Saturday, April 27, 2024

Buruguduystunstugudunstuy (Resorts World Manila)

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Four ladies, one birthdate, each with her own set of problems. Jen (Marynor Madamesila) has been dirt poor all her life and is now, along with her brother Tikmol (Noel Comia Jr.), at risk of eviction from the mountain of trash they call home. Aiza (Kyle Napuli) is constantly bullied at school due to her health condition, the only emotional support she should be getting from her parents coming instead from her dog Murlock. Norma (Tex de Leon) is still not over her ex and drowns herself in liquor as a form of coping mechanism. Girlie (Natasha Cabrera) is a security guard at a shopping mall constantly barraged with unsolicited comments about her marital state now that she is getting older. The four women constantly hear a beating drum to a beat that seems to spell out the strange word “Buruguduystunstugudunstuy”. Soon they are absorbed by a magical portalet and whisked to the land of Parokya, where individuals dare to embrace what they have chosen to remain hidden, in a bid to go back to their own world and, in effect, their own lives.

I don’t know what the deal is with the resurgence of the manananggal in pop culture as of late, but as the creature detached from her lower body and soared high all over the stage to conclude the first act, I was left with a feeling of bemusement. “Aba, may budget!” I thought to myself. I kept my neck craned in desperate search for de Leon’s feet underneath her costume but I never found it. I guess nobody will argue if we give the costume/make-up and stunt department their respective shout outs for a convincing presentation. I am impressed. Buruguduystunstugudunstuy ends up maximizing Resorts World’s wide stage for its benefit after all.

Most jukebox musicals, at least local ones, have shied away from magical elements and fantasy storylines, opting for a simpler premise that is easier to sustain, each to their own detriment. The Eraserheads’ Ang Huling El Bimbo was a testament to friendship but tilted a bit more on the darker side, while Aegis’ Rak of Aegis leaned on a more jologs approach and kind of suffered the literal limitations of PETA’s tiny stage. And now yet another 90’s band has decided to lend their songs for a new onstage story, and I am surprised that they took the fantasy route. Ambitious, the project is, but somehow it works in spite of all the chaos.

As with most jukebox musicals, the inclusion of some songs just feels contrived, and this musical is no exception to that. But then again, most people will come in droves for the nostalgia and a trip down memory lane via their favorite Parokya ni Edgar tunes. Since my familiarity with their discography is rather pedestrian save for some unavoidable radio hits in the last decade or two, there were some surprises here and there, along with some songs benefiting from a different treatment.

Please Don’t Touch My Birdie, for example, gets the big choir treatment and allows Comia Jr to show off his vocal chops. This Guy’s in Love With You Pare is tweaked to cater to a lesbian storyline instead of the usual gay theme the song has always been known for. Either way, very LGBTQIA+ friendly! Harana is used to carry out a montage while Your Song, which also came as a surprise because I didn’t know the band also sang in English, becomes the unifying tune that brings everything together. It is said that over 40 songs of the band can be heard throughout this musical’s almost three-hour run.

As for the cast, de Leon’s Norma and Pepe Herrera’s onstage incarnation of Mr. Suave are the evident scene stealers, with the crowd not failing to go wild every time either or both of them have a solo or a duet. While all of them can sing, Napuli and Madamesila stand out whenever they effortlessly belt out a song. Overall, this is an ensemble of promising theater actors that will definitely give you one hell of an entertaining evening. The storyline is open for interpretation but after thinking about it for a week, it actually makes sense and gives the material a deeper meaning.

The alternate universe of Parokya is a metaphor for the musical experience the band has provided in the last three decades, mirroring the escape of the characters with that of the band’s followers in real life, akin to any other musical act when you get lost in contemplation in any of their albums. In that short musical escapade you are given the chance to recharge and unwind before you go back to the real world to face your issues with a renewed zest for life and better understanding of your predicament. Overall, the level of imagination involved in what could’ve been just another onstage telenovela cum jukebox musical is admirable. Go watch.

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