This was supposed to have been the “project” that I finished last week, except life happened (which led me to drink considerable amounts of alcohol every day after my shift at work – but we can talk about my descent into stress-triggered alcoholism some other time – and caused my immune system to crash). Yes, I’m making excuses for my bad creative/blogging habits. I’m trying not to feel too guilty about it, otherwise I might abandon this blog completely. But this is here now, and I’m planning to post another project by the end of the week. Probably not a writing thing, though.
I basically shat bricks when I found out that a touring production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” was coming to the Philippines, because this is my favorite animated fairy tale EVER. Why wouldn’t it be? Belle is basically my avatar.
Immense love for books? CHECK.
Kooky, near-genius father? CHECK.
Mild discomfort over being generally considered attractive but weird at the same time? YOU BETCHA.
Having wanted to see the stage version since I was a child, and having missed the local production back in 2005, I was determined to see this musical. So I snagged tickets for TWO different showings: one near the beginning of its run, and one midway through it.
This review is focused on the first time I saw it, on what seems to be their very first matinee performance.
The TL;DR version is this: Parts of it felt disjointed (probably because it’s different from the original production – you can check out excerpts on YouTube – and the cast was still trying to get its bearings), but it was still tons of fun.
Want more of the specifics? See them after the jump.
I watched “Sa Wakas – A New Pinoy Rock Musical” last April 13, 2013 at the PETA Theater with my friends, significant other, and siblings. It was the evening show–the air smelled of shawarma and flowed with something suspiciously electric. Fans of the now-disbanded Pinoy band Sugarfree (whose songs were used for this play), fans of musicals, and fans of both moved almost restlessly before the show started. By the time the show ended, it felt like every molecule around and within me was buzzing.
I may have spent the next few days talking about it to random people, and more than a week after that recalling and dissecting everything I can; in the end, I still couldn’t find the words to help me express how much I loved it. It took this video plug of former Sugarfree frontman (and genius song writer) Ebe Dancel to get me off my ass and get me to FIND the words that have been, until this moment, out of reach. It took the reminder that there are only five performances left for me to understand that I have to write about this musical NOW, because there are people who haven’t watched it and I don’t know when they’re going to do another run. As it is, I think they’ve almost sold out their tickets for this final weekend.
I have to admit that this is not a review of the musical, as such. There are tons of them out there (you can find many of those on the official Facebook page of the production). This is, at best, the emotive impressions of someone who had watched it on opening weekend and couldn’t quite forget it.
First: The Music
I’m tackling the music first because it’s the very first thing that piqued my interest. The band Sugarfree became famous for utterly relate-able “shot-through-the-heart” lyrics laced into incredibly apt melodies. You have no idea how many hours I spent back in college listening to their songs, marveling at how spot-on their depiction of love, loss, and life in general can actually be. The very idea that people are getting together to set these Pinoy classics against a narrative backdrop was extremely exciting–especially when the announcement of the concept itself makes you think that THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE A LONG TIME AGO.
When the performance finally began for me and opened the story with the song “Kwarto” (“Room” to my foreign friends; it’s a song about moving on from a relationship), I couldn’t stop the tears. The arrangement, which turned the song into a wistful duet, perfectly echoed the nostalgia for the good times, the resignation over some failings, and the acknowledgement of the need to move forward and let go. The rest were also slotted in with a great amount of finesse (in my opinion), down to the final song for the narrative–“Prom” (a song depicting the exciting optimism of young love), which turns bittersweet in the play’s context because it is sung in a scene where the couple at the beginning were still very much in love. Everything was on-point, and I give both the musical director and the writers a standing ovation for this. Extra props to Ebe Dancel, who not only came in as a consultant but also WROTE AN EXTRA SONG FOR THE MUSICAL. And the way they used that song in the narrative? WAS CLEVER AS HELL.
Second: The Story
When I first heard the Sugarfree song “Burnout” (a song about falling out of love while still loving a person)–it was my introduction to the band–I marveled at how much STORY the song conveyed. In fact, pretty much all of Sugarfree’s songs are self-contained stories. And that’s even if they’re not outright telling you stories. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty darn amazing. And the fact that each song was a great story in and of itself made me a little bit nervous: could there be a Filipino story that could cohesively bring these different narratives together?
Allow me to clarify that last question. See, in my experience, Filipino stories tend to be either too humorous or too dramatic; and either way many of them tend to be…well, PREACHY. I’m sure that not all of the locally-created productions are like that, but many of them are; and I was afraid that they’ll try it with this one too. Thing is, it’s not something that would fit with the “Sugarfree” feel–to people like me who have used their music as a soundtrack to various stages of their lives, these songs were experiences. They didn’t judge you; they didn’t cram morals into it. Thankfully, the musical’s narrative managed to avoid that moralism. The three main characters–Topper, Lexi, and Gabbi–are human, with faults and merits, without martyrdom and villainy. I won’t get too much into it, but the story is about choices and how they ultimately take us to where we must be–wherever that is.
Everyone should be given the chance to watch this; I’m hoping that, with blog posts such as this, they’ll start planning for more productions of this. Or at least, release an official cast album very soon (because the musical rearrangements made by Ejay Yatco were phenomenal, and deserve some form of immortality).
The last few shows are scheduled as follows:
Apr 26, 2013, Fri, 8PM Apr 27, 2013, Sat, 3PM and 8PM Apr 28, 2013, Sun, 3PM and 8PM