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Ah Boys To Men: The Musical

April 28, 2014

AhBoysMusical1-1(photo credit: Running Into The Sun)

Event: Ah Boys to Men: The Musical
Venue: Resorts World Theatre @ RWS
Run: 18th Apr – 4th May 2014

Green Capers

After months of eager anticipation, the “Ah Boys to Men” musical finally descends upon the RWS Theatre.

Expectations run understandably high for a number of reasons, one being that this is a direct transplant of the immensely popular Jack Neo movie franchise of the same name, and two being that this is probably as large-scale a production as you’d ever come across as far as local musical productions are concerned.

It took three executive producers (Jack Neo, Irene Ang and Mang) to put this show together, and the huge cast comprises both the familiar faces from the film (Tosh Zhang, Wang Weiliang, Maxi Lim, Noah Yap, Richard Low) as well as well-known actors from the theatre circle (Chua Enlai, Benjamin Kheng, Audrey Luo, Darius Tan, Joshua Lim).

And when you throw in artistes from the media as well, such as Patricia Mok and Zhou Chongqing, you realise that this is probably as huge and as star-studded a cast as you’d ever find.

Veteran theatre director Beatrice Chia-Richmond, who isn’t exactly unfamiliar with directing army-related shows, takes the helm, having directed the “Army Daze” musical at the Drama Centre back in 2012.

Don Richmond, who also composed the songs for “Army Daze”, provides the songs for “Ah Boys” as well, while Goh Boon Teck serves as playwright.

One may be forgiven for doing a double take and confusing this musical with the “Army Daze” one at the onset, since both have Beatrice as director, Don as songwriter, Joshua Lim, Ebi Shankara, Chua Enlai and Zhou Chongqing in the cast, and are musical depictions of our beloved men in green going through BMT replete with the usual bunch of stock characters.

However, there are marked differences in the plots of the two shows, and after viewing “Ah Boys”, it is unlikely that you’ll confuse it with “Army Daze” any longer.

I guess one of the major selling points of this “Ah Boys” musical is the opportunity to see the stars of the film (Tosh, Weiliang, Maxi and Noah) up close and in the flesh, and while this is undoubtedly one of the main draws of the show, it ironically also is its biggest obstacle, considering almost all the actors from the film hardly have any stage experience, and as mentioned by Jack Neo, it was a massive challenge convincing them to put in the required amount of training to hone their stagecraft and singing abilities in preparation for this musical.

However, after viewing the boys’ performances on stage, it’s hard to imagine that they’re all doing this for the first time.

Benjamin Kheng steps in to replace Joshua Tan in the role of Ken Chow, and fills in effortlessly thanks to his prior stage experience, as well as his admirable musical abilities helped in part by his role as a member of the Sam Willows as well.

Beatrice adds a number of clever theatrical touches to the scenes which essentially follow the plot of parts 1 and 2 of the movie to a tee, while Don provides a score which is both versatile and impressive.

One particular song of note is the dreamy solo number which Zhou Chongqing sings for Ken Chow, which had a beautiful soaring melody and was executed perfectly by Chongqing (the man’s got quite a voice!).

There were also a few other numbers which gave the classic army songs a fresh twist, as well as songs which featured clever rhymes as well.

The musical does suffer slightly from dragginess as it basically tries to cram two full movies worth of material into a single stage musical, and while certain plotlines can be fleshed out at length when you have a two-part movie at your disposal, it doesn’t necessarily always translate well on stage in a single musical.

Nonetheless, the sheer enthusiasm and star power of the cast manages to keep things interesting enough to tide you through the more than two-and-a-half-hour runtime, and at the end of the musical, you feel as if you’ve taken a long and satisfying journey with all the boys and have seen them transform into real men.

The “Ah Boys to Men” musical doesn’t exactly introduce nor add anything you’ve not already seen in the two movies, and while the original songs do give the show that added dimension of emotionality which a film medium cannot fully replicate, it is the sheer spectacle of watching the beloved boys in green giving their all on stage in song and dance routines that makes the experience all worthwhile.

The fact that such a behemoth of a production was so successfully put together on a single stage is a feat in itself, and regardless of whether you’ve seen the movies or not, it is unlikely that you will not be entertained by this boisterous yet charming musical.

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