But to put in down from a personal opinion, there’s this part of our lyric, “Setiap manusia mampu menjadi wira”. It means that anybody can be a hero. The way I see it is that, as long as you work hard, regardless of the challenges that may come upon you, as long as you don’t give up, you will achieve your dreams.
Iedil: I want the audience to come and have fun, to be surprised. To enjoy the story that we are telling. Just go back and have your own interpretation of what the story should be. It is a story about us, after all.
Tony: The national spirit. To not get caught up in petty little things. You know, we achieved our independence without any bloodshed, and I think a lot of us took that for granted. As humans, we are always actively looking for trouble. I hope that through this musical, people can unite again. To see that we are more than the troubles we seek.
Jian Wen: I wish that through this musical, we can bring out the optimism in people.
Hafeez: Well actually I just hope that they want more. [laughs] I’m pretty sure this second season was produced because the first one was really amazing. It’s back by popular demand. I heard that the ticket is almost sold out.