This month marks a few firsts for certain individuals from the Singapore entertainment industry. Right out of the cast and crew of the infamous Ah Boys To Men blockbusters, Jack Neo and Tosh Zhang are both on their maiden voyage towards the theatre scene.

Jack, the veteran film director, will be adapting his said films into a theatre musical for the first time after a failed attempt with I Not Stupid about 12 years ago, and Tosh, the fresh-faced YouTuber-turned-actor who isn’t too accustomed to theatre shows, will be taking a stab at acting in one.

So, how does a budding film actor make the transition to the live stage? How many hurdles have he to overcome before he’s ready for Ah Boys To Men: The Musical? Tosh talks it all out and shares a few words to the wise about surviving the harsh elements of National Service (NS).

Tell me about your character.

Sergeant Ong is the platoon sergeant of Ninja Company platoon one, which the boys are in. He’s a strict and sarcastic commander who tolerates no nonsense.

What were your initial thoughts when you were asked to be a part of an Ah Boys to Men musical?

I was pleasantly surprised and excited! It’s another chance to learn and progress as an artiste. I’m really thankful for the opportunity because not many people have the chance to be in major film, TV and theatre productions within less than two years in the entertainment business.

Is this your first stage performance?

This is my very first time dabbling in theatre and it has been a really eye-opening experience. I never thought I’ll ever be in a musical and I’m learning a lot through this process. My singing has improved after constant practice and [I’m] learning the proper techniques during vocal training workshops. I’m really happy about that as well.

How familiar are you with theatre musicals?

I’ve never watched a theatre musical before in my entire life but being a part of this has gotten my interest going!

How different is it from shooting a movie? What have you learnt so far about theatre acting?

While we are filming for movies, there’s such a thing as NG (No Good) and we can do another take if it was not good enough. Musicals, on the other hand, do not allow room for mistakes once we kick off the show. If there happens to be, we have to know how to flow and continue the show. I feel that theatre acting is also generally a lot more exaggerated and animated than film acting.

What are you doing as preparation for the show?

We’ve been going through rehearsals day after day, week after week. Sometimes up to 14 hours a day. We practice our songs, dance routines and scenes over and over again until everything is up to show standard.

Any difficulties or challenges?

The preparation and rehearsal process is extremely long and grueling. Not just the actors and dancers on stage have to know what they are doing, but also the production and backstage crew. The fact that it’s such a big-scale production makes everything from scenes to technical runs more challenging.

Will the songs be different from those of the movie?

The songs are all specifically written by music producer Don Richmond for the musical itself. I can say it’s not what you would typically expect from a military-themed musical. It ain’t just army songs. There are love tunes, songs about family, and simply feel-good music. The only original song from the movie that’s in the musical is Recruit’s Anthem.

What are your personal tips on surviving NS?

Be aware both of yourself and your surroundings. Learn to adapt to situations, keep an open mind and everything will be fine.

Directed by Beatrice Chia-Richmond with the help of Jack Neo, Mang (Melvin Ang) and Irene Ang as executive producers, Ah Boys To Men: The Musical follows the adventures and misadventures of newly enlisted Ken Chow and his fellow recruits as they undergo National Service with a jab of song and dance.

Expect a star-studded cast including the likes of Benjamin Kheng, Chua Enlai, Richard Low and Patricia Mok to join the original army boys (Tosh Zhang, Wang Weiliang, Maxi Lim, Noah Yap). Will this theatre rendition of local blockbuster be a success or a disaster? Only one way to find out… Tickets available at SISTIC.

Event Details

Venue: Resorts World Theatre
Date: 18 April – 4 May 2014
Admission: $38 – $128

Photo credits: FLY Entertainment