Puan Sri Tiara Jacquelina (centre) with the cast of OlaBola The Musical.
“Technology plays a big part to give audiences a totally fresh experience, something they have never seen before.” - Puan Sri Tiara Jacquelina

Puan Sri Tiara Jacquelina revolutionises musical theatre with state-of-the-art technology, writes Izwan Ismail

PUAN Sri Tiara Jacquelina needs no introduction in the entertainment industry, especially in musical theatre, with world-class shows such as Puteri Gunung Ledang, P. Ramlee The Musical and MUD — The Story Of KL.

Tiara, who has always had a passion for making musical theatre, knows that more can be done to make it exciting.

This time around, the award-winning producer and performer has taken musical theatre to a new level by incorporating technological elements into her new show on a large scale, not just in Malaysia but probably the world.

OlaBola The Musical which she directs, is based on the 2016 box office hit Ola Bola, which told the story of the Malaysian national football team which qualified for the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, Russia. The film raked more than RM16 million in ticket sales.

Tiara uses technology to make the audience feel as if they are inside the historic Stadium Merdeka to celebrate the team’s success.

So how did she accomplish this?

“This is where technology becomes the game-changer,” says Tiara. “That was the challenge. How do we create that live football scene in a theatre?”

To make it possible, Enfiniti, the entertainment house she founded, has partnered with Celcom Axiata to bring in cutting-edge staging technology to the show.

“Technology plays a big part to give audiences a totally fresh experience, something they have never seen before,” says Tiara.

OlaBola The Musical has less heavy props that are usually moved around and changed on stage with the cast acting and singing around them.

The big traditional theatre props are replaced by giant LED screens, 3D projection mapping, 360-degree surround sound and state of the art lighting technology.

“You would have seen big LED screens being used in concerts, and sports events around the world, but not in theatre, especially in Malaysia,” says Tiara.

“When making OlaBola The Musical, I tried to visualise how to bring the audience into the stadium so that they can experience football as if they are in the stadium,” she says.

“Football is such an emotional sport. The experience of watching it in the stadium is so different and that’s what I want the audience to feel when they watch OlaBola The Musical.”

Danny Hoo, the visual effects producer, says it is the first musical theatre production to use such sophisticated technology.

Enfiniti has invested in 13 high-end projectors that have various lumens or brightness, and four massive projection screens measuring between 12 and 15 metres to enhance the entire experience.

“We have also used some of the most powerful media servers by D3 Technologies and high quality visual effects to digitally devise the different scenes, from the kopitiam to Stadium Merdeka,” says Hoo. These giant LED screens and high-tech projectors bring the stadium as well as other scenes to live.

Meanwhile, Elan Hasyim, visual content designer of OlaBola The Musical, says: “Most of the illustrations displayed on the various screens are handdrawn and depict comic-style drawings instead of using generic photo-realistic backgrounds that are commonly used in most productions.

“2D drawings were created for effects simulation and 3D modelling was then used for realistic animation. OlaBola The Musical is unlike any other production in terms of concept, technology and visual mastery.”

Even though technology is used on a mammoth scale in OlaBola The Musical, Tiara stresses that the heart of the show is the story.

“Once we had a strong story, only then did we think about what kind of technology is available today that can support the story,” she says.

Tiara is assisted by Raja Malik, a veteran production set designer whom she has been working with for many years. The team she has now is the same one she has had since she staged Puteri Gunung Ledang 12 years ago.

“At the heart of OlaBola The Musical is the story, and whenever technology does not serve its purpose it is not used,” says Tiara.

She adds that in today’s world people have to move with the times and the same goes for theatre, justifying her bold move to use technology.

“The creative industry needs to be ahead of the game continuously. Technology makes things move faster, makes us more efficient. We are able to tell stories and create scenes we were unable to do before. It heightens the experience for the audience,” she says.

“For example, to recreate the scene in the stadium, we cannot have 1,000 to 2,000 people on stage; that’s where the two gigantic LED screens on both sides of the stage play their part.”

The LED screens are used to recreate the scene in the stadium as well as outside it, close-up moments and expressions.

“It’s theatre-meets-graphics — this is convergence of technology and theatre,” says Tiara.

One of the most important thing about using technology in theatre is the

“language” that young people can relate to.

“With these technological advancements, we hope we can bring younger audiences into theatre,” says Tiara. “Many young people think that theatre is for old people and the rich. So you have to make them fall in love with theatre first with the help of technology elements.”

OLABOLA THE MUSICAL premieres on Feb 8 and runs until March 11 at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur.

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