Ah Boys To Men actor Jaspers Lai cross-dresses for new musical
Ah Boys To Men star cross-dresses in Mandarin musical Super Mommy
Local actor Jaspers Lai, who starred in the Ah Boys To Men movies, may not be taking his orders from veteran film-maker Jack Neo any longer, but he is still receiving acting advice from the local actor-director.
Come May 18, the 31-year-old - who played recruit Handsome in the movie franchise - will trade his army boots for a pair of heels in the role of Grandma, an endearing woman who learns to deal with her husband's (former radio DJ Lin Youfa) dementia in Super Mommy.
A local adaptation of the heartwarming Mandarin musical of the same name from Taiwan, it revolves around the importance of family ties by exploring issues such as dementia and the struggles of domestic helpers.
Super Mommy also stars Luo Mei Ling, Chriz Tong and Benjamin Josiah Tan.
Speaking to The New Paper in his dressing room at Resorts World Theatre, Lai shared that Neo, who made a name for himself playing female characters such as Liang Xi Mei, or Liang Po Po, gave him his stamp of approval.
Lai said: "He knows I have been learning the secrets of Liang Xi Mei, so he thinks I am ready.
"He has given me so much advice, such as living and breathing the role and maintaining a strong sense of professionalism whether I am onstage or offstage.
"Whenever he is fully dressed up as Liang Xi Mei, he does not wait for the camera or stage lights. We would be eating together and he would still be in character. That shows the detail and the lengths he would go to in portraying the character."
Lai, who typically played thugs and bad guys in local productions such as the Neo-helmed The Lion Men, admitted that the preparation for Super Mommy has been "challenging". The 1.76m tall actor went on a 20- day no-carbohydrate diet. He lost 7kg and now weighs 70kg.
This is the first time he has cross-dressed for a production, and he took the job because he felt it would be a "breakthrough" for him.
Said Lai: "Onstage, I have to be sharp and full of energy. I have to be on my A game.
"Compared to Ah Boys To Men, where we had a whole group of guys looking out for one another when we were getting into shape, this is quite jialat (Hokkien for dire) and tougher (without the brotherly support)."
The mental preparation has also been a struggle for Lai, who has received criticism on social media for taking up the gender-bending role.
SENSITIVE TO COMMENTS
"The public may think I am outgoing or crazy, but my friends know that I am quite introverted," he said.
"I am actually sensitive to feedback and comments on social media, but I am tuning my mindset to accept that... Some people are unable to accept that cross-dressing is an art form."
Nonetheless, Lai - who feels he resembles his mother when in drag - said being involved in Super Mommy has been "invaluable".
"It has taught me to value my female friends for the effort it takes to look their best every day.
"This was my first time wearing heels and I almost died. When I put on my eyelashes, half my world is gone. I can't see anything, and I get a headache.
"I have to be in this character three to four hours a day (for rehearsals), and it has really pushed my limits. I act twice my age, sing (beyond) my vocal range, and wear heels twice the height of men's shoes.
"The experience has stretched me to the max, but I am thankful for it."
WHAT Super Mommy
WHERE Resorts World Theatre, Resorts World Sentosa
WHEN May 18 to June 22, 8pm and selected weekend matinees at 2pm
TICKETS $38 to $108 from Sistic (6348-5555 or www.sistic.com.sg) and Resorts World Theatre Box Office