Eto Na! Musikal nAPO! has nothing to do with the 2012 Filipino musical, romantic-comedy flick I Do Bidoo Bidoo: Heto nAPO Sila! with singers Sam Concepcion, Ogie Alcasid, Gary Valenciano, Zsa Zsa Padilla, comedienne-stage actress, and TV host Eugene Domingo and introducing new actress Tippy Dos Santos as stars.
I used to have reservations when the musical opened in August last year. What could be the audience’s response since the film was also APO-based songs and failed to pick up in the box-office back then that time? Would today’s generation appreciate APO‘s music?
I Do Bidoo Bidoo: Heto nAPO Sila! was a letdown and failed to duplicate the success of Mama Mia‘s jukebox musical romantic-comedy film and the stage version.
Six years later Eto Na! Musikal nAPO was born.
APO Music is Retrospective.
Filipinos who grew up along with the APO Hiking Society music could not resist but to retrospect about the 70s era when it all began in the campus of Ateneo at the time of the Marcos regime and in the height of Martial Law in the Philippines.
A misconception of many that the Ateneo high school group was composed of 15 members, in reality, they were, just 12.
Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society (AMHS) was its original name. It sounds witty and an irreverent reference to the paralyzed Philippine revolutionary intellectual-hero, Apolinario Mabini. Later it was shortened to Apo, an Ilocano term for a wise man or a Tagalog term for grandchildren. The prominence of the group did not limit to the group’s original musical contributions and cultural influences. It expanded into establishing and furthering the careers of new Original Pilipino Music (OPM) artists in the Philippines.
Among the 40+ songs of APO, I have four favorites. These are Awit ng Barkada (covered by Itchyworms, now covered by Noel Cabangon), Batang-Bata Ka Pa (covered by Sugarfree, now covered by Noel Cabangon), Blue Jeans (covered by Wise Guys, then Eraserheads, and then by Rocksteddy), Panalangin (covered by Moonstar88, then by Richard Poon, now covered by Noel Cabangon) and Saan Na Nga Ba’ng Barkada (covered by Sponge Cola). These were also included in the musical to tell a story of seven musically-inclined young men. At least loosely based on real accounts.
What makes this musical more relatable than the 2012 local film? It is not pretentious. It tells the story about male friends with one common interest to make beautiful music together and how they slowly drifted apart, one-by-one until only three were left to pursue their dream.
It indicates that APO songs per se is the unique selling point (USP) of the musical. Their songs are timeless and still has relevance even up to this day and age.
The Storytelling is also Immersive.
The material may be distant, set in the 70s, but the creative team was able to lead its audience to a trip down the memory lane. APO songs are the basis for telling the stories of seven young men along with their friends.
In the musical, Mark Bautista and Floyd Tena (Rick), Jobim Javier (Butch), Alfritz Blanche (Sonny), Jon Philippe Go (Ray), Jef Flores (Jaime), Jon Abella (Donnie) and Vyen Villanueva (Bobby) are the male leads. Apart from losing one-by-one its members, a piece of news shocked them all and compelled them to make a stand.
A Broadway hit musical is identifiable in one of its scenes. Nevertheless, it still succeeded in conveying a tranche de vie during those times.
One of the moving scenes in the musical involves Raul Victor Montessa and Neomi Gonzales as Ramon and Carmen, respectively.
Everything about the Musical is Effective.
The show may not be perfect, yet its execution is well-thought-of. It makes it effective.
Basing on a Dawson-type-of-casting (many of the actors who appear, and in reality are, much older than the characters they are portraying), still there is no case of miscast. The three remaining APO members breathed by Flores, Abella, and Villanueva fit-to-a-tee.
Then the three romantic pairs: #BuChelle (Javier and Sab Jose), #JaSon (Blanche and Roxanne Barcelo) and #RiAnn (Tena and Mica Javier) provided the ‘kilig’ factors. Go as Ray did shine (find out about it by catching the remaining shows). While Javier, the son of Danny, stood out in all the shows; he was oozing with charisma that his character could equal the three APOs. Meanwhile, Jobim’s partner, his love interest in the production–Michelle as portrayed by Jose, distinctly showed her presence whenever she is with Javier. Their tandem and their duets are probably the most applauded.
