OlaBola The Musical’ actor Kai Chalmers Being on stage is like being an athlete

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It wasn’t until Kai Chalmers went to the Arts Educational Schools in London, that he learned how to dance properly. By the time he graduated with a Bachelor Of Arts in Musical Theatre, three years later, Chalmers had learned ballet, jazz dance, tap dance and contemporary dance.

“I was 18 years old when I started my dance lessons. I am a late bloomer,” said Chalmers, who turns 24 this year. “I have never learned to move (in a dance form) until then. But I did it. It was difficult, but once I broke down the choreography picture by picture, I could do it.”

Now, his dancing skills will be put to the test as he is part of the cast members of OlaBola The Musical, happening at Istana Budaya from now until March 11. In it, he portrays Eric Yong, a Sabahan chosen to be the striker in the national team, which causes tension among the team members.

“Being an actor (in a musical) is like being an athlete: You have to make sure to warm up your voice, your body – stretch the muscles to make sure you do not suffer any injuries,” added the 1.80m-tall Chalmers.

Born in Hong Kong to an American father and a Malaysian mother, Chalmers and his two older brothers grew up both in Hong Kong and Malaysia. In school, he played basketball and was part of its swimming team.

He also participated in its theatre programme and was part of a choral group that went on to perform at KLPac and with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.

“When I was 16, I went to study singing under a wonderful teacher, Cha Seng Tiang. He’s an opera singer who runs a classical singing centre. He became a mentor to me and it was his classes that got me interested to pursue my higher studies in performing.

“Even now, although I am busy with rehearsals for OlaBola, I try to squeeze in a lesson from him.”

1. Is anyone else in your family in the performing scene?
No. My parents are ex-bankers. My older brother is with the fire department in the US and my other brother is in events management. But my grandfather, who was a doctor professionally, enjoyed music immensely. He loved arts, and was happy that I was interested in arts as well.

He passed away last year but he saw me performing in Mud: The Story Of Kuala Lumpur. He was a stoic man. After the show, he told me, “Good work.”

2. You have posted a number of YouTube videos doing covers. Is singing something you want to pursue more seriously?
I am planning on releasing a single in the near future. But I want to put in more work into the production side of music, and I am talking to a friend of mine singer-songwriter Christian Palencia on making this happen.

3. Are you a fan of any football team?
When I was younger I used to like Arsenal. I do enjoy the sport. We (the OlaBola cast) play futsal on a regular basis, so we can get used to each other and master manoeuvring the ball more naturally on stage. There is a 20-minute football choreography near the end, which is the finale to the show.

4. You did musicals in school and college. Last year you acted in Mud. Do you think you will ever try drama, a Shakespeare play maybe?
I’d love to do a straight play. I used to hate Shakespeare but I did a workshop in Britain and that completely changed my view. The great thing about Shakespeare, it allows you to improve your acting. You don’t take on the character, you have to rise to the character because the character is so complex.

One day I hope to play a Shakespeare villain like Malvolio (of Twelfth Night), or Edmund from King Lear. And Iago from Othello, that’d be great. As an actor you do not ever want to be typecast.

5. What are your other interests?
I love reading, fiction and non-fiction. Right now I am reading How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain De Botton, and had just finished Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I love horror. I want to be in a horror film, one of those horror films that play on paranoia like Body Snatchers. I try to watch TV when I can, The Expanse and Game Of Thrones. But reading is my main thing.