BWW Review: I REMEMBER A BOY, A Delightful Trip Down Memory Lane
Manila, Philippines--We Filipinos love to sing and, not only that, some even create theme songs to commemorate special memories with friends and loved ones. At the center of Artist Playground's latest offering is a barkada (clique) of six teenagers forced to have a get-together at their favorite bar as requested by one of their members. This meetup eventually stimulated them to recall their fondest memories of one another, from the time they first gathered together at that bar until that moment when they began to go their separate ways.
The unique twist to this barkada story, reminiscent of the American TV hit series "Friends," is that this is a jukebox musical featuring some of the radio hits of the '70s, '80s, and '90s. This show is able to take us back to our childhood, or to what our parents tell us of theirs, courtesy of Jesse Lucas' musical direction, which stays faithful to the original recordings. The selection of songs is quite varied, too, adding to the amusement and unpredictability of the whole show.
The title track, "I Remember the Boy," sung in full at the start of the show, and later on reprised before the show closes, keeps this run-of-the-mill story cohesive. The same song is also used to transition from the present time to seven years past, and then back to the present as the show closes. Stage direction in this part of the show is quite clever if only the transition was also complemented by an equally appropriate lighting design.
One of the most entertaining numbers is the mashup of "Lumapit Ka," performed by an overly ecstatic Shalee Vicencio (alternating with Mariella Laurel) who plays Ellie, and "Miss Maganda," sung by the awkward Joe Henson (alternating with Vyen Villanueva), who plays Carlo. The unconventional pairing of these songs easily puts a smile on our faces as we see the two characters profess their infatuation towards their friends.
Sometimes the song numbers become too playful that it reveals some inconsistencies in the characters in the story. For instance, Kathleen Francisco's character (played by Gian Gloria in some performances), Shayne, is introduced in the story via the Celeste Legaspi hit "Movie Fan." Fun as this number may be, yet writer Ayu Martinez fails to justify the disconnect between Shayne's addiction to Nicholas Sparks and some parts of the song lyrics ("bakod ay aakyatin, hirap ay di pansin"), obviously pertaining to how rabid movie fans were in the '70s and '80s. We like this idea in the plot, except that maybe a rewrite of the lyric (assuming they were allowed to) is necessary in order to mirror how fans nowadays go overboard in engaging with their idols on social media. Another misstep is Francisco's all-out song number "Ang Boyfriend Kong Baduy," intended to introduce (or embarrass?) her law student-boyfriend, Eero, played by Philippe Go (alternating with Kendrick Ibasco). What confuses us though is that Go is nowhere near the song description "groovy magdamit."
Though her character is sidelined for most of Act 1, Cathrine Go's believable acting when her character Kate (Nina Macalino in some performances) becomes the center of a major plot twist, was enough for us to remember her. Go may not be the strongest singer in this bunch, but she excels as the most relaxed actor on that stage. Miko Manguba, on the contrary, gives a more calculated portrayal of David (Jon Abella in some performances) although we credit him for effectively making us kilig everytime he sings a love song.
Mariella Laurel, in her professional directorial debut, as a stage director is indeed very promising. If she manages to bring together a bunch of relatively young actors who have fun playing their roles and, more importantly, enjoy being themselves, then she's definitely off to a good start.
Artist Playground's "Playlist Track 2: I Remember a Boy" has three more performances: March 10 (Saturday) at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and March 11 (Sunday) at 7 p.m. It plays Arts Above (112 West Ave., Quezon City--beside McDonald's).
Buy tickets at TicketWorld.com.ph.