PJ Rebullida’s mixed old school and modern jazz choreography that gave a hint of a Saturday Night Fever movement blended with 9PO’s musical arrangement based on the APO songs. The costumes provided by both Eric Pineda and Ian Cartalaba complemented well with the overall feel as required in that era.
Joey Mendoza’s set design captured the ambiance of Ateneo during those challenging times. GA Fallarme’s visual and projection design painted fun and created tension for the entire gang and for the audience to feel and appreciate what was to live in a country governed by militarization.
The trio of Robbie Guevara as the director with Jonjon Martin as dramaturg and Daniel Bartolome as the musical director made the show a palpable, original Filipino stage hit production.
This stage production has redeemed the musical movie (I Do Bidoo Bidoo: Heto nAPO Sila!). Some scenes need tightening, but the adjustment in the rerun gave more depth for character sketches of the seven male leads.
The material is a tribute to Jim Paredes, Buboy Garuvillo, and Danny Javier who gave an invaluable legacy to the OPM industry.
Kudos to Santi Santamaria and Anna Santamaria of 9 Works Theatrical, Joe Caliro and Denise Seva of Globe Live for this APO-calyptic experience.
The show is until April 7 at Maybank Performing Arts Theater. For those who missed it before, for tickets, contact TicketWorld at (632) 891-9999.
On Saturday, October 2 at AFP Theater at Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City, Gantimpala Theater Foundation Incorporated mounted its last show for its Manila-run of ‘Kanser @ 35: The Musical’ with Harana singer-member and the man who popularized the song titled ‘Pare Mahal Mo Raw Ako’—Michael Pangilinan as the lead star, Crisostomo Ibarra.
Pangilinan, who is now part of Kapamliya show ‘Your Face Sounds Familiar’ as one of the celebrity performers has reservations of assuming the role or venturing into the theater scene. However, after much convincing by Jobert Sucaldito, his manager, he gave in and took the challenge of venturing the stage as a theater artist.
According to Michael, his experience in portraying the character in the musical based on the country’s national hero—Jose Rizal’s novel titled ‘Noli Me Tangere’ was a challenge since he has little knowledge about the author and the role. He was grateful for the his fellow actors and his director of the said production for being helpful in his new-found journey.
He also added that his theater experience prepared him for his stints in the impersonation and total transformation talent competition show over Channel 2 that airs every Saturday (after MMK) and every Sunday (after Rated K), respectively, “My exposure in this musical has helped me a lot in my assuming each personality assigned to us.”
Two of the notable things the audience would definitely feast upon the local production of ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ are the costumes and the set designs involved as created by the genius of Mio Infante and is mounted in a rather more intimate venue at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, which re-opened on the 15th of August.
Mio Infante, the scenographer of this latest 9 Works Theatrical’s production, the winner of Best Scenic Designs at Philstage Gawad Buhay Awards for his works—‘The Bluebird of Happiness (2013) and ‘Rak of Aegis’ (2014); talks about herculean tasks he has to accomplish along with his team in order to bring a show that won’t only be remembered because of its great lead actors—Michael De Mesa and Audie Gemora as Georges and Albin or Zaza, respectively.
Through the ‘Beaded Eyelash’ of Albin.
The colour palette of the show is very Mediterranean and is set in St.-Tropez is a coastal town on the French Riviera, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of southeastern France. The place have been popular because of artists and attracted the international jetsetters in the 60s because of its beaches and the nightlife.
According to Infante, he borrowed inspirations from the golden hues of the skies and azure seas, the terracotta colors did find its way into the nostalgic ‘postcard look’ and ‘feel’ of a bygone era. The touches of teal and lavender echo the flora of the area.
“Fitting a ‘big musical’ scene that changes into a small space as was quite challenging,” Mio confessed.
In fact, his challenge didn’t end there since there it involves a thousand and one (quick) costumes, make-up and wig changes. Despite the fact that the originally show meant for a bigger theatrical venue, the director (Robbie Guevara) and him thought best to focus on the intimacy of the plot, that being about family, love and acceptance.
When one looks at Albin’s beaded lashes, everything’s sparkle dust, bugle beads, ostrich plums as described in one of the songs titled—‘(A Little More) Mascara’ performed by Albin and the Cagelles as the world that he’s looking at is beautiful, too.
