The first time I spoke with the people behind Maxie The Musicale: Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, I was told that – more than anything else – this take on the famed character (based on Auraeus Solito’s Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Olveros flick) focuses on love. That “gay or not, love is love.”
This may be why, watching the musical, you’d be forgiven (as we were) to think this is a revisit of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. With Maxie and Victor playing the lovers, with the setting relocated to the slums of Sampaloc.
Not that this is a bad thing, mind you.
ufo Pictures released Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Olveros released in 2005, with the flick (original screenplay written by Michiko Yamamoto) telling the story of a 12-year-old gay boy who lives with his hetero-identifying father and two brothers, who are all criminals. One night, the boy was almost ravished by men from his neighborhood, only to be saved by a newly-transferred police officer (Victor). The boy falls in love with the law enforcer, and so their worlds collide (law enforcer versus lawlessness, and homo-identifying versus hetero-identifying, among others).
And then this narrative reached Nic Pichay, who was asked to turn Maxi (the movie) into Maxie (the musical) by writing its book and lyrics. And so now Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros was turned into Maxie The Musicale: Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros.
So how did this re-take on Maxi do?
Let’s first look at the pluses.
To start, by staying true to Yamamoto’s original story, Maxie is, in a word, engaging. Yes, the family’s back story remains interesting (poverty porn, anyone?). Yes, Maxie’s dealings with his community remain appealing (in particular, his relationship with his other gay friends – reflective of how many young gay boys relate to other gays their age). And yes, the societal commentaries remain relevant (for as long as the poor continue to be disadvantaged, this will remain so).
Secondly, Pichay’s music more than suffices. Yes, it can be argued that (at least for me, and for the friends I watched with) there’s no stand-out piece, but the songs progressed the narrative as needed. So – as it was with us – don’t expect to hum (as you may) pieces from the show (as you would after watching, say, Wicked or Evita or Cats); but at least expect to feel (as a companion said) “happy”.
Thirdly, the cast (as a whole/as an ensemble) worked well – e.g. just check that fiesta scene in Act 1 to get that “community feel” of the musical, with the frenzied movements of the cast contained by the “tight” venue housing a stage designed to give life to what may be best described as “organized chaos”. For this, kudos needs to be given to Maxie’s artistic team, including John Neil Ilao Batalla (lights designer), Gino Gonzales (production designer), Ohm David (technical director), Emman Feliciano (assistant director), and Stephen Viñas (associate choreographer). Add to the list: Nicole Andrew Guila (production manager), Loraine Macatangay (stage manager), Lexie Bartolome (assistant stage manager), Cheska Cartativo (props head), Henzy Manalaysay (props assistant), Nica Marcelo (costume head), Darwin Desoacido (costume assistant), Simon Tiukinhoy (sounds boardman) and Miggy Panganiban (lights boardman).
Fourthly, the key players (most of them, anyway) fit the characters aptly – e.g. fresh-faced Jojo Riguerra befitted the concept of clean-cut policeman Victor (and as a companion noted, he looks way better in person, by the way), Aaron Ching was sassy as Nar, and Jayvhot Galang easily brings to mind Nathan Lopez’s Maximo Oliveros in the film version.
Maxie isn’t perfect, mind you.
On the songs, for me, some of the songs sounded (sorry for borrowing Madonna’s reference to Lady Gaga’s songs) reductive. At certain points during the opening number, for instance, I was waiting for the cast to start singing parts of Hotdog’s O Lumapit Ka (i.e. “Kung gusto mo akong halikan, Ba’t kita sasawayin?”). And at another point in the show, I was expecting to hear parts of VST & Company’s Tayo’y magsayawan (i.e. “Tayo’y magsayawan, Sumabay sa takbo ng tugtugan”).
There were some songs, too, that I felt unnecessarily stopped the flow of the narrative/show – e.g. Victor suddenly breaks into his soliloquy when Maxie was about to be raped and he was to be saved.
Then there were the – err – forced rhyming in parts of some songs, e.g. kambing, saging, malambing (you’ll understand when you watch the show), which – to us – sounded too much of a stretch. Ditto: balbon and bihon…
On the singing, despite Galang seemingly fitting the Maxie character well, many times, we could hardly hear him. Ditto the father (Roeder Camañag), who, despite capturing the essence of the character (a father unconditionally loving a gay son), could hardly be heard at times. Then there were members of the cast who felt… irrelevant, arguably particularly the female bestfriend (the “fag hag”) who (most prominently) only did the recap of Act 1. Standouts were Greg de Leon (as police chief Dominguez) and Ching (as Maxie’s gay friend Nar).
Look-wise, the placement of the microphones is disturbing; plastered on the faces of the characters, they weren’t pleasant to look at, at times even distracting. And then there were some issues with the costumes (i.e. changing wasn’t as easy, apparently) so that the characters at times came out with unzipped gowns, et cetera.
There were scenes, too, that we felt were unnecessary – e.g. the hosto dancing of the policemen who were showering (Act 1) and the Miss Gay beauty pageant (the hosto dancing counterpart in Act 2). “Gratuitous” came to mind with the former; while “tired” came to mind with the latter (particularly with the inclusion of beaucon kasabihan during the introduction of contestants like: “Ang batang makulit, pinapalo sa puwet. Ang baklang makulit, tinitira sa puwet”).
And then there was the (arguably formulaic) inclusion of welga, long associated with the masa (the social group Maxie and his people belonged to). “Romanticizing poverty” was the observation of a companion (which was actually also stated by a character).
Overall, though, Pichay’s Maxie is worth checking.
As a respite from overhyped international productions heading to the Philippines (truth be told, I have friends who dozed off watching Miss Saigon, just as there were those who dozed off watching The Phantom of the Opera), considering that this local production is more apt to us.
For the likable contents – from the songs to the dance routines, et cetera.
For the glimpses it provides on “everything that touches the Filipino heart” (as a companion said) – e.g. religiosity, family, fiesta, and clichéd films (and their reflections of Filipino life).
For the glimpses it provides on the lives of young gay boys about to become adults (particularly of buhay baklita/badette) – this is a coming-of-age story, after all (!).
For its attempt to define being MSM in the Philippines (i.e. that your behavior does not necessarily define your identity).
And for showing that love truly is genderless.
So go and meet Maxie.
Maxie The Musicale: Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros runs until December 8, with shows on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 8:00 PM and matinee shows on Saturdays and Sundays at 3:00 PM. All performances are at the PETA Theater Center, No. 5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City.
Outrage Magazine is a media partner of the musical.
For show information, call (+63) 09178427346 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are available at all TicketWorld (+6328919999) and SM Tickets (+6324702222) outlets.