Ang Huling El Bimbo is a masterful piece of expert storytelling through the music of the Eraserheads, the most iconic rock band of the 90s. Their songs are expertly put together to build the story of friends who have lost their relationships, and their unexpected reunion years later.
Ang Huling El Bimbo is the latest original Filipino musical produced by Full House Theater Company (FHTC) and Resorts World Manila.
Here are my thoughts on the musical…
The beginning is rough and ambiguous, almost difficult to follow. The backdrop and set are made of broken and splintered wood, an indication of the state of their friendship.
I shared the characters’ confusion with their predicament, in their search for the why and what. “Why am I here? What is happening?”
But what followed soon after kept me on the edge of my seat, searching for the elements to complete the story.
How the trio came about and grew into a quartet is a plot so inclusive and relatable to anyone who has had to start anew at university.
The sets take multiple references to characters and contexts found in the songs of the Eraserheads. One set is a nod to the song “Toyang.”
The characters tugged at my heartstrings with each of their backstories.
Anthony, constantly struggling with his identity, is played by Topper Fabregas and Jon Santos. Topper is a delight to watch and Jon is an actor with exceptional acting skill.
Emman, a young man just trying to get out of poverty, is played by Boo Gabunada and OJ Mariano. Boo’s performance is exemplary. As for OJ, it is a pleasure to see him on stage instead of the small screen.
Hector, the commitment-phobe, is played by Reb Atadero and Gian Magdangal. Reb and Gian’s performances are commendable, as always.
Joy (quite possibly named in allusion to the song Ligaya), the energetic love interest, is played by Tanya Manalang and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo. Tanya’s spunk as the young Joy is translated well into adulthood by Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo.
The first act continues on a lively and energetic tone with playful banter and pun-slinging, but it abruptly ends in tragedy.
With barely any dialogue, the musical masterfully weaves song lyrics as part of the conversations. New life is breathed into each and every rendition of the songs—both joy and deep sorrow expressed in one song. Heck, I was so conflicted when With A Smile made me feel sad.
With the cause of the splinters in their friendship uncovered, the second act is a revelation of how their individual lives transpired after that one awful night.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but this isn’t a story of a beautiful friendship formed through hardship and how they remained friends well into adulthood.
The songs serve as painful reminders of the years past, of unhealed wounds buried deep, of repressed emotions just waiting to come to the surface. Once again, the trio finds themselves in a predicament—only now, it’s too late.
The denouement ensues with the resurgence of a familiar face from their past. Walls are taken down and egos are given up to make room for sympathy and compassion.
As a resolution, the rapid turn of events prompts the trio into rebuilding their broken lives.
Don’t be mistaken: despite all the colorful and cheerful marketing material, this is not a feel-good, sing-along musical. But don’t let that hinder you from watching it. Ang Huling El Bimbo is a poignant piece that tackles current social issues and also brings a roller-coaster of emotions that’s very much worth your time.
The 90s were my young, formative years, so my exposure to the songs of the Eraserheads was well into the 2000s. Even so, it didn’t become a hindrance to my being able to relate to the plot. But I’m guessing for those who did experience the height of OPM during the 90s, this musical digs up more memories.
Ang Huling El Bimbo is truly a great piece from Fullhouse Theater Company and Resorts World Manila. It’s far from perfect (audio failures and storyline editing), but as with everything in theater: it’s a work in progress. Here’s hoping we get more original and proudly Filipino theater productions in the future.
To the cast’s and our delight, Ely Buendia (sharp-suited silver head of hair) graced the gala night and sang the musical’s praises.
Ang Huling El Bimbo runs until September 2, 2018 at the Newport Performing Arts Theater. Buy your tickets here: rwmanila.com/AHEB.
Live an Awesome Life,
Monique of Team Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: Our experience was courtesy of Resorts World Manila. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions and insights.
P.S. If you still need more convincing, here’s a video of the Musical Cast Recording.