Throwback to 1975: Why You Should Watch Eto Na! Musikal nAPO!
There’s no question that the current political climate has spurred the creation of new art, and it’s no more apparent than this
Jukebox musicals, after all, have the reputation of being escapist fantasies geared toward audiences looking for a happy diversion rather than serious social commentary. While the story of Musikal nAPO
By the time the play reaches its bittersweet conclusion, the message becomes clear: In times of struggle, those who create art that speaks out against injustice must persevere.
From the moment the overture plays at the top of Act I, audiences are taken back to the '70s—simpler times, yes, but no less complicated. Audiences are introduced to the leads, all college students: Rick (Mark Bautista), who struggles to find balance between pursuing his passions and giving his girlfriend adequate attention; Ray (Jon Philippe Go), a pre-med student whose overbearing father disapproves of his extra-curricular activities; Butch (Jobim Javier), a playboy who decides to change his ways upon meeting the love of his life; Sonny (Alfritz Blanche), a gregarious young man who is at a loss on how to accept the fact that his girlfriend is migrating to the U.S.; and Jaime (Jef Flores), Donnie (Jon Abella), and Bobby (Vyen Villanueva), the three members of the gang who just want to make good music.
The story opens with an opportunity to be on Campus Cafeteria (a play on the long-running real-life variety show Student Canteen). The leads need to write a song to win and to perhaps realize their lifelong dreams to achieve stardom. But as the realities of life—and life under Martial Law—begin to sink in, those dreams become more and more difficult to reach. By the time the play reaches its bittersweet conclusion, the message becomes clear: In times of struggle, those who create art that speaks out against injustice must persevere.
Guevara manages to limit his song selection for the play to a lean 25 songs (in contrast, Across the Universe featured 34 songs from the Beatles library, while Ang Huling El Bimbo is said to include a whopping 40 songs by the Eraserheads). That discipline serviced the play tremendously as
Eto Na! Musikal nAPO!’s script, however, is the biggest star. It seems acutely aware of the Philippines’ short-term memory, from its nostalgia-loaded humor to grim reminders of lessons past.
The cast ably brings the music to life. Jobim Javier, a radio DJ making his stage debut and son of APO member Danny Javier, delivers vocals that do the music justice, touching on all the emotional notes that bring meaning to his character. And while his dialogue delivery might have seemed uneven at times during the show’s second-ever performance, there’s reason to believe that more experience would land him on a list of young actors to watch. Alfritz Blanche shines as the scene-stealing, almost paternal Sonny; while Jef Flores works double-duty as comic relief and de facto driving force of the band, deftly juggling lightheartedness and earnest determination.
On both a personal and social level, the musical asks us to remember where we’ve been—both the good times and the bad—and shows us how we can move forward on a positive note.