Saturday, May 25, 2024

One More Chance (PETA)

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Popoy (CJ Navato) and Basha (Nicole Omillo) have been a couple for the last five years. They finish each other’s sentences and are constantly planning for their wedding next year, which involves a lot of cost-cutting. Unable to keep up with her fiance’s suffocating demands, she decides to call it quits so she can enjoy some space and have some leeway to find herself. Belonging to the same circle of friends, things immediately get awkward during Thursday barkada nights. But that’s what friends are for. Pessimistic Anj (Via Antonio), happy-go-lucky JP (Jon Abella), hopeless romantic Chinno (Johnnie Moran), and couple Krizzy (Rica Laguardia) and Kenneth (Poppert Bernadas) do everything they can to be supportive of both friends. Soon, Popoy finds new love with Tricia (Kiara Takahashi) while Basha gets platonic friendship from new co-worker Mark (Jay Gonzaga). Just when the tension appears to have simmered down, romantic feelings are suddenly rekindled, shaking up the dynamics yet again.

Anyone alive and old enough to watch a movie in 2007 would be familiar with One More Chance. Up to now, we can’t quite deduce what Cathy Garcia Molina did to come up with a cult classic, the definitive Filipino break-up film, despite the storyline being somehow rehashed and the barkada angle rather cliché. Knowing this, coming up with another version will always be measured against the original. It is normal to enter the PETA theater with apprehensions, but One More Chance the Musical proves its worth by combining a well-known storyline with appropriate music from Ben & Ben. In the end, it works out just fine.

Testament to its success is the announcement of a rerun between the end of August and the end of October as early as now, even before the current run has yet to come to an end. What I can say, though, is that this musical will be better appreciated by those who are familiar with Ben & Ben’s discography. I do not belong in that category, unfortunately. I’ve heard so much about the band and some of their more popular songs, albeit against my will. The good thing is most of the songs manage to capture the essence of the scenes they are used in, which is a good thing since most of the time jukebox musical setlists tend to be a bit contrived.

PETA’s stage has always been small and narrow. With such claustrophobic and restrictive real estate, you really have to maximize every inch to benefit your play. In the case of this musical, the movable sets are limited to: a pair of grey scaffolding with stairs used as a device to denote space as well as announce the arrival or departure of characters; and a functionally moving skeleton of a car made from the same material that the main characters can actually “drive” onstage.

Add a revolving platform in the middle and you end up with a usable set. What you will find refreshing, though, is the abundant use of wall projections in the form of moving wallpapers as well as videos meant to present offstage interactions among the characters in the form of chats and video calls. Even the floor is not exempted from this treatment, with waves projected upon it accompanied by improvised sound effects during the intro. There are also scenes where a character is having a conversation with a character on a projected video on the wall, which is laudable because that requires accuracy and good timing to make it look believable.

There is nothing even remotely John Lloyd Cruz about Navato’s portrayal of Popoy, which works well to his advantage because it gives him space to claim the character as his own. Even then, the core of the character, that of being a control freak boyfriend as well as his subplots and iconic lines are preserved. However, the same observation may not be applicable to Omillo as Basha. We can’t be sure whether it is her inflection or enunciation and whether it is intentional, but the similarity of her voice to that of Bea Alonzo’s is so uncanny.

On one hand it fuels nostalgia because you feel like the original actress to whom the character has been strongly associated is there in the room with you. On the other hand, it somehow feels as though Omillo is portraying Bea Alonzo playing Basha. In any case, all of these actors can sing really well, blending pop with musical theater and ending up with a certain voice quality that is just so soothing. If you don’t end up liking the storyline or can’t relate to the material for some reason, you will still get to appreciate all the singing.

My sole complaint about this musical is its three-hour runtime. Seriously? It's enjoyable alright, but it need not be this long.

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