LAST_UPDATESun, 18 Mar 2018 9pm

Why ‘OlaBola The Musical’ Was ‘Luar Biasa’ And So Much More

Hundreds of Malaysians were on their feet in a theatre hall that was emblazoned with a backdrop of Stadium Merdeka, singing our national anthem, Negaraku, at the start of a show in Istana Budaya last night.

There’s a sense of pride whenever I articulate each word in the lyrics, just like the last time I stood to sing it in the Bukit Jalil Stadium when team Malaysia won Gold for an event during the KL2017 SEA Games. Yet, this was in a space of the arts, and it couldn’t be any fitting when the story, ‘OlaBola The Musical’, revolves around the multicultural Harimau Malaya squad that would stop at nothing to make the nation proud.

Of course the presentation was about the glory days of the nation’s football, and as we know it the sport has always had a special place in our hearts, but it wasn’t only football fans that were present in the crowd of families and friends. There were theatre lovers, celebrities, corporate sponsors, some who came to watch the show with scepticism, others without any expectations – and I was one of them.

As an audience, we witnessed team Captain ‘Tauke’ Chow Kwok Keong, striker Ali and goalkeeper Muthu having their setbacks and differences that left them all with clashes at some point. Though as the plot went along, the boys learned about instilling team work into their regime to be the best version of themselves, hence, finally conquering their demons.

Ironically unbeknownst to us, just like them, we united in our gestures when we laughed (a lot) in unison and were left teary-eyed at some scenes like Muthu being torn between his love for football and his family. I observed how the audience was also excited to be taken back to a time when we had to fix the outdoor TV antenna to get good signal, gathered at kopitiams for chit-chat with friends of other races and sang patriotic songs like ‘Perajurit Tanah Air’ or also known as ‘Inilah Barisan Kita’, together.

Poignantly, when they started to believe in themselves, we too started believing in them. We believed in their hopes and dreams, their brotherly love for one another and their genuine love for the country. This made us reflect on the present time and why we need to see past each other's differences.

There was also a strong message that was on loop throughout which was: “Setiap manusia mampu menjadi wira (We can all be heroes)”, whilst reminding how “luar biasa (extraordinary)” we are – and I must say that resonated well with me, as there are days when I’ve felt lesser of a person than I should.

After the show, everyone was up on their feet once again applauding the brilliant cast and their excellent artistry.

I walked out with a sense of pride and a feel-good feeling knowing at some point in our lives (or even now), we are all Tauke, Ali, Muthu – which I'm sure every Malaysian in that hall must have felt it too. 

Honestly, I must say though especially after watching a number of West End shows in London aside previous local productions on the same stage, never would I have imagined that a musical could impact me in such a way – that I’m starting to believe this show is after all ‘Luar Biasa’.