BWW Reviews: SA WAKAS, A New Rock Musical


By Precious Lee Cundangan

Manila, Philippines, April 18, 2013 -- One of the hardest things when writing a review is doing our best not to be influenced by others' opinions, especially when we know something is amiss. While there is no question about how skillfully Off-Broadway director Andrei Nikolai Pamintuan is able to fuse different theatrical elements to bring the spirit of alternative rock band Sugarfree's songs on stage, the lack of organic storytelling in Act One makes "Sa Wakas: A New Rock Musical" confusing to us.

Hailed by several theater critics as groundbreaking; a musical that defines a generation; "Sa Wakas," during press night, has almost everyone in the audience fell in love with it.

Nonetheless, we strongly feel the production has loopholes that need fixing.

"Sa Wakas" tells the story of a young photographer Topper (Victor Robinson III), who falls in and out of love with equally beautiful women, Lexi (Caisa Borromeo) and Gabbi (Kyla Rivera). These main characters are caught in infidelity, love, and loss. Given that rather simple plot, the play's creative team employs a non-linear storytelling technique similar to those of Stephen Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along" and Jason Robert Brown's "The Last Five Years."

Its book -- a confusing Act One, a strong Act Two -- written by Pamintuan and Mariane Abuan, bears Filipino nuances and local jokes that make the play relevant and intensify the emotional involvement of the audience.

Annoyingly, Act One's quick flashbacks and flashforwards can get too erratic. On press night, the lighting cues did not help at all: the one or two seconds delay in lighting transition, whether dimming or defocusing or flooding the lights on stage, abruptly decreased the melancholic mood of certain scenes that could have helped heighten some of the actors' dramatic moments.

Also on press night, the actors in Act One were more conscious of their vocal blending rather than expressing the layers of emotion that are abundant in Sugarfree's melodies and highly narrative lyrics.

Robinson III appeared stiff, uncomfortable.

Borromeo's big stage actions were entertaining; albeit underdeveloped and lacked the maturity to bring out the core of her character, Lexi: an ambitious neurosurgeon that is trying to find a balance between love and career.

Fortunately, Rivera was successful at creating a multidimensional character: her Gabbi, a chic, sometimes neurotic magazine editor opens up to new adventures that rekindle the spark within her.

While the play started off a bit rocky during previews (we hope things have improved during opening weekend), a more organic storytelling and a clearer directorial vision pervaded in Act Two -- honestly, that was the only time we felt we had a new original Filipino musical that resembles "groundbreaking."

In Act Two, the main characters were fluid in telling their stories; lighting cues smooth.

"Sa Wakas: A New Rock Musical" plays at PETA-PHINMA Theater until Sunday, April 28.

Photos by Joriben Zaballa

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