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Popoy and Basha’s love story gets the theater treatment in ‘One More Chance’ musical

Popoy and Basha’s love story gets the theater treatment in ‘One More Chance’ musical

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  • Expanded characterizations and scenes, backed by Ben&Ben’s songs make the musical a fair 2024 update
one more chance popoy and basha

There is immense pressure in trying to remake something as beloved as “One More Chance.” 

The 2007 Star Cinema film starring John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo has become a pop culture phenomenon with hundreds of thousands of fans knowing the ins and outs of the story, down to the last line.

But as if the stakes weren’t already high enough with this attempt to translate “One More Chance” to the stage, the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) has decided to score this adaptation with songs from another icon, this time from the world of OPM: Ben&Ben.

With the show’s entire run getting sold out before they even opened, the pressure to deliver is three-fold.

And deliver they did—for the most part.

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Basha (Anna Luna) and Popoy (Sam Concepcion)

Faithful adaptation, additions

Anyone who’s memorized the iconic film will notice that the musical follows the same flow and chronology of the story, save for a few changes. The first update is that the story has moved from its 2000s setting to 2024, which served the characters well in being able to express and expound on the themes and ideas already embedded in the story.

The 2024 setting allows for a wider vocabulary, too. Now, armed with all our modern-day relationship/situationship parlance, we and the characters can call Popoy out for what he truly was: Yes, he was controlling and overbearing, a.k.a. toxic, having so many red flags he’s practically a fiesta (as the crowd-