SA WAKAS is a new pinoy rock musical love story, directed by andrei nikolai pamintuan and written by him with marianne abuan, featuring songs made famous by Sugarfree, a filipino band that has disbanded a few years back. we watched SA WAKAS on the opening weekend with its first ever show at the PETA Phinma Theater. generally we had mixed feelings about it. carlo was more livid than i was haha
first of all, the songs are all great. credits go to ebe dancel, lead singer of the band, who wrote most, if not all, of the band’s material. he even wrote a gorgeous new song for the musical.
the performers were actually good. we watched the 3pm show on april 13th. the lead cast were played by the handsome fred lo (playing the lead guy, topper), laura cabochan, and justine pena. both laura and justine are familiar faces as ive seen them in ateneo stage productions before. act 1 was just confusing. *spoilers* the story flow apparently was running in reverse so we started sa wakas (the end) and ended SA WAKAS dun sa simula (at the beginning) but this was only evident when you get to act 2. in the meantime, you sit through the first act lost and angry. you cant even latch on emotionally to any of the characters because theyre all so bitter and vile at each other and you dont know why there’s too much hate going on. when the first act ended, carlo and i were looking at each other and just going, what was that?! we actually contemplated on leaving right away. eventually we decided to change seats and sat at the balcony and waited to find a clearer perspective on things.
as act 2 progressed, i was telling myself this scene or that song should have been in act 1 so we could understand and appreciate the characters and situation better. it perhaps was only in the middle of the second act that you realize the story was in reverse. you go, oh, so that’s why, except that you’ve already hated the whole thing and are not sure if you’ll still like it. and the characters turn out to be actually sweet and funny and it’s supposed to be bittersweet knowing in the end they do separate. the only thing bittersweet about it is that this could have been great if the treatment wasnt pretentious and didnt try to copy “The Last Five Years” or something like Nolan’s “Memento.” i dont really see it as “groundbreaking” since the reverse treatment was not really effective.
having said that, i think the last half of act 2 was really great. you finally get a clearer sense of who these characters are, what makes them tick and why you should fall in love with them. that scene with topper and gabbi on the rooftop was fantastic and the anti-hipster hipster lines were great. basha and popoy gets special mention again as lexi plays out a dvd of “one more chance”. you probably would still like to whack the lead guy in the head for cheating on his girlfriend and then you remember it didnt even go very well in the end at the beginning so what’s the point? the play’s treatment will indeed make you forget the bad things that happened in the relationship shown in the beginning but sometimes also, less is more.
im mightily curious though of what victor robinson iii (alternate for topper) would bring to the show, knowing he’s a really good PETA actor. the reviews during press night on robinson were not very favorable but maybe that’s just first night jitters. most of the reviews on SA WAKAS were positive though, including feedback from friends who’ve watched the show. i thought it was just carlo and me who didnt like it (and few of the people seated behind us in the theater) then i read this review from broadwayworld.com which shares my sentiment.
the cast during curtain call. from left: hans dimayuga, cassie manalastas, laura cabochan, fred lo, justine pena, mikou david, and abi sulit.
my friend, mikou david, is actually in the chorus and i congratulated her after the show, but i knew id be writing a not so great review of the show and i couldnt tell her that at that moment. also, one thing we noticed when we got in was that the set was tightly packed and some elements werent maybe necessary. we’ve seen a lot of productions mounted on the PETA theater stage but this felt too cluttered.
i was actually looking forward to this because im still waiting for the songs of the eraserheads to be made into a musical and this would be a fantastic appetizer. if the creators would explore a different treatment to act 1 maybe id sit again and watch this musical. i really wanted to like this and my reaction was not what i hoped for. here’s wishing for a miracle. in the meantime, im gonna wash off bad vibes with a dose of sugarfree’s dramachine album. cheers!