Nostalgia is “in” right now, and the 80s in particular is very trendy. A musical using throwback songs to the 80s seem like a no-brainer. Throw in some of the biggest names on screen and stage and you have a sure-fire hit in your hands. Well, with Dirty Old Musical, it shows that that there’s a bit more to putting up a good show than big names and big, familiar ballads.
This Spotlight Artists Centre’s original Filipino musical is about fictional 80s boy band ‘The Bench Boys’ who find themselves in a room together after 30 years. Now in their 50s, they reunite to stage a reunion show to help their sick pal Bebong (Ricky Davao). Naturally, unresolved conflict bubble to the surface along with other male issues that come with aging.
In the first act, these guys mostly just reacquaint themselves with each other. Spanky (Nonie Buencamino) owns a bar and is dating a hot young woman (Kitkat). Eugene (Robert Sena) is living a good life, if ordinary. Greggy (Bo Cerrudo) has a bit of a drinking problem, Freddie (John Arcilla) is home from the States, and Stan (Michael Williams) seemed to have changed the most. There’s also Rose (Ima Castro), a friend of the band, and her son Frankie (Fred Lo).
Songs (original and hits from the 80s) are sung though not all of them are there to move the story along. While it was hilarious watching these 50-something stars keep up with “Mag-Exercise Tayo Tuwing Umaga” or sing about their, ahm, bodily functions, in “Saludo”, it’s the big ballads like “Nakapagtataka” (affecting performance by John Arcilla and Nonie Buencamino) and the act one closer “Kastilyong Buhangin / Ako Na Sa Yo” that brings the house down and reminds us that there’s a plot and point to all this.
On top of their personal problems and men-of-a-certain-age problems, they’re also worried whether or not the public will still care if they do a reunion show. Everything is up in the air– Frankie, Spanky, and Rose are having a long overdue confrontation, Greggy is grappling with the bombshell that he actually can’t sing, Stan reveals what Bebong means to him… too many subplots bury the core premise until a phone call renders it all moot. It’s an unwieldy jumble that somehow untangles itself by the finale and every character gets his best possible ending.
The material does turn some tropes around, which is admittedly refreshing. For one, there’s no two women fighting over the same guy. You don’t often hear “Kabit ka lang!” thrown at male characters. There’s also Stan, who may have changed the most, but this change seemed to have made his life better after his stint as a boy band member, which is in stark contrast to the other guys.
Slapdash though the story may be, it was still great fun to watch these time-tested thespians play off of each other on stage. Nonie Buencamino always shows us that he’s a man of all talents, and this time is no different. John Arcilla brings to the stage the same commanding presence that make his big screen roles so iconic. You can put Ima Castro and Michael Williams in any role on any show and they’ll knock it out of the park. Comedienne Kitkat, however, playing an already one-note character, gave a puerile performance that may be more at home in a skit for a noontime show.
Photography by: Frida Tan
Were you able to see the show? What did you think?