‘Ang Huling El Bimbo’ returns to the stage this April—here’s what’s new

  • New choreography, new cast members, and an updated script are some things set to keep the hit musical fresh
ang huling el bimbo 2023

The nostalgia, the fresh take on beloved Eraserheads tunes, the stunning staging—there are many reasons “Ang Huling El Bimbo” (AHEB) became a hit musical, with extended runs in 2019 and several online streams to viral success.

And with the theater industry coming out of its more than two-year hiatus, the idea of restaging the musical just called out even louder. “So we decided, coming out of the pandemic, we wanted to give theater a real kickstart, and we figured, why not do AHEB again? To prove that theater is back, we are live, and hopefully tuloy-tuloy na yan,” says Full House Theater Company co-artistic director Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo.

But of course, despite its sold-out success, the musical also became the center of much discourse—particularly regarding its storytelling and how sensitive issues have been handled. Thus became the challenge in bringing AHEB to 2023. 

ang huling el bimbo 2023
Scene from the “Cha Dely medley.” Sheila Francisco reprises her role as Tiya Dely. Featuring MC Dela Cruz (Young Hector understudy), Paw Castillo (Young Emman), Topper Fabregas (Young Anthony), and Gab Pangilinan (Young Joy)

“Laging ultimate question, ‘what’s new’ or ‘what’s going to happen.’ We’re very much blessed since 2018, 2019, sobrang sarap when we get to revisit original works,” director Dexter Santos says.

“I think the beauty of theater is that no two performances are the same… As we go on rehearsing, we’re discovering new things in terms of the narrative… it’s not really an overhaul, but it’s a matter of improving and enhancing the production. But of course, since theater is alive, hindi kami papayag na it’s gonna be the same.”

For returning theatergoers, another thing to look forward to is the new energy the new cast members are adding to the story. 

In an exclusive interview with Nolisoli.ph, Santos goes into detail on the process they have gone through to update AHEB 2023, which heavily involved collaboration:

“Siguro right after the pandemic, and hearing people in terms of what they were going through, we get to highlight and find those things in terms of characterization. But personalizing in terms of the character, the approach, in terms of what the actor can actually do, and aligning and negotiating it with other terms — I’ll address the elephant in the room, like for example, one of the most common things (pointed out in the past run) was Joy as a rape victim. With that, there are many discourses and articles talking about the struggles of rape victims. We try to put it, and tried to put it into how Joy lived her life. Based on people, based on the milieu, what pushed her… so we take that into consideration also,” he says.

ang huling el bimbo 2023
Gab Pangilinan as Young Joy

The same consideration has gone into the political aspects of the play, he says, especially now that we’re under a new administration. “[The societal aspect is] very much highlighted naman in the production, as equally as important as the nostalgia,“ he says. “The play is committed to addressing all those. It’s a play about Filipinos, it’s a play about contemporary characters. With that, we try to find all these things.”

Aside from input from the creative team, the cast has also been instrumental to shaping the characters they play. “In the runs or rehearsals they do something different, or for example there’s an acting choice or delivery that it feels like they’re afraid to go there because it’s kinda different from the previous run, or totally different from the previous actor, you (as director) try to facilitate that,” Santos says.

“You try to discover all of these things. ‘Yon ‘yong masarap dito, it’s a totally different feel. It was conscious for us not to do an overhaul, but it’s conscious for us that the meat of the show is to really work on the characters more, in terms of their choices.”

ang huling el bimbo 2023
The cast of “Ang Huling El Bimbo” 2023

Updated choreography will also surely be a visual aspect audiences can enjoy anew. Choreographers Stephen Viñas and Fritz Esase shared how around 90 percent of the musical’s original choreography had been updated. AHEB notably won Best Choreography for a Musical in the 2019 Gawad Buhay awards.

“It’s so surreal na nandito kami ulit dahil na-trap kami ng ilang taon sa Youtube. And we are all excited to do this live para doon sa mga bagong naka-discover ng theater sa Pilipinas,” musical director and arranger Myke Salomon says. “Maraming bagong audience ngayon. From 1080p, we are now in this new and original resolution—the live resolution. Excited kaming makita silang lahat.”

“Ang Huling El Bimbo” opens on April 21 at the Newport Performing Arts Theater. Tickets are already available via Ticketworld.

Nolisoli.ph © 2020. Hinge Inquirer Publications, Inc.


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