BWW Review: Thoroughly Entertaining, RAK OF AEGIS Continues to Captivate Audiences
Manila, Philippines--In its seventh season, the original Filipino hit musical from Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) titled 'Rak of Aegis," which features the popular songs of the Aegis band, returns onstage from July to September this year with new famed artists to join its original and recurring cast members.
Since its world premiere on January 2014, this rock musical has grown so much in its production and entertainment values; even those who saw its previous stagings don't hesitate to come back for another serving of its cheerful performances, now clocking in more than 400!
Expertly directed by Maribel Legarda, "Rak of Aegis" tells the communal stories of the flooded Barangay Venizia. At the center of their struggles and triumphs is Aileen. She's a promo model who is dead set at finding true love and seeking viral fame to support her small family.
Liza Magtoto's story fits perfectly into the concept of a flooded community. Mio Infante's set design, on the other hand, will certainly be etched in Philippine theater history. The use of real water (seldom used in a theatrical setting) to depict a submerged barangay is brilliant. The audience who surround Infante's intimate set are "immersed" on what's happening on stage--as if they're part of the neglected, yet hopeful, neighborhood of Venizia's residents.
We revisited the show last month and we're fortunate to have watched Shaira Opsimar (Aileen), Jenine Desiderio (Barangay Captain Mary Jane, new cast addition), Renz Verano (Kiel, Aileen's father), Derrick Monasterio (Tolits, Aileen's suitor and new cast addition), Vince Lim (Kenny, Aileen's suitor and Mary Jane's son), Neomi Gonzales (Mercy, Aileens mother), and Jimi Marquez (Jewel, Aileen's friend) in the cast.
Gonzales is effortless in singing her songs so as Verano whose voice range fits perfectly with the Aegis score. Desiderio, a "Miss Saigon" alumna, is charming as ever. However, these three actors--Opsimar, Monasterio, and Lim give their performances with such believability.
Kudos to Monasterio, in particular, since this is his professional musical theater debut. He breathes life into his character, Tolits, with a unique demeanor, which is quite different from all the other actors who took/take on the role as alternates.
From a distance, Opsimar has the aura of Aicelle Santos who is the original Aileen. She can belt the songs. However, she falls a tad short of expressing a young woman pained by her father's unreciprocated gratitude--overall, she's still a fireball of talent. Lim, on the other hand, does well with his dramatic scenes with Desiderio.
Myke Salomon, the show's musical director-arranger-vocal director, enables the cast to give their best in performing the Aegis' jukebox catalog. Jonjon Villareal's lighting design complements the required "mood" in every scene. The dream sequence, featuring Opsimar's Aileen and Monasterio's Tolits, is hilarious and guaranteed hopeless romantic.
Further, Gio Gahol's choreography is just right given the small performance space where the actors move around. Carlo Villafuerte Pagunaling's costume design works well with Maco Custodio's shoe design, especially during the curtain call.
The beauty of "Rak of Aegis" (as opposed to other original Filipino musicals) is its honesty and authenticity, not to mention its characters are all endearing and they help move the story forward. As an ensemble of actors, they're truly engaging and a joy to watch.
Additionally, this show makes the audience understand the plight of those living in submerged neighborhoods, e.g. the real-life, flood-prone CAMANAVA district in Metro Manila, and how they deal with their everyday lives.
"Rak of Aegis" is the Philippines' "Mamma Mia!" It has that local appeal and continues to evolve every time it returns onstage.
PETA presents "Rak of Aegis" Season 7, in partnership with the Organisasyon ng mga Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM), the PhilPop MusicFest Foundation, and PLDT Home WiFi.
The show plays at the PETA Theater Center (5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City) now until Sunday, September 29. Buy tickets (P1,000-P2,500) at TicketWorld.com.ph. - with additional reporting by Oliver Oliveros
Photos: Oliver Oliveros