Review Roundup: RAK OF AEGIS by PETA

RAK OF AEGIS runs until Sunday, March 9 at PETA Theatre Center (No.5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City).

Manila, Philippines-- Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), the group behind recent theatrical hits "Care Divas" and "Bona," is back with a new musical comedy, "Rak of Aegis," which features the music catalog of multi-platinum rock band Aegis--musically rearranged for the stage by actor-musician Myke Salomon.

The show stars Isay Alvarez-Seña, Robert Seña, Aicelle Santos, and Joan Bugcat, along with other cast members Poppert Bernadas, Ron Alfonso, Jet Barrun, Kakai Bautista, Gimbey Dela Cruz, Neomi Gonzales, Pepe Herrera, Carlon Matobato, Julienne Mendoza, John Moran, Jerald Napoles, Gie Onida, Phillip Palmos, Myke Salomon, Paeng Sudayan, and Gold Villar.

Created by PETA Artistic Director Maribel Legarda and Palanca Award-winning playwright Liza Magtoto, the musical comedy directs the audience's attention to the residents of the flooded village of Villa Venizia, especially Aileen (Santos alternating with Bugcat), a young mall "promodizer" caught in the web of finding love and seeking fame to support her family.

Now let's hear what the critics had to say:

Jennifer Chuaunsu, Pep.Ph: It seemed inevitable that someone would come up with the idea of using the music of '90s Pinoy rock band Aegis in a musical. The heart-wrenching lyrics and anthemic songs are perfectly suited for the stage. With the popularity of musicals that feature pop/rock songs such as Mamma Mia, American Idiot the Musical, We Will Rock You, Ejay, and Sa Wakas, it was only a matter of time...

Production designer Mio Infante's set design recreates the atmosphere of a slum area. There was a small estero filled with floodwater flanked by a wooden shanty, a small sari-sari store, and tiny huts to represent other shanties. There was a narrow makeshift walkway and a small banca used to ferry people. Rain even fell during the storm scene. Jonjon Villareal's lighting complemented the different mood for each scene, especially the storm scene.

Around 20 Aegis songs were used in the musical, including popular hits such as "Luha," "Halik," "Sundot," "Christmas Bonus," and "Basang-basa sa Ulan." Musical director-actor Myke Salomon chose tunes that would reflect the characters' emotions. The songs were masterfully arranged. Some rock songs were stripped down to acoustic ballads. The lyrics were also changed to suit the story (for example, "Ang halik mo namimiss ko" was changed to "Ang delubyo namimiss ko.")

Jonathan Orbuda, Fringe Mag: The plot of "Rak of Aegis" is very simple; its message very clear: Love exists even in times of calamities. And yet, at least for me, it managed to be heartbreaking because it reflects the reality of Philippine society. Because of this simplicity, it can easily penetrate the mindset of the audience...

Singing along with the casts during the show is not allowed, however I couldn't avoid humming while listening to the lineup of songs mashed-up and used to narrate segments of the show. After all, who doesn't know the rock band Aegis? The backdrop of the said musical are the songs of Aegis - Halik, Luha, Basang-basa sa Ulan, Christmas Bunos, Munting Pangarap... This play, thus, lifts up the Original Pilipino Music (OPM).

Walter Ang, Philippine Daily Inquirer: The musical shows audiences its characters' struggles with the elusive nature of happiness, offering a timely commentary on what it has meant to be a Filipino in the first few years of the 2010s: hoping against hope amidst the ubiquity of technology (that not all Filipinos have access to, much less utilize) and of calamities (the musical was created post-"Ondoy," pre-"Yolanda").

No matter how advanced the technologies available to them (i.e., the global reach of the Internet) and no matter how severe the disasters that have inundated them (meteorological, ecological, economic, and, of course, most importantly, romantic), the characters' ongoing concerns are still to seek out what will make them happy.

At least, what they think will make them happy-love or money (by way of a job or fame) or both...

The production feels bloated because of a tendency to be redundant. It begins with an overture medley and ends Act 1 with a medley reprise. Several songs are repeated, the novelty of their new contexts wearing off with each refrain. The dialogue is didactic and constantly repeats facts, justifications, reasons and explanations.

One song that was repeated was worth it, though-the entertaining baritone-soprano rendition of "Sinta" by Ron Alfonso (as enterprising sari-sari store owner Jewel), sans doble-kara makeup and costume.

Ysabel Yuson, The actors alone give you a show to watch, and while you do look forward to the musical numbers a little too much, the play, as you will realize shortly after, can be described the way you would Aegis: brutally honest, extremely Pinoy, and best over beers...

The first act took a while to take off and deliver a story but Act II provided what was necessary without making it so black and white. Yes, it still needs some work. Yes, there were some points that got lost along the way. But this is our production. This play comes from a good place. Local musicals written, composed and performed by Filipinos will only get better if they know that there's an audience for it.

Rak of Aegis is definitely a commendable effort by PETA, especially for director Maribel Legarda, writer Liza Magtoto and musical director/arranger/vocal director Myke Salomon. And aside from the music, which was obviously amazing, the Infante-Villareal tandem for the set and lights, worked very well to make it a cohesive production.

More Philippines! More...

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Oliver Oliveros Oliver Oliveros received a master's degree in public relations and corporate communication from New York University while serving as regional director for, where he accepted an Award for Excellence: Best International Editor in 2013.

For nearly 20 years, Oliver has been handling public relations, corporate communication, and integrated marketing communications for numerous brands (including Pepsi), Broadway shows, Broadway stars, non-profit organizations, and mainstream celebrities.

He is also the editor-in-chief for Fil-Am Who’s Who, a monthly magazine that tells the real-life success stories of Filipino Americans from the New York Tri-State area.

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