This review may contain spoilers.
To create an original musical is no simple feat. It requires not just a lot of inspiration, but a solid foundation through its story—what do you really want to say? How are you going to say it? And many more considerations down to the minutest details.
“Silver Lining,” a new musical produced by Rockitwell Studios and MusicArtes, is an example of this—both in reality and on stage. I say this because it employs a musical-within-a-musical format, in that the story is pushed forward when a group of old friends, unable to perform their planned gig at their high school’s grand homecoming, decide to put up a full length musical instead.[READ: Intergenerational dialogue is at the heart of this new original Filipino musical]
And so the show takes us through the process, from conceptualization, casting, rehearsals, and all the hiccups in between.
At the core of it is a tension between generations: the boomers, who grew up in amid the revelry and turmoil of the ‘70s, and the millennials, who grapple with the historical (and psychological) aftermath of these events. Caught in the crossfire are the young(er) “actors” (actors who play actors…? This is getting confusing, I know) who inevitably, as they try to dig deeper into the roles they play, form more questions, too.
It’s an interesting dynamic to see play out on stage—mostly because it’s true to life: There are people who want to remember (for better or for worse), like Leo, and there are people who want to forget (and want everyone else to forget, too), like Raul.
And then there are, in pop culture parlance, the “meddling kids”—millennials Rico, Mart, and Dalai, who persistently try to pursue the truth of the matter, especially because it involves issues they strongly believe in.
The result is a roller coaster through the lives of the older generation, from rowdy high school days to their transformative martial law era college life, juxtaposed with modern problems of today’s generation—fake news and blatant attempts to revise and reject history.[READ: A martial law childhood spent among Marcos loyalists]
In this sense, the *silver lining* of “Silver Lining” is that it has, in the end, decided to embrace a strong stance. A huge chunk of the musical revolves around the sociopolitical landscape of the ‘70s, and the effect of martial law not just on the country but psychologically on the people who lived through it (case in point, Rico’s parents Josie and Anton).
In theory, it has elements of what may be a promising musical. But as with anything brand new, it will benefit from some more revisiting and polishing.
There are so many things “Silver Lining” wants to touch on. It is a commendable attempt to bring to light very important matters such as mental health, generational trauma, and the dangers of historical revisionism and denialism. But it also risks not being able to go in depth by trying to cover too many things.
What carries the musical and powers it through despite the many supposedly weighty messages it bears is its cast—each one visibly pouring out their energy onto the stage. The millennials played by Jep Go, Shaun Ocrisma, and Maronne Cruz are easy favorites (most relatable to me, as a fellow millennial); Ocrisma’s quips and sharp remarks in particular have given me the most joy throughout the show. It is also particularly satisfying to watch their interactions with and reactions to the older generation—in a way, it’s like being able to vicariously live through them for a few hours, saying things we’ve always wanted to say to our elders.
Raul Montesa, who plays the show’s antagonist Raul, also delivered some of the more satisfying performances in the show, that while we can’t really root for his character (who obviously is trying to veer everything away from the truth), we can’t deny he’s doing a good job at it by adding all the bells and whistles.
While entertaining, the musical has moments of feeling disconnected from the theme or message some scenes aim to drive home. When the musical-in-the-musical’s plot point revolves around the mass movement, or the political conflict during martial law era, it is sung in English or Taglish. And while that’s “relatable,” (if not a little too telling of upper class roots), the supposedly strong, nationalistic message feels diluted. It’s only through stronger characters like Chito and Agnes (Khalil Tambio and Hazel Lima) that the point gets emphasized. Future runs may benefit from more care in reevaluating how each particular message of the show will be conveyed.
As a musical within a musical—or as some even venture to claim, an ode to musical theater—it also won’t be surprising to find hints of the other hit musicals and plays alluded to (perhaps unintentionally) within the show. Theater fans who have seen some of the acclaimed shows this year may recognize some elements.
But another commendable feat of the production is how it also leaned into its being a meta musical. The major reveal towards Act 2’s denouement, when Raul is exposed for who he is and the betrayal he has long hidden, is made more dramatic by the immersive moment with the house lights coming up prompted by Leo (Ricky Davao).
Overall, “Silver Lining” has the makings of a promising musical. The true silver lining here is that even amid yet another potentially volatile period in our sociopolitical history, new works continue to come out, pushing for what is right and true.