Sunday, December 17, 2023

Tabing Ilog the Musical (PETA)


A group of friends vow to return to their childhood town of San Juan but never do. Conservative barrio lass Eds (Jhoanna Robles) wants to be a teacher despite her mother prodding her to opt for something more practical. Her boyfriend Rovic (JL Toreliza) is sweet and all but is secretly romancing other girls nearby. Badong (Jude Hinumdum) is running for a councillor position. Amboy James (Kobie Brown) is at odds with his mother regarding his potential relocation to Cebu. He gets a surprise visit from schoolmate Andoy (Omar Udin) who might have feelings for him. George (Andi Abaya) hands out crystal bracelets for good vibes and wants to lead the group on a spiritual journey. Her ex-boyfriend Fonzy (Vino Mabalot) is still avoiding all of them after their break up while his sister Corrine (Miah Canton) gets a surprise pregnancy scare. Will the death of a teacher bring the gang back together or is it about time to just call it quits?

I knew that a show called Tabing Ilog existed in the late 90’s. I knew the actors, but not their characters nor their storylines. I also knew of a rumor saying that the show was just a local ripoff of Dawson’s Creek. Just the same, I knew that show existed as well as the actors involved, but neither their characters nor their storylines. But you know me. Theater day? Count me in. With neither knowledge nor nostalgia for the show, you might find Tabing Ilog the Musical to be a simple, arguably unnecessary, Gen-Z remake of a TV show enshrined in the country’s collective memory. It might not be that memorable to the casual theater goer, though.

And that leads us to our next question. What is the purpose of this resurrection seeing that ABS-CBN, through their theater arm Teatro Kapamilya, is one of the producers? They could have opted for an easier route which is to bank on nostalgia and convince the actors of the original show, most of whom are no longer that busy nowadays anyway, to film a five to ten episode sequel for collaboration with a streaming platform. Think 90210 or That 90’s Show. So, why theater? Why now?

Tabing Ilog the Musical redirected my attention to the actors and their respective performances because the nostalgia factor was absent in my case and I was clueless about the storyline. While many of them have the stage presence and the talent, some did manage to shine brighter than the others. Among the girls, it was Canton who had a powerful musical theater voice. Hopefully, we get to see her in more musicals. As for the boys, Brown has a suave voice that is very soul and R&B.

I was expecting to see a makeshift river on the stage. After all, didn’t PETA do that for Rak of Aegis? Well, there was no body of water there, not even a puddle. The set was a mere cardboard tree, functional in the sense that one of the cast members could stay seated for a couple of minutes on the branch and not risk any accidental fall. The floor was uneven with elevations here and there. The titular river was rendered via holographic effects projected on the wall.

I believe that the nostalgia route would have had a better payoff. They could explore how the characters are nowadays after two decades and then just shoehorn the obligatory teeny bopper love teams there to attract a new and younger audience. That’s what they did for Gimik 2010, right? It’s just that, for a theater production to be successful in Manila where such a medium is not that popular, it has to be an event people would want to spend 1,500 pesos for. Unfortunately, Tabing Ilog the Musical just does not have that much of the necessary buzz nor word of mouth. 

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