January 24, 2013
"RIVALRY" had been a much buzzed-about show last year during its first run. However, for some reason I did not have the interest to see it despite the good reviews. Maybe it was the main topic of the musical, which was about the fabled Ateneo-La Salle rivalry in the college basketball league. I was afraid I could not relate to the story because I am neither from Ateneo nor La Salle.
The original Filipino musical, with music by Ed Gatchalian, lyrics by Joel Trinidad (both Ateneans) and directed by Jaime del Mundo (a La Sallite), went on to win year-end accolades including Best Music for a Filipino Musical for Mr. Ed Gatchalian from the Broadway World PH Awards. It must be so successful, that there is now a re-staging of this show this month! Therefore when the opportunity came up for me to watch it, I grabbed the chance this time.
There was no big mystery what the main story is about. The setting is Manila in 1968. The Valencias are hard-core Ateneans. The Basilios are hard-core La Sallites. The moms are sisters, but their husbands are both bitter rivals on and off the basketball court. Their sons continue this rivalry. Paco Valencia (OJ Mariano) is the current star player of Ateneo, while Tommy Basilio (Mako Alonso, who is ironically an Atenean) is the star of the La Salle varsity. Both teams were still members of the NCAA back then, with Mapua and San Beda.
Paco's brother Quito (Red Concepcion) has a crush on a certain Maryknoll girl Rina (Athena Tibi) and asks his cousin Tommy to help introduce him. As fate would have it, Tommy finds himself falling for the charming Rina. How will this love triangle play out as the college basketball season reaches its heated finale?
The script reminds me of one-act Filipino plays in English that we used to see high school students stage back in the day. I find the play very amusing when it comes to conversations -- the way they speak with all its "burgis" styling, English with distinct "Filipinisms." While there were also a number of witty one-liners, but I guess I was expecting more school jokes. The staging and choreography reminded me a lot of "West Side Story" with the rival gangs dancing. Well to be frank, the story concept is somehow reminiscent of that musical classic too because of its romance in the context of rivalry.
There were two song numbers that really stood out for me. From Act One, it was the very cute "Boy from La Salle" coquettishly sung by the Maryknoll colegialas. From Act Two, it was the dramatic "What If" sung by the three corners of the love triangle, Quito, Tommy and Rina. The songs of Act Two were basically reprises or mash-ups of the songs from the first act. The director said that this "Second Round" was already streamlined from the first run in terms of its content. But I feel, some more streamlining could be done to make it a tighter show. There were certain moments where the momentum would lag.
Mako Alonso, whom I have not seen before, was actually very good as Tommy. He has a good voice, and he has his "crush ng bayan" character down pat. He can also do the physically strenuous sit-ups and clap push-ups that Tommy had to do. OJ Mariano is unfortunately limited by the dour way his serious character had been written. I am sure there is a way to make his Paco more interesting in future stagings. As for Red Concepcion, he has this look that does not exactly make him convincing as a romantic lead. He is quite earnest though and he sings well, but he was not realistic as a boy in love with a girl.
The star of the show for me though was the very pretty Athena Tibi, whom I have also not seen on stage before. She sings very well, and her stage presence was electric, making her rise above the other Maryknollers on stage with her (which includes known actresses like Cara Barredo and Caisa Borromeo). I found it interesting when it was revealed that Ms. Tibi actually has an active career in Japan as a pop star, from which she took a break to join this show. She could make it as well in the local scene, I think.
Overall, whatever they say, I still think you would have to be an Atenean or a La Sallite to get into the groove fully with this musical. There was still some "inside joke" territory that alumni of other schools cannot completely get. I personally could not help but burst into applause and cheer when my own alma mater was suddenly mentioned. So Maroons, there is something for you in this show! It was not a completely perfect show yet, especially the final resolution, which I found was not too clearly expressed. I think it could still be improved further because I think this musical will live on as long as there are Ateneans and La Sallites. But as it is now, it is already a fun, amusing and entertaining show!
"Rivalry: The Second Round" runs from January 25 to February 17, 2013, weekends at the Meralco Theater. Ticket Prices: P1,699.50/ P1,339/ P1,030/ P978.50/ P824/ P618. For ticket reservations, call TicketWorld at 891-9999.