Localised for audiences in Singapore, the Taiwan musical comedy “Super Mommy” being staged at Resort World Sentosa sees an upper middle-class family struggle when they hire a domestic helper to assist with bringing up their child.
While this may have been relatable one or two decades ago, the fact that the family is wealthy enough to hire a domestic helper (cost is never an issue with them) means that their grouses never truly feel important, especially in this day and age. Their biggest issue seems to be accepting an outsider into their home – but then, perhaps a more serious problem would have dampened the light-hearted tone of the comedy.
Chriz Tong, who plays the Mother in the musical, puts everyone to shame with her magnificent voice. In fact, her performances outshine everyone else’s, to the point where you wonder why she wasn’t given the lion’s share of the musical numbers. To top it off, even her dramatic moments are authentic, relatable and measured, making her the outstanding performer of the musical. It’s a joy to see her wow audiences every time she’s in the spotlight.
It’s a good thing she’s there, because Jaspers Lai’s Grandma is an irritating, over-the-top drag queen constantly screaming and flapping around the stage. To be fair, any cross-dressing character is already inherently flamboyant, but Grandma takes it to a whole new level by being as loud and obnoxious as possible, as if he were trying to mimic a famous Chinese cross-dressing “auntie” whom he’s acted with before (*cough* Liang Ximei aka Jack Neo *cough*). There’s no self-control of any sort with Jaspers Lai’s big and blustery performance.
Later in the musical, another two cross-dressing grandmothers in even more exaggerated falsettos appear in what are really polarising scenes in the overall performance.
Xiao Jie/Jeremy, played by Estovan Reizo Cheah, is the son of the Father and Mother and serves as the emotional core of the show. His performance is hampered by some audio issues (perhaps his mic was not put on properly) before the intermission, and a distinct drop in energy after the intermission. The poor boy looks exhausted by the end, but the amount of effort he still puts in is testament to the tremendous maturity and discipline that he possesses for his age.
Plot-wise, the story suffers from some serious structural issues. There’s a jarring tonal shift between intermissions, making you wonder if two different writers were at work writing each half of the musical (which is a strange way to approach it, to say the least). While the first half meanders through some comedy and predictable plot points, the second half loses all tension and becomes a pseudo-commentary on the nature of families in this day and age. Unfortunately, the musical drags on for a few more scenes after it should have ended, causing it to lose steam by the time the final musical number is performed.
“Super Mommy” suffers from some localisation issues and an out-of-control actor. Fortunately, the rest of the cast provides a balance for the ludicrousness of Lai’s performance, leading one to wonder how much better the musical would have been if it did not have to rely on high-strung antics to drum up the comedy.
Marcus Goh is a television scriptwriter, having written for popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Crimewatch”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.
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