Photo by Leo Castillo
They had me at the opening number. Blue Jeans came in with a rush of nostalgia — I instantly remember being small, running around the house with Apo Hiking Society’s music playing in the background, wearing my Sunday’s best and feeling like it was Christmas. I guess that’s the effect of APO’s music: it puts you in a good mood. Eto na! Musikal nAPO! filled Maybank Theater with a moving intimacy, as we clutched our chests during moments that were funny, profound, and sentimental.
Somehow a coming-of-age story too, where you see a group of musician friends navigating the starting point of adulthood, individually stumbling around to find their places in life.
The jukebox musical is loosely based on the humble beginnings of APO Hiking Society, but it’s somehow a coming-of-age story too, where you see a group of musician friends navigating the starting point of adulthood, individually stumbling around to find their places in life.
It’s at the beginning of another school year when we are introduced to the barkada, all with stories from summer vacation. Different personalities come to play — there’s Rick, portrayed by the compelling Mark Bautista, whose singing alone you need to pay attention to. He’s accompanied by Sonny (Al Fritz Blanche), Butch (Jobim Javier), and Ray (Jon Philippe Go) who all came with storylines of their own. The group decides to join a national singing and songwriting competition along with other friends, and then… life happens.
Tensions arise as everyone in the group finds themselves wrapped up in their own issues, which mainly revolve around their romantic relationships. One notable narrative is Ray’s — we get to see him deal with life’s more serious matters with his sick mother and his father’s stern disapproval towards his passion for music. We get to see smaller stories within the big picture, with throwback cultural references sprinkled all throughout the show (I wasn’t aware that Magnolia Ice Cream House from back then is Jollibee now, but hey)
There’s joy in witnessing the musical numbers as well, and writer-director Robbie Guevara accomplishes the sweetness it takes to get you there, as if you were reminiscing your past life in the ‘70s.
The musical is not without its political edge too, as the story is set during the late ‘70s, right in the middle of Martial Law era. There were implications of injustice, and although the group were mostly upper to middle class in standing, the low hum of terror and abuse of power were still rightly felt. One of the most tender moments of the show was towards the end, with Ray’s storyline touching the hearts of the audience, quietly calling for action relevant to today’s times.
There’s joy in witnessing the musical numbers as well, and writer-director Robbie Guevara accomplishes the sweetness it takes to get you there, as if you were reminiscing your past life in the ‘70s. You watch the characters grow up and make life decisions as they stumble with their partners, deal with rejection, drink for comfort, and ultimately survive college. In the end though, there were three, and the rest is history.
So open your hearts, this one’s guaranteed to sweep you off your feet.
Eto Na! Musikal nAPO! runs from Aug. 3 to 26 at the Maybank Performing Arts Theater. For ticket information, visit Ticketworld’s website.