The success of Singaporean Director Jack Neo’s movie, Ah Boys to Men (ABTM), inspired him to adapt the show into a musical.
The premise of the musical is similar to the show. Recruit Ken Chow (played by Benjamin Kheng from local band The Sam Willows) undergoes Basic Military Training in Tekong, learns what kena tekan (Malay phrase for being abused) means, and develops strong camaraderie with fellow recruits. Other cast members from the movie; Tosh Zhang, Wang Wei Liang, Maxi Lim and Noah Yap will be reprising their roles as Sergeant Alex Ong, Recruits Lobang, Aloysius Jin and I.P Man.
We catch Jack Neo and the ABTM cast to find out more about this musical.
What was the difference between directing ABTM movie versus the musical?
My intention was to ensure that this musical retained the essence of army life. A musical is a way to measure an artiste’s ability. When filming for a movie, you have the luxury of doing retakes when you say the wrong lines. In a musical, when you make mistakes, you just have to continue.
Years ago, I actually had the intention to make the movie I Not Stupid into a musical too. Unfortunately, the investor went bankrupt and disappeared so my plans were foiled. I continued to pray that I will be able to adapt one of my movies into a musical and with ABTM The Musical, this dream will be realised.
For the musical’s main cast, it is their first time standing on stage to perform, sing and dance, which is no easy feat. I believe that with Beatrice’s direction, Boon Teck’s well-crafted script and a great performance from the cast, audiences can expect an entertaining performance.
Give our viewers one good reason why they should catch this musical.
If you haven’t caught the movie and never undergone National Service (NS), you should seize the opportunity to experience the fun in army life.
What was your most memorable NS moment?
All: (in unison) ORD! Apart from that, it was in field camp where you go for days without showering and have to take powder baths. You feel dirty and get blisters all over. However, such gruelling experiences make you appreciate things in life.
How similar or different was NS life for you, compared to what was portrayed in the musical?
All: When we were filming, there were personnel from MINDEF and SAF to guide us. Anyone who has undergone Basic Military Training at Pulau Tekong will identify with the realistic portrayal of NS life yet be entertained by the dramatic characters like Recruit Lobang and Wayang King.
How did you prepare for your roles?
All: Almost all of us, with the exception of Noah have served NS before so it came naturally. The challenge lies in transforming from our real-life NS persona into character for the musical.
The rehearsals haven’t commenced. Between now and end Feb, there will be script readings, vocal and acting lessons. It will be an opportunity for us to bond too.
Perhaps, we will try our luck at the Resort’s casino after completing one show (jokingly).
In the musical, you all sing about how army recruits should be prepared to kena tekan in Tekong. When was the last time you all kena tekan in real life?
Wang Wei Liang: Noah will usually get it from me because he’s the youngest and tends to be forgetful. He’s the only one among us who hasn’t gone through NS so it’s good to whip him into shape now. This is what you call tough love (jokingly).
Benjamin Kheng: When I was in NS, a team member lost a rifle part. We had to spend the weekend combing the field to search for it. So an important lesson learnt was to never lose your stuff.
What inspired you to compose “Recruits Anthem”?
Tosh: It took me a few weeks to write the song. While I was writing the song, I was sitting by the sidewalk in Tekong and watching the recruits run by. I was really immersed in the atmosphere and based it on my past experiences as a recruit too while composing the song. I had no songwriting experience but Jack Neo gave me the opportunity to expand my portfolio and I made the most of it.
What can viewers expect from this musical?
All: In the musical, it’s the closest thing to the sequel of Ah Boys to Men 2. You get to see us, touch us, smell us and hear us sing.
Performances will run from Apr 18 – 27 at our Resorts World Theatre. Tickets retail from $38.
For ticket bookings and enquiries, please visit https://www.sistic.com.sg/events/abtm0414