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In Kuala Lumpur 2019: Ola Bola the Musical (2019 Version) by Enfiniti Productions (Review)

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The sold out Malaysian musical continues to swell with nationalistic pride as it returned for a rematch for an even stronger performance this year. 

KUALA LUMPUR – After enjoying a sold out run in 2018, Ola Bola the Musical, the ‘best Malaysian musical’ (according to Malaysian PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad himself) returned to the Isatana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur this February to wow even more audience members with their timeless underdog tale of the Malaysian football team that could, against all odds.

Based on the film of the same name, itself based on a true story, Ola Bola the Musical follows Harimau Malaya, the Malaysian national football team, as they work through personal struggles and internal strife to emerge champions in their own right, eventually qualifying for the 1980 Olympic Games and bringing national glory to the country.

While the musical continues to remain quintessentially the same, with the same impressive twin display screens to swiftly change the backdrop of every scene, the choreography as sharp as the last time we saw it, and still as exciting and heartwarming a narrative as before, the 2019 edition of the musical has somehow managed to surpass its previous run still.

Much of this is due to the cast’s improved chemistry, with each scene feeling that much tighter as every member of the cast (most of them returning from the 2018 run) better understanding each other, perhaps a mark of rehearsals and training paying off. Cast dynamics are more fluid than ever, with the performances feeling genuine as they move about onstage and even appear to be enjoying themselves, free from worry and bereft of performance anxiety.

As much as we do acknowledge that theatre has a certain level of universality, language still remains a huge barrier in this show as it continues to be performed completely in Malay without surtitles, limiting the potential (non-Malaysian) audience this musical could reach. However, as one watches Harimau Malaya play their very best in that final match, one that would go down in history forever, one still cannot help but feel a strange sense of pride and satisfaction as the match concludes, the players having given it their all and uniting an entire nation through sports.

With better formations, a fortuitous second leg and tighter direction and coaching, Ola Bola the Musical’s second outing proves to be an even bigger hit than the first, continuing to impress, and certainly, a winning goal once again for Enfiniti Productions.

Performance attended 3/3/19

Ola Bola The Musical played till 10th March 2019 at Panggung Sari Istana Budaya, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur.

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