Saturday, March 23, 2019

Dirty Old Musical (Spotlight Artists Centre)


One-hit wonder the Bench Boys are forced to reunite for a benefit concert to raise funds for hospitalized member Bebong (Ricky Davao). A lot has changed since their only hit song charted 30 years ago. Eugene (Robert Seña) lives a quiet family life as an accountant. Greggy (Bo Cerrudo) becomes an alcoholic after his wife leaves him for a doctor. Stanley (Carlo Orosa) now calls himself Stephanie. Spanky (Nonie Buencamino) is still living the bachelor life dating a girl half his age. Freddie (Jett Pangan) comes back from Seattle with arrogance and grudges in tow. A young musical ingenue is tapped to be the overall musical director of the show. Pro-bono. The son of Rose (Ima Castro), he never knew his father, which might be one of the members of the band after all. As they bask in their glory days and bemoan the inevitable signs of getting old, the life of their friend depends on their ability to come up with a united plan despite their differences.

Buencamino is the obvious standout. Isn’t he such an actor? Despite being in a disadvantage against the other four whose careers have been built around the music industry, he is just so in character. Sure, he does struggle a bit especially in his duets but since he is so game, he is not that hard to forgive. Pangan is also an arresting presence each time he opens his mouth to sing. Band vocalists are just so impressive to watch when they crosss over to the theater. It’s like watching a legit concert!

While the main conflict is between those two, the other three do get their own subplots, albeit a bit overshadowed. Seña gets the boring part, that of the character who gets it right and chooses to be a family man. Cerrudo as the alcoholic is convincing but most of the time annoying. Orosa as the now flamboyant out of the closet member gets most of the laughs because of his snappy quips, although there are some evident traces of stereotyping here and there. Overall, it’s a good ensemble cast.

In terms of plot development, the second half drags a bit after they fail to resolve their respective conflicts. The attempt to prolong the narrative is obvious and some of the songs and the modifications thereof seem kind of contrived. The ending is predictable but the beats of the soundtrack are infectious enough to energize what would have otherwise been an uninterested audience, most of them belonging to an older demographic one to two generations up. Perhaps it is safe to say that this is that kind of musical that caters to a specific audience?

Nevertheless, it can still be a good opportunity for two or three generations of family bonding. If you bring your parents and grandparents along, maybe they will connect with the story and the soundtrack better than you would. There are many scenes where the oldies were laughing so hard and I was there with a deadpan look wondering why. Sure enough, sense of humor varies from one generation to the next. Dirty Old Musical is a good opportunity to get to know that generation better through their music.

Two decades from now there will be a musical like this which will feature the songs our generation grew up with. It will then be our turn to talk about various issues as we near old age, whatever is relevant. Andropause? How everything was better back in the good old days? You know the drill. For now, watching this generation's turn is enlightening to be honest, like watching a musical documentary of what lies ahead. Thanks for the warning, I guess.

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