A few months ago, I accepted the challenge to write about Cebu music.
Perhaps it was because of the fact my early career basically revolved around writing about Cebu, but I really thought this was going to be easy-peasy, write-this-in-my-sleep.
Once I talked myself out of the existential crisis that I was maybe (just maybe) losing my touch, it dawned onto me that I barely knew enough to confidently write about the local music scene. Sure, I know of #HAHAHAHasula, Jude Gitamondoc, 22 Tango Records and how my friend Jessica McYorker did a single on a compilation album for them a few years back, and my former co-worker Luis Quibranza III has a band with an album.
(Allow me a second to flex: Well, damn, I have talented friends!)
But honestly, that was it. I didn’t have enough of an interest to go to gigs unless it was to support friends, and even then I didn’t go to every single one. I have a Spotify playlist of homegrown hits, but didn’t know a good chunk of the songs on it except for the familiar ones, only so because they hit the airwaves. Heck, I can carry a tune, but I admit I have untrained ears.
So, really, who was I to write about music?
I was all set to tuck the proverbial tail between my legs and just move on with writing about other stuff when I started hearing the buzz about Monsters the Musical.
Now, musicals—that’s something I can definitely talk about!
I love stage plays and I love musicals. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I’m a full on theatre nerd, but I have deep-seated respect and appreciation for the performance arts, which began when I was an elementary student. My school had productions nearly every academic year, but I was always shy to audition for lead roles—I had classmates who were much more talented.
Theatre couldn’t shake me off even if it tried, though. Eventually I got involved with various local productions of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, and my roles grew from minor bits to performing longer pieces over the years. I was also fortunate to be trusted with my very first musical in 2015, Emotional Creature, which was produced by 2tincans Philippines. While it was no broadway debut, it was A Very Big Deal, and something I consider an achievement.
Since then, there’s been no shortage of theatre productions in Cebu: The Vagina Monologues went on every year, Siddhartha the Musical staged its 100th show where it all began, Gugmang Giatay the Musical was a cultural phenomenon that introduced old and new local songs to a wider audience, Scharon Mani was a fun and promising production that deserved a longer run, as did stagings of You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown and The Addams Family.
Adding to that already-impressive roster, Monsters the Musical is a new production from a group of people who had it in them to #BeBrave: At the forefront, Cattski Espina, whose songs are the driving force of the musical. The aforementioned Jude Gitamondoc—a renowned songwriter and musical director who I had the privilege of working with for Emotional Creature—is making his theatre directorial debut with Monsters, which he wrote. This also marks the pilot production of MDF Productions helmed by Margo Frasco, who is best known to rule over Cebu delicacy empire Titay’s yet also has the passion for the performing arts. Rounding out The Powers That Be are head choreographer Jaggy Gomez, and stage managers Shane Reseroni, Shiella Pestaño-Gemperoa, and Lourdes Maglinte.
(Again, can I just flex they’re all my friends?!)
Monsters the Musical is a coming-of-age love story. Centered around two friends—Bea and Elle—the show explores the intricacies of a relationship that spans years, beginning in childhood, adolescence, and peaking in their family and professional lives. Bea and Elle discover themselves through each other and encounter and battle their monsters together. Featuring 25 songs by Cattski Espina, the narrative nature of her lyrics lend themselves perfectly to the story. This is a story about standing up to the Monsters of our own making. Spoiler alert: Love Wins.
I was fortunate to catch a press preview of Monsters the Musical last month, and it reminded me of my soft spot for musicals that work in popular songs around a plot, just like Mamma Mia!, Moulin Rouge!, and Gugmang Giatay. In fact, the title is derived from one of my favorite Cattski songs, which I still dream of doing a cover for if I can’t sing it in karaoke.
Not so thinly-veiled hint aside, the use of Cattski songs itself is one of the factors I’m hyped about this musical. For one, these songs have paved the way for how the homegrown music scene is what it is today, but more importantly, they were already mini-stories that were just begging to be turned into a full narrative. Also, Cattski has been a pillar of local music for the longest time, and I can’t think of anyone whose songs deserved to be written into a musical.
Monsters the Musical stars Trixie Alturas, Jacky Chang, Marlon Tansengco, Von Saw, Shaun Pilapil, Alyza Miole, Les Paul Pineda, Andrew Diamante, Ivy Gallur, Joer Gallur, Yon Maningo, and Jaggy Gomez.
Are you ready to #BeBrave? Monsters the Musical is staging on November 16 and 17, 2019 at the Center Stage of SM Seaside City Cebu, with show times at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Tickets are on sale for Php 350, Php 700, and Php 1000. Buy tickets by clicking here. For more information, visit their website, like them on Facebook and follow them on Instagram.
Photos by Antonio Java of Rider’s Block. Featured image courtesy of Monsters the Musical