Sunday, February 17, 2008

EJ: Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson

[updated 2/19]

One of my fondest memories of high school was doing a class musical set during Martial Law, so I didn't mind seeing another one.

I rarely go all the way to CCP to see a show, but Tanghalang Pilipino's rock musical EJ: Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson seemed to have all the qualities of theater worth seeing: script by Ed Maranan, music by The Dawn, a cast that includes Ricky Davao and Jet Pangan, direction by Chris Millado. A few minutes into the show, it was clear to me that while there was a lot of potential in the material and the production, a number of things were bogging them down. If you've seen the show, let me know if you agree or disagree.

It was the first weekend, so I will forgive the forgetfulness of Juliene Mendoza (Evelio Javier) and Riki Benedicto's (Edgar Jopson) not being in tempo with the music. Benedicto has strong stage presence, but the strongest presence and male vocals belong to Nar Cabico as the narrator figure (Jun Yango). Tex OrdoƱez (Joy) and Wenah Negales (Precious) hold their own both as actors and singers. The ensemble get plenty of chances to show off their character acting abilities. (They also look very young, which makes me wonder how Davao and Pangan would look when sharing the stage with them.)

As the story spans decades, it is sensible that there was no effort to recreate the period. The projections were enough to give the audience a sense of history. The handheld mics had a concert-like effect, but tended to be distracting and cumbersome, especially when the actors had other props like in hand.

There were some well-executed numbers like Salimpusa, which to me was definitely performance art pregnant with symbolism. The band played consistently well, but the volume could be lowered. My favorite scene was Edjop's China visit, which was a great way to end the first act. The quartet for Salamat was very beautiful. Wish I could hear it again.

Now...this. The running time of nearly three hours could be shortened considerably by some judicious cutting. I was nearly pleased when Iisang Bangka Tayo was sung, thinking that the show would end without showing how the leads died. But no. They had to be killed, which didn't work for me because I feel that for the deaths to be potent, they must either be extremely stylized or horrifically real. Since that scene was neither, I did not feel a thing.

I had a problem with fitting existing songs to a true story. Although this has been done, this is usually reserved for the life stories of the musicians who played them (Jersey Boys, Buddy!). Otherwise, it's arguably better to have original music to go with an existing story (Phantom, Les Miz) or have existing music go with an original story (Movin' Out, Mamma Mia). The music then ably drives the story forward instead of freezing the action. The narrator could have been used more effectively (see Evita and Pippin) or not at all. It seems that he is the trade-off: the only way some songs could be used. But other than morphing into Marcos, he did not engage in dialogue with the EJs. If the songs did not constrain the action, the focus could have been on the conversations between the two EJs, which could make their connection more solid.

I wish the show was done in Ateneo because of the Ateneo connections of the characters and because it would have been an inexpensive way of getting a bigger ensemble, which I think would help.

There, I've said it. You've got four weekends left, TP. It's not too late to tighten the show. Or at add an overture.


  1. hi erasmusa!

    thanks for watching... definitely that first weekend is a uhmm. a test run for us... we didnt get the chance to tighten up that play during the first wekkend... the following get much better for after the opening week, we rehearse again, cut and paste some scenes..

    ANYWEIZ, thanks for waTCHING ... if you have time come and watch again...


    thank you u;lit

  2. hi riki! glad to hear that you kept working on it. ganun naman talaga ang first weekend, di ba? part of the reason why i blogged is because i wanted to offer some suggestions. masaya naman ako na nabasa ninyo yung sinulat ko. hindi naman siguro ako maba-ban sa TP, no? looking forward to the next season! :)

  3. haahah... hindi naman.... aktuli what time ka ba nanuod? date?

    anyweiz first weekend ko, im an understudy for the role pero medyo late notice... for the first weekend, nagshow ako without a rehearsal... totaly wala... kaya nangangapa talga ako... nagkaconflict sila kasi sa sked.. pero thank you!

  4. riki, ikaw pa rin ba to? the show i saw was the feb 16 matinee. you were doing ok until somewhere towards the end when you became self-conscious as you were singing some difficult notes. you dropped the mask, kung baga. :)

  5. i watched this play last sunday...deyng! sobra nagustuhan ko talaga...inde naman ako mahilig manood ng mga ganito, my first musical play was miss saigon and after that, wala na.. kung di dahil sa prof namin na nagintroduce samen nitong play eh inde namin maeexperience a great play like this one... grabe ang galing ng ginawa nila talaga... pag napanood nyo ung play matatanong mo talaga sa sarili mo na "kelan pa ba magbabago ang ihip ng panahon?"

    sana hanggang ngayn may mga tao na kagaya nila...SALUDO AKO SA KANILA!

    -jamie from dominican college

  6. hi jamie! mabuti naman na nagustuhan mo siya. sana na-encourage ka na manood pa ng ibang mga palabas. let's support the filipino artists :)