The first time I heard of this musical was when a casual friend posted a video of a musical preview of just one particular song of this musical. Out of curiosity, and for the love of musicals, I just heard it and felt this connection with the song. Since then, I just instantly became a fan. I had browsed from video to video of other songs that were played in the previews night. And I made a promise to myself that I will definitely see this. I did.
It must have been quite a challenge to deliver what ought to be freely crafted in film that being an indie piece in musical output. Given the fact that indie pieces are meant not only to suggest but to expose reality at its most gruesome or mundane, having one put on a musical platform, with all the “jazzing-up” and extravaganza would have been a whole lot of work.
I keep marveling at how stage-architects come up with such designs and making the whole space work. The make-shifts and flexible areas on stage were seemingly disarrayed in way, reflective that of Rent. But every corner served its purpose as the musical progressed. It was well structured, planned, and executed, I should say. It didn’t lose the essence of what it was like in real-life setting. It still adhered to the film and the realistic environment.
Music and tech
Most of the parts of the musical were well placed. The lights were all good. The songs were heard enough. There were just a couple times that face mics were not set, and the actors were not heard upon singing the first lines. One actor wasn’t heard audibly as the sound was a bit loud for the whole theater space and the audio system. These were just a few flaws that didn’t matter in the whole presentation.
Nevertheless, I felt the Sampaloc feel in how main actors belted songs as though singing in a karaoke. This is just how it is in real setting, how drinking and neighboring folks sing their hearts out to any beat they wish. Only this time, it’s more constructed for musicals.
The musical at some point was bordering a real story and pun in a way. The costumes were well played. It was fair to the time and circumstances. There were just parts that made everything feel like a variety show in all. It could have been downplayed a little. But it was entertaining.
Plot and book
How the story progressed was still faithful to the film. What was essential was still placed right in the whole show. I just felt that there were certain parts that were quite overdone, mentioning the Sto. Niño scene. Probably to the librettist, it was part of showing how it was like to have a fiesta in Manila, or that there were parts that need to be highlighted just to perfectly establish that social setting. It was entertaining anyway.
Acting and Actors
Every actor definitely played significantly, not losing the relevance of the character.
Worth mentioning would be the trio of the father and the two older brothers of Maxie. They were all-naturale in every scene. I could actually feel in their voices, facial expressions, blocking, and simplistic exchanges of lines the Sampaloc folks that were being established right from the very start.
Victor, the policeman character did justice to the musical. With his stature and image, he was able to deliver as expected.
Nar, Maxie’s friend in the plot, was well controlled in most scenes. I could sense he was standing still as the character itself. He was enough for the character.
Maxie was a good cast. The voice wasn’t that powerful as was the character in the film. The acting was good, but it could have been pushed a little more while still maintaining that forgiving and soft image. From the research I did, the actor himself was originally a singing sensation. The voice was exceptional. But I was a little bit expecting more. There were times that he became quite a silent character. But generally, for a start for this musical, and I’m saying this since this piece could run in the following years, the character is good enough.
They were all written well, mundanely, and affectionately. I just felt the lyrics and the melody. They were metaphorically crafted, yet still appealing to the regular audience. It was all a mix of ballads, RnBs, and jukeboxy songs that did justice to the Sampaloc feel and story itself.
1. The gap between indie and musicals:
I should say that it was indeed a challenge to make indie films tasteful on stage with music in it. All in all, the musical was GREAT. The audience were all up on their feet applauding during the last night of the musical. There was still something about musicals that couldn’t be executed in films. It was the interplay of music, lyrics, metaphors, lights, dance, costumes, colorful characters, and the theme. All these couldn’t just be delivered in indie films, which are pieces that ought to be thought and reflected. Musicals they say, express themes outright through music and the show, and this is where the challenge came from. For me, the production was a whole of success. In the future, this piece may be crafted and constructed better, but for a start, it was all good.
2. Plotted colorfully
The plot couldn’t be settled or limited in one standard so to say. I have read an article about how it was a bit over-directed and overly staged. But I couldn’t blame it to the librettist who remained true to the film. Honestly, the story is really colorful. The colors made it appealing to the audience. The puns and fun scenes made the indie piece palpable to the people. Sampaloc has a lot going on in it just to put it blatantly. I just have to say that the last scenes, with the raids and gunshots, made it all more mature. I felt it so much that I almost got teary. It had that exact feel of the realistic play of the real situation set on the musical stage. Probably, the “fun” opening and in-between scenes made a contrast to the finale pack. Such conflicting duality of the musical made it a little confusing given the standards of many musicals in the past. But this is a new breed and piece. It might have felt like some popular pieces in Broadway, it still has the original-musical factor in it.
3. Maxie and the social dilemma
Musicals can always deliver and show what is happening in society. It is one medium for awareness and reality-check. Maxie, the Musical didn’t fail in this. It made what was mundane in the indie film well highlighted on stage. The issues on corruption, social cancer, urban poverty, and homosexuality inter-played well in the entire show. Kudos on this!
4. After-taste and themes expressed
I have to admit that the songs had stuck in my mind. They felt so real and true. It was all the emotions of the character Maxie and certain main characters.
It was wonderful how being atrociously gay to the conservative society was well accepted,especially in difficult times when life just turns out worse in faces of those in adverse situations. To those whose aim was simply to survive life, there was nothing more to think about but to live life with love, acceptance, and forgiveness. The musical was all about seeing the good in things and not going with what is certainly dirty and bad. It was really nice how being an individual is likened to flowers that grow, bloom, wilt, and just die eventually. But in these flowers are the beauty and essence of goodness, that every individual in each has some good no matter how dirty and pungent the systems go. The musical wasn’t like the activism-themed ones. It was rather a resolving and reconciling one. And by appreciating what was burning inside, things may actually get better.
Life is meant to be lived with laughter, music, fun, and looking forward to what is good. Maxie, the Musical may actually be one reflection of that life. It felt true to me. As a musical, I can say it’s worth showing. The Filipino theater and musical community is indeed worth to be proud of.