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‘One More Chance, The Musical’ turns breakups into breakthroughs

By Ricky Toledo and Chito Vijandre, The Philippine STAR Published Apr 20, 2024 5:00 am

One More Chance, The Musical may be PETA’s biggest hit yet. It certainly set a record for selling out before it had even been produced, a first for the theater company that had to extend to 80 shows till the end of June, and now even has to deal with scammers producing fake tickets.

Blame all the hype on the fact that it’s based on the original 2007 romantic drama blockbuster film of the same title by Star Cinema starring John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo, a film that has generated a cult following through the years. The other cause of the hysteria is the decision to use the songs of Ben & Ben, the most streamed artist and group in the Philippines, with a massive fan base of their own.

With fanfare comes responsibility which PETA’s Maribel Legarda had to take on as director, together with her artistic team led by Michelle Ngu-Nario as playwright; Myke Salomon as musical director; Michael Barry Que as choreographer’ and Ohm David as set designer.

Anna Luna (Basha), and Sam Concepcion (Popoy) at a construction site | Sets by Ohm David who creates “a canvas of unfinished structures that symbolize the continuous ‘construction’ of the self”

The basic story is intact. Longtime sweethearts Popoy and Basha are working for the same construction firm as engineer and architect, respectively. The former is more exacting and structured to the point of being controlling, and the latter wants more leeway in creativity without being bound by constraints that the former imposes on her.

For Basha, it’s an unfulfilling job that doesn’t meet her needs. For Popoy, it pays well and they should stick with it so he nags her to just persevere, not to mention that he even controls her diet, culminating in a scene where she grabs and stuffs into her mouth the fried chicken skin that he always diligently removes and discards. 

Anna Luna and Sam Concepcion

After five years of this dynamic that has even resulted in physical manifestations of diarrhea, Basha feels suffocated and wants out, leaving a devastated Popoy, who didn’t even know what hit him, guiltless in his domineering ways that he thinks are all in the service of doing what’s best for them as a couple, with end goal of having an ideal married life. Helping navigate their relationship is their barkada (close friends) who have issues of their own. Popoy eventually finds Tricia as a rebound girlfriend but Basha, who moved on by getting a more fulfilling job, seems to still be stuck romantically. So what to do with the menage-a-trois or what are the chances to be taken or to be granted?

It’s an all-too-familiar situation that Filipinos can relate to, with the pressures of society to excel at work and earn a living even at the expense of individuality or dignity, and even mental health, which the musical seeks to highlight as part of PETA’s advocacy of strengthening each person’s self-agency as the starting point for all the grand changes that are needed in our community and our country.

The different characters’ journeys are explored through breakdowns and breakthroughs, bringing to the fore various mental issues and themes related to self-awareness, relationships, empowerment, and collective care.

The musical actually distinguishes itself from the film by developing the barkada characters more, giving each their own stories which make them come alive through their own songs but have made the running time longer than the usual (three hours during the press preview, although this was being shortened with edits as of press time). This, of course, was most welcome for Ben & Ben fans who delighted in the 22 tracks, plus a newly composed song with the lyrics that were written in the film for Popoy by Tricia, who is given her “moment.”

The songs are wonderfully woven together by Myke’s wizardry to fit the text and the narrative. It helps that he’s also a fan, likening the composers to “the APO of our generation, who will stay forever and we will grow old with them.”

Myke also shared how the casting was difficult because “the chemistry between the characters is so delicate. At the same time, you have to sing and dance well. They need to be triple threats in telling the story.”

Sam Concepcion, indeed, lived up to this requirement, making the perfect Popoy which was so convincing, from his nagging ways to his misery which you could even empathize with until you remember it was his controlling nature that got him there in the first place. His singing and dancing with the ensemble were always on point and a joy to watch.

Anna Luna, who does film but is also a PETA stage regular, did the transformations of Basha effectively from being kept in reins to her independence and moments of regret.

Sheena Belarmino, a Star Magic artist, was a revelation, with a lovely singing voice that scaled the heightened emotions of Tricia.

Among the barkada, Johnnie Moran as Popoy’s loyal friend Chinno, gave a notable performance of both joviality and heartbreak, as did Poppert Bernadas as the level-headed “sage” in the group. For comic relief, Via Antonio as the frank, tough-loving Anj always had the perfect timing ,and Noemi Gonzales as Tita Edith was hilarious with her K-drama affectations. 

The energy of the ensemble dancing to songs like Riding Home was quite infectious, with the image and melody playing in our minds after the show, but even the sentimental songs like Leaves were quite haunting, with words that give hope.

The musical, in fact, instills a certain optimism to give ourselves second chances, “to give ourselves grace to learn from mistakes, to break down so we can get to our breakthroughs.”

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One More Chance, The Musical is showing at the PETA Theater Center at 5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, QC until June 30. Follow PETA on Instagram and Facebook for updates and get tickets at Ticketworld.