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Young Star

Maximo Oliveros comes out as a musical

IN A NUTSHELL - Samantha King - The Philippine Star

You’ve probably heard about it before  the critically acclaimed coming-of-age movie that headlined the first Cinemalaya film festival in 2005, stirred up the local indie scene, and bagged numerous awards here and abroad.

Eight years later, Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, featuring the 12-year-old homosexual Maxie and his honest, unflinching initiation into puberty, is now a musical. If the movie tugged at your heartstrings, induced you to laughter, then tears (if not both at the same time), and forced you to reexamine the fine line between innocence and desire, then the musical takes all these churning emotions and multiplies them by the dozen. Which is to say, you definitely won’t be leaving the PETA theater unscathed.

Written by the brilliant yet reclusive Michiko Yamamoto, directed by Palaweno maverick Aureus Solito, and produced by the fabulous Raymond Lee, Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros is an understandably tough act to follow.

And yet, Maxie the Musical, produced by the Bit by Bit Company, succeeds in doing just that — cementing the story’s timelessness and depth as it transports Maxie from the silver screen and under the shining klieg lights.

Here are four reasons why.

 

1Jayvhot Galang: Behind every great bildungsroman is a great prepubescent protagonist, and the flamboyant, sashaying, flower-in-his-hair-wearing Maxie, is no exception. While Nathan Lopez was the epitome of joie de vivre in the movie version, fulfilling the role of gay diva like no other teen actor probably could, Jayvhot Galang is in a class all his own. Maxie may be his first theater production, but Galang stalks the stage like he owns it. Which, in a way, he does. Watching the fourth year Villamor High School student is like watching a pendulum swing. From his deliriously swaying hips to the spindly legs always one step ahead of the other, to his infectious bursts of enthusiasm suddenly converted into throes of teenage angst — the only difference is you aren’t lulled by his hypnotic performance, but rather, entranced.

Above all, the boy can sing. His melismas have an almost nasal quality to it, but the power and control which Galang exercises over his notes — all while bobbing to strenuously provocative dance moves — is testament to just how much potential remains untapped in this unassuming 15-year-old.

 

2People behind the adaptation: The light behind the stars, the unsung heroes of this production of Maxie. There’s Nicolas Pichay, lawyer and multi-awarded playwright who wrote the book and lyrics, lacing the dialogue with witty repartee (of the gay and straight kind), humorous puns, and language faithful to hodgepodge of social classes one would imagine Sampaloc, Manila, the setting of the story, to be filled with. There’s also the collaboration of William Manzano, JJ Pimpinio, and Janine Santos, who, together, composed melodies that evoked the rawness and surprising poignancy of Sampaloc’s dog-eat-dog world; creating original music that needs to be immortalized in an OST. Then there’s Dexter M. Santos, renowned choreographer and director of such theater gems as Rizal X and Orosma at Zafira, taking the helm of this adaptation and ensuring that, at the very least, this version of Maxie was going to be spectacular.

And it was.

 

3The chorus: The movie version is bereft of that group of actors, homogenized and unitary, who dance and sing just as well as the main cast; but who also fulfill the daunting role of enlightening viewers to what a particular scene is all about. They frolic and jump across the stage to herald Maxie’s arrival, or they gnash their teeth and beat their chests at the sound of the policemen’s footsteps. They are the sexualized cops bathing in nothing but thongs, the androgynous beauty queens, the desperate community fighting for their little piece of land in Sampaloc, Manila. You’d call them extras, but really, they’re much more than that.

 

4Parody and nuance: Theater is itself a world inside a world. Because everything happens right before your eyes — no breaks or cut scenes, no special effects to stitch scenes a certain way — the medium of theater is able to interrogate ideas on a more visceral level than film. Which is why the overt sexualization of the male characters (see policemen shower scene), the bastardization of the Sto. Nino festival (complete with a Sto. Nino for astronauts and pirated DVD sellers), and the globalized gay beauty pageant (featuring a local Miss Zimbabwe and Miss Costa Rica), probably plays out better as a live performance.

While the movie version of Maxie has to maintain its air of neorealism to bring a semblance of “true life” to the story; in the musical, no such trappings exist. Suspension of disbelief is paramount, and nothing says this better than the spontaneous bursting into song of its characters. The musical knows it’s a musical, and in overlooking this, the audience in turn accepts the fictional premises of Maxie. Parody is much easier to flesh out in an environment that is willing to poke fun at itself, and in this case, the themes of poverty, yearning, sex and innocence acquire a nuance that is different from that offered in the film.

It’s a distinct experience, to be sure, but in the end, movie and film are really two sides of the same coin. Maxie the Musical / Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros — each veers all over the emotional map in its own intelligent, dignified and affecting way. As viewers, you’ll want to have your cake and eat it, too.

ANG PAGDADALAGA AUREUS SOLITO BIT COMPANY DEXTER M GALANG JANINE SANTOS MAXIE MAXIE THE MUSICAL MAXIMO OLIVEROS
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