Friday, August 31, 2018

Eto Na! Musikal nAPO! (9 Works Theatrical)


Manila, 1970’s. A group of friends try to live a normal university life despite the declaration of Martial Law. Rick (Mark Bautista) juggles studies, music, and relationship with his girlfriend Anna (Rita Daniela). Sonny (Alfritz Blanche) deals with his girlfriend Jane’s (Marika Sasaki) impending migration to the United States. Playboy Butch (Jobim Javier) courts FilAm Michelle (Sab Jose), who is in a relationship with a campus jock. Future doctor Ray (Jep Go) defends his love for music against his dad’s stern focus on his pre-med ambitions. As personal issues start to meddle with group dynamics, the task of representing the group at a national songwriting contest falls in the hands of Jaime (Jef Flores), Donnie (Jon Abella), and Bobby (Vyen Villanueva), but will success be enough to pave the way to mend the cracks that are now defining their friendship?

An interesting aspect of this musical is, of course, APO’s songs. Even if they started their musical career earlier, this band’s discography was still ubiquitous in our household while I was growing up, thanks mainly to my parents. The songs are not that hard to like because the lyrics talk about everyday topics we can all relate to, except that the generation gap becomes much more evident with the mention of payphones that you can use for 30 cents and other obsolete references unique to that era.

But then again, the general thought behind the songs are ever relatable: heartache, innocence, friendship, and many more. Perhaps this is why such songs can stand the test of time. They are so simple and feel-good. And then there are songs that you rediscover, like Nakapagtataka, which I thought was Hajji Alejandro’s all along. Most of the songs remain intact, with their onstage renditions adapting to the lyrics instead of the other way around.

One problem I had with the characters was that everybody else had their own subplot, but not the other three who were left to represent the group at the singing contest. And then it dawned upon me. They don’t have a subplot because the three of them eventually become the APO Hiking Society. That IS their subplot! The guy with the curly hair is Danny Javier. The “amboy” is Jim Paredes. The other one who always cracks jokes is Boboy Garovillo. Gee, I am so effing slow. It was a fun epiphany, though. I guess what complicates it is the tendency to think that everything is autobiographical and accurate. Or is it?

One thing that I did not admire that much was the costume, but then again this is a personal issue against the fashion sense prevalent during that time. Sorry, I just don’t get the flamboyant shirt patterns, bell-bottoms, and the pedo-stache. This is where the costume department gets some well-deserved kudos for lending some authenticity to the overall vibe of the musical. There is nothing to be nostalgic about because I never lived in that time period, but seeing all of them dressed that way made me feel like I did.

And then you have the references. The setting was during Martial Law and it is totally understandable if as a millennial you wouldn’t get all of them. However, some of them have endured even until the 90’s. The likes of Serg’s and the Love Bus put a smile on your face because some of us have actually experienced them. The narrative also offers a peek on what it was like to be a teenager back in the day. We’ve all heard of stories involving curfews and the dreaded METROCOM, but you don’t really get to feel the threat as much as you would seeing some of the characters themselves dealing with it here.

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