October 9, 2013
"Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros" is a familiar title among recent favorite local indie films. Unfortunately, I have not watched the film version myself, though the general gist of the story is already familiar (but I still do not know how it ends). The DVD is already available, and the full film is also posted in Youtube, so I will be able to check it out one day. This is especially because tonight, I have just watched this new all-original musical theater version of this film entitled "Maxie The Musicale."
Maxie is a twelve-year old gay kid who lives with his father and two elder brothers who were burly, macho and cellphone thieves in the slums of Sampaloc. Victor is a new, still idealistic young policeman who gets assigned to the same area. One night, Victor saves Maxie from being molested by two drunks. Maxie begins to fall in love with his handsome savior. Conflict develops in their budding friendship when Victor begins to close in on the criminal activities of Maxie's family.
Having a colorfully gay lead character lends the material a natural pick to be translated to the medium of the stage musical. Big song and dance numbers with the whole company (which are not directly related to the story) are interspersed between smaller, more intimate scenes (that actually relate the story). Among the more memorable of these big musical numbers is the Procession of the Sto. Nino, the showering policemen, and the most extravagant of all (and certainly most expected in a play like this), a local gay beauty contest, complete with talent competition! The story is told in three acts, with the intermission coming after Act 2.
While this all can be a lot of fun, for me this show is rated R-16 due to the sensitivity of the subject matter, sexually-charged humor and the coarseness of the language, especially during the greetings part of the Parade of Nations where the words were crisply graphic. The gay story line may also be uncomfortable for people not familiar with their subculture. But anyhow, the pink posters do not hide the fact that the main character is gay, so people who decide to watch this show should be ready for things like this.
The eclectic music of William Elvin Manzano, Janine Santos and JJ Pimpinio brings alive the book and lyrics of Nicolas B. Pichay. The music is an unusual mix of pop, rock opera and classical opera, with samples from 80s pop music and Filipino folk tunes. This varying genres may be unsettling for some audiences as the transitions can be abrupt.
The lead role of Maxie is played by a high school senior flamboyantly named Jayvhot Galang. This talented young boy was a champion of several TV singing competitions. He was actually invited to audition because of his online video clips. He is a natural fit for the role of Maxie. Despite this being only his first theater production, he carried on like a pro. He shone in his delightful scenes of glee, his dramatic scenes of heartbreak, and even in those scenes where his microphone died. He may occasionally not be too clear in the enunciation of words in his songs, especially in those where he was required to sing in a falsetto.
The role of Victor was played by architect turned model, then theater and film actor Jojo Riguerra. He was able to provide the role with requisite charm and dignity, with his dimples and tall stature. His singing voice was also very strong for the demanding pop-rock songs his character gets to sing.
Maxie's father Paco was played by Nazer Salcedo tonight. He was a grand national champion in a kundiman singing competition, which went perfectly with the practically classical operatic arias his character sings. While he sings well, his songs tend to bog the production down with their bitter seriousness. Also, it was confusing that Nazer looked more like an elder brother rather than a father to the actors who played his sons Boy and Bogs. The alternate in this role is Roeder Camanag.
Maxie's brusque brothers Boy and Bogs are played tonight by Al Gatmaitan and Jay Gonzaga respectively. These guys also get to sing very challenging songs (meaning very high notes) together where they had to harmonize. On top of that, they also have a number where they had to rap, which was also very well done. They also share very intense acting moments with Maxie which were quite heartwarming showing brotherly devotion despite, or maybe because of, Maxie's gender preference. OJ Mariano is Al's alternate, while Jay has none.
Playing Maxie's close friends are Aaron Ching, Nomer Limatog Jr. and Teetin Villanueva. Aaron was shameless in his hilarious and naughty antics, not caring how awkward or how ugly he can look. Nomer is very young, only in sixth grade, but he looks very smart and bold. Teetin is so different from when I last saw her as the divine Hermana Augusta Beata in Dulaang UP's Collection earlier this year. They are quite a wacky group. Their highlight was the opening segment of Act 3, where they play out a very funny summary of the entire Acts 1 and 2. That bit is a must-see!
Playing the new police chief Dominguez is baritone Greg de Leon. His rich tones can really be heard from the rest of the group when everyone is singing together. Standing out in the chorus is Jules de la Paz, who plays multiple roles that become notable, especially that of the sassy carinderia owner. We remember not only because of his hefty body size and stage presence, but also his unexpected skill and excellence in dancing!
Congratulations to Director Dexter M. Santos and the rest of Bit By Bit Production, under producers Darwin Mariano and Carlo Miguel Francia, for coming up with an all-Filipino musical theater production with a story that was entertaining, emotional and thought-provoking, eye-opening to people still alien to the real world of homosexual teenagers, their pleasures. their loves and their travails.