Disclaimer: This is just a personal account of my first ever musical play experience and is not a critical review. 😊
I have always dreamed of watching a musical play and I am so pumped that it finally came true last weekend.
“Ang Huling El Bimbo” is an original Filipino musical play written by the playwright Dingdong Novenario. It is under the stage direction of Dexter Santos and the musical direction of Myke Salomon. Featuring the songs of the well-loved 90’s OPM band, Eraserheads, this will really tickle your nostalgic bones. Given that, the title of the musical also came from one of the Eheads songs called “Huling El Bimbo” where the main plot of the play was also derived.
It is a story of three college friends who all drifted apart and was reunited once again later in life because of the demise of an old friend.
The play was presented in two alternating timelines. The “past” depicted a light and fun atmosphere. It is where the friendship of Reb Atarde, Boo Gabunada and Topper Fabregas – who played the young Hector, Emman and Anthony – blossomed. As UP college students, they met Joy – played by Tanya Manalang – who became the main catalyst for the whole story to unfold. Set in the mid-90’s, it became the main focus of the first act.
The “present” portrayed a darker mood. It is where Gian Magdangal, OJ Mariano and Jon Santos – who played the adult Hector, Emman and Anthony – showed the troubled life they were currently leading and widely estranged from each other. The two timelines were tied together by what happened to Joy – who was now portrayed by Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo. The second act was where they all really started to confront the ghosts of their past. It was dark and heartbreaking but uplifting towards the end.
I love the way they spun the songs around. The arrangement is just totally astounding. The way they reimagined some of the songs. Like sobrang yaaaas! Sobrang genius! Even the set is so stunning. The way they used the lights to create moods and movements. And the ending scene with all the starlights! Aaah! And don’t even let me start about the choreography because I will talk your ears off. Each scene brimmed with gracefully arranged movements and dances and actions. My personal favorite is the whole “Tindahan ni Aling Nena” ensemble. As in, I’ve been listening to the original song for days now and it never fails to give me really good vibes because I can remember the way the casts sang and danced to it. And please! Those crazy quick outfit changes. Just wow!
Admittedly though, there are parts in it that didn’t really work for me that much. I believe that there’s so much more to improve, story wise. It tackled relevant social and gender related issues but as it was not the focal point of the play, these issues were not discussed in-depth.
Also, the three main characters were estranged from each other for 20 years because of an extremely dark past and their reconciliation was a bit rushed towards the end. The drama went on for too long and then afterwards they were all suddenly okay. Parang di ko gets bakit naging okay sila bigla. There were all these heavily emotional numbers where they confronted each other and which made me bawl my eyes out. But they did not really, like really talked about what happened to Joy. It was painfully obvious how what happened to her affected their lives. How their decisions and indecisions made them suffer through life. But my Lord, if you guys suffered that much, how much more do you think Joy was hurting?! But yeah, I get that it was the story of Hector, Emman and Anthony. But that’s why some parts of it didn’t work so much for me. Because I feel like the character of Joy was merely an instrument for the story to happen and wasn’t given that proper recognition as she was not the main focus of the story.
I mentioned in my IG and Facebook post how the second act continued to stab my heart over and over again. It is because the second act continuously reminded me that all of them did not have a good life. They all suffered through adulthood and they were all so unhappy in life.
I personally think that even though, the second act was loads heavier than the first, the first act is still a lot stronger than the second. It’s much more solid. The second act for me was too long and draggy and despite the length it still felt like it was lacking something.
But the casts were all able to make up for it. Both the young and the old. They were all really amazing actors and performers. They were all able to evoke such strong emotions from the audience. Gian Magdangal’s stage presence is just wow. I don’t know why I am surprised. Even back then when he sings for SOP and Party Pilipinas, I already thought that he is more of a theater person than a TV person. But still, I was surprised. Pleasantly surprised. The rest of the actors are all really freaking amazing. Such beautiful and wonderful talents they’ve got! The whole cast and crew wholly deserve those standing ovations they receive each show.
“Ang Huling El Bimbo” is definitely, without question, a must-watch. It is a beautiful telling of a story of friendship and love and love lost. It is very real and nostalgic and painfully heart-wrenching. A real must-watch!
The show will run only until September 2 and tickets are getting sold real fast. So catch it while you still can!
It is my first exposure to Philippine Theatre and #AHEB made me appreciate it so much so I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more Filipino plays from now on. Pero syempre kailangan ko din i-ready yung wallet ko. Actually, before I found out about AHEB, I really wanted to watch Rak Of Aegis first. Kaso yun, di afford ni lola mo panuodin both. I had to choose! And I chose Boo! Haha!
Side Story: My friend and I were able to grab some Meet and Greet tickets after the show and I swear I died and came back to life. I’ve been crushing on Boo Gabunada for so long and to meet him and to sit beside him and to be able to tell him “Congratulations” and him replying “Thank you” just seriously killed me! My heart!