Review: Ah Boys to Men: The Musical

Ah Boys to Men: The Musical, directed by Beatrice Chia-Richmond and re-written by Goh Boon Teck, stays true to predecessor Jack Neo’s signature style by injecting Hokkien and Chinese wordplay into the script while peppering dialogues with colloquial Singaporean phrases. Producer-songwriter Don Richmond helms the composition of the musical numbers, which are done with much pizzazz and generously laced with local references.

cast performance

Most of the army boys in the main cast of the film reprise their roles in the musical adaptation. With the exception of new cast member Benjamin Kheng – who plays Ken Chow – Tosh Zhang (Sergeant Ong), Wang Weiliang (Lobang), Maxi Lim (Aloysius Jin) and Noah Yap (IP man) return to their characters to give them a new dimension on stage.

Considering that most of the cast are not formally trained in theatre, it is indeed a commendable effort and testament of grueling months of practice. Despite some lacking vocal prowess, it is made up with an effortless stage presence and undeniable chemistry already honed through their previous films and countless media appearances.

ABTMM - 'Stripping' gun scene While the different characters are each given a distinct personality from the overly enthusiastic soldier to the Ah Beng [a local male who behaves uncouthly] with a heart of gold, they remain mostly one-dimensional in character development.

The weak character arc of the main lead Ken Chow is disappointing – and the intimate stage setting only amplifies it. To Kheng’s credit though, his rousing portrayal did help to make it slightly more bearable.

cast performance (2)

Kheng, from the local indie band The Sam Willows, also invariably outshines the other cast members in voice quality. His raspy vocals and soulful renditions of the musical numbers help to give his character a softened edge.

Wang is another strong vocalist, and his robust voice shines through his solo number Brothers Forever. His heartfelt and passionate performance is impressive, and conveys the bittersweet emotion of the scene perfectly.

The crowd favorite is no doubt Chua Enlai, who dons a frilly maid outfit as Leticia – the Chow’s family maid whose character was not in the original films, but included here for obvious comic relief. His pitch perfect impersonation of the Filipino accent is a huge hit with the audience, drawing chuckles and giggles in almost every inspired appearance.

ABTMM - Benjamin Kheng as Ken Chow, Chua Enlai as Leticia the maid, Zhou Chong Qing as Mrs Chow in a Chow family scene with his two sisters and ahma

As for the musical numbers, the dynamic rap battle between Singaporean rapper ShiGGa Shay and Zhang stands out the most. They are very much in their element and deliver a smooth performance that hit all the right notes. Also receiving a nod is the theme song from the first movie Recruits Anthem, which is accompanied by nifty and precise choreography.

tosh zhang as sgt ong

However, the father-and-son duet between Richard Low (Mr Chow) and Kheng left much to be desired. Kheng largely overshadows Low’s vocal capabilities, and the obvious chasm makes it difficult to be fully immersed in the poignant heart-tugging scene.

The storyline and character development might fall flat, but the slapstick humor and flamboyant musical numbers are great entertainment instead. With catchy songs and familiar faces, this delightful and quintessentially Singaporean musical will definitely be well received by the locals.



Venue: Resorts World Theatre, Resorts World Sentosa

Date: April 18 – May 4

Tickets: $98 – $128 from Sistic


All photos courtesy of Running Into The Sun.