Theater: Maxie The Musicale

"Maxie The Musicale"

Maxie behaves like a girl, wears clips in his hair and bangles on his wrists and even wears lipstick. He is teased by neighbors and former school friends. His sexuality is, however, fully accepted by his two brothers and by his father. One night he is accosted by two men who attempt to molest him, but is saved by the appearance of Victor. The story will revolve around the conflict between his love for the handsome young police officer and his family’s illegal livelihood. And will their friendship develop into a relationship?

I never really warmed to Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros. It was a good movie, I don’t deny it that. A lot of people liked it. It won awards, if I’m not mistaken. I remember it being a huge deal. Everyone was raving about it.

Fast forward to 2013, and people are doing the same thing for its musical adaptation: Maxie, the Musicale.

I didn’t come in with high expectations. How could I? I wasn’t a fan of the original material. So even with all the raves about the show, I was hesitant about it. And yet, I made sure to come in with an open mind.

I was ambivalent about the first part of the first act. It was crowded. It was loud. But it had its charms, I’ll give it that. I don’t know about the opening number establishing the milieu well, but it definitely underlined the high energy that the cast brings throughout the whole affair.

And it’s this high energy that I have a problem with the most.

You see, the material of Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros is a little serious. There’s an inherent wonderment in the material, because of the lead character’s young age, that fits well within the bleak world set up in the movie. Maxie has a bubble world where nothing bad happens. And the musical tried to carry this throughout the whole musical with its upbeat music and danceable songs– which, I thought, did the content a disservice.

Maxie’s bubble world of rainbows and happiness clashed with the bleak set-up of the musical. The slums is populated with the petty and the corrupted, and this is supposed to make Maxie’s heart shine even more. But it doesn’t. Because aside from Maxie and friends, none of the other characters are even barely likeable.

It’s a musical of villains where Maxie and friends are horribly out of place. And it doesn’t help that what made the source material charming, the relationship between Maxie and his brothers, take a backseat to Maxie’s comic relief posse and the forced love story between him and police officer Victor.

Yes, the romance that is Maxie’s main story thread feels forced. And it’s entirely the musical’s fault. Because what made Maxie’s infatuation with Victor in the source material work was the fact that it was unrequited. Victor cared for Maxie, but Maxie saw more than just caring in the way Victor treated him. And that was supposed to be it. The musical, in giving Victor his own development arc, ruined that.

Instead of being the object of affection, Victor became a nuanced character that you can’t understand. Because by being developed to be worth Maxie’s affections, the musical only underlined his selfishness even more.

And what was with the teasing that there’s a possible Maxie-Victor end game? It was pandering at the audience. I have nothing against homosexual relationships, but is it right to tell the audience that a straight older man can be gay because he falls in love with a tween? Yes, tween. Maxie is twelve years old. Victor must be, at the very least, twenty-one. That’s a nine-year age gap that wouldn’t matter if Maxie wasn’t a minor.

Speaking of pandering; What was with the nonsensical shower scene featuring characters that only show up for that scene? The one with Victor, with Maxie in his room, was fine. It pushed the story. But the shower scene was gratuitous at best. And while the beauty pageant competition drew the most laughs in the second act, it only cemented the fact that the musical is very confused with what it wants to be–and with what it wants the audience to take away.

Maxie, the Musical is a roller coaster ride–and not in a good way. Because as it takes you up, the way down is only made clearer.

I still have a few things to say, but that seems to wrap up my reaction to the musical nicely. So I’ll just list down a few more notes:

One. Maxie’s dad overdid the vibrato. And he has too many solos for someone we don’t really care about. I mean I know we’re supposed to care about him. But because we focused too much on Maxie’s relationship with his friends and Victor, we don’t really see why we should care about Paco (Maxie’s dad).

Two. Maxie’s only female friend is a scene stealer. I loved every scene she was in.

Three. I love and applaud how the second act began. It was a nice way to get the story moving, while reminding the audience what happened in the overly long first act.

Four. Al Gatmaitan is heartbreaking–even with the limited material he’s given. With a musical this loud, I have to give props to his quiet delivery: the way he emphasizes his inner conflict with just a quiver in his line delivery, with the drag in his steps, the hesitation… Wow. This only makes me more sad that Maxie’s relationship with his brothers wasn’t put more to the front. Then again, I didn’t mind the fact that we didn’t see much of Jay Gonzaga. What we got was more than enough.

Five. The ending that never ends. If this hadn’t been a musical, the part where Maxie sees his dad being shot dead would’ve been the perfect end. But because it’s a happy musical that’s supposed to be positive, we get an ending that keeps going and going and going, just so we could go back to Maxie feeling okay. To Maxie being able to move on. To Maxie being extremely and annoyingly coy. To the musical pandering once more to the audience by teasing a possible Victor-Maxie end game that would’ve just been wrong on every level.

And, *mic drop.*

Theater: Bona

"Bona"

Spinster call center agent Bona upon seeing the televised pitiful background of Gino Sanchez immediately becomes a fan of the Star of Tomorrow wannabe. In her desire to help him jumpstart his showbiz career, she gives him everything she has and turns her back to everything she values. Blinded by her belief in him, she allows all his faults to freely slide as she finds herself drowning in the surreal quicksand of worship and pity where manipulation blurs the line between prey and predator, the dismissive god and the faithful worshiper.

The first thing I noticed, watching Bona, was the colors. Each character was assigned a color, depending on how they were connected to each other. Which made the Bona’s passionate reds and Gino’s appealing blues all the more distinct from each other. Sure, the colors complement each other–but any color does, depending on the shade. Given the wrong shade, the two will clash.

And that’s exactly what Bona is–a love story between a woman who adores a boy so desperately it’s almost idolatry, and a boy who sees her for what she is to him–opportunity. It’s a love story waiting to clash. And crash. And burn.

I’m familiar with the source material. I’ve never actually seen it, only heard references of it, so I cannot say if the stage play was better than the movie it was adapted from. But it is very apparent that the production has taken liberties with the material. For one thing, I don’t think there were call centers back in the day the original Bona was made.

That said, I do think the writers who adapted the movie did an amazing job updating the material–without, basing on what other people have said about the production, taking anything away from what made Bona the movie work. But what sets it apart, basing from other people’s comments, is the stage play was able to laugh at the absurdity of the situation. Imagine, a grown woman falling in love with a boy on television?

The absurd part of this is that it really does happen in real life.

Bona gives a stark look into the idolatry that goes around the local entertainment industry. Fans do act like Bona does. And everything is captured in one question at the end of the stage play:

What is the different between admiring and worshiping?

And it’s a great statement to make. Where do you draw the line? Which one is more rooted in love? In true love?

I’m sure each one of us has a different answer to that question.

Catch the last five shows of Bona this weekend at the PETA Theater.