“Albin is such a strong character. He is an artiste and can have his share of tantrums, despite the challenges of being accepted by the social norms, he ultimately can laugh about it, and selflessly take sidesteps in lieu of unconditional love for his family. He notes that he does this ‘with one great stroke of mascara’ and everything seems and looks better,” Infante added.
With regard to their sets, Robbie Guevara (the director) and Mio agreed to retain the ‘look-and-feel’ of the 1983 original production, which had more froufrou, have lots of sequins and fabulous-ness as opposed to the Chocolate Menier Factory of the said musical in West End and as it transferred to Broadway.
“I had seen that production in London. It was a more gritty and millennial adaptation.”
He also mentioned that the biggest challenge was the script as it required for multiple scenes that had took them inside the apartment, backstage of the club, on the St.-Tropez promenade and back; and the changes had to be fast and seamless.
“We decided on a generic looking set of arched doors that could double up as interiors and exteriors; with a bit of louvered door add-ons that complemented the other scenic drops that flew down from the battens, and we were able to do that. We also extended scenic elements into the auditorium house, so that the audience became part of the cabaret club ‘La Cage’.”
Designing Albin/Zaza’s costumes: A Dream Come True for Mio.
Infante who was a former Cagelle had Repertory Philippines’ 1988 production of the same musical, and second having designed the play version Gay Birds for Rep also in 2005 was a dream task. He shared that the work came easy for him since he’s already quite familiar.
“As a reference point I looked at cabaret drag personalities of the late 70s to early 80s, zeroed-in on the fabulous gowns with sequins of Danny La Rue and also the Liberace style, with echoes of style icons such as Ann Margaret, Lady Diana Spencer, Telly Savalas, and even Margaret Thatcher (for the other characters’ costumes).”
“We first see Albin ‘in-between scenes’, and ‘at home in the kitchen’, the script called for him in a dressing gown, but I figured her style offstage would still exude the flamboyant thespian style. He would be wearing a bustier and slip that would transform into a costume change in full view of the audience, but move well with the ‘Ginger Rogers-type of choreography’.
“Twinkle Zamora (costume execution) and I found this fabulous printed fabric, which we knew would be perfect in electric-pleated and matched with satin details that would put contrast in texture.”
He also shared: “We had several shopping sprees in Divisoria and had the time of our life sifting through bolts and bolts of fabrics in sequins, of all colors and textures. It was like wanting to have all the candy in the candy store. However, we had to restrain ourselves knowing that, ultimately, we had to pick, select, and simplify!”
“On Zaza’s gowns, we had to consider the male form with the type of silhouette that the ‘show costume’ gowns. By putting more fabric and flounce on the bodice and bust area, while showing off a lot of shoulders, we looked into a sexier form of course and added a bit of the hips.”
Cagelles Dressed Fashionably in Drag.
Since the show is dubbed as ‘cage of mad women’, from cagey crinolines to spider webs, Little Bo Peep and Harem girls, to geishas and cloistered nuns, the Cagelles’ costumes are much fun to design. It was the craziness of the cast—their wackiness on-and-offstage is infectious,
“We were very lucky to have been given permission to rummage through Repertory Philippines’ costume collection and (thank you to Tita Baby Barredo). It was fun and nostalgic to see costumes from shows I had been part of before as designer or as an actor. I remember finding a pair of Leopard hi-heeled boots and finding my name scribbled inside it! It was from the 1988 Rep ‘La Cage’ production.
“This show is our homage not only to the Fashion guru’s of the 80s (the Fashion Designers Association of the Philippines) who generously and enthusiastically designed the Finale bridal gowns.”
Other costume designers like Tita Celia Diaz Laurel, Tita Baby, etc. We borrowed costumes for Jacobs’ quick costume changes.
While on the wig and make-up, Mio collaborated with the talented Myrene Santos. We went through on different wigs that would flatter the male actors’ faces, keeping with period style, and budgets. We also have female actors in the Cagelle line-up, and it added a challenge to make them look like men in drag—costume and make-up wise.
‘La Cage Aux Folles’ will have its last show today, September 6 at 4pm. For tickets and other inquiries, call (632) 586-7105 or +639175545560, or email email@example.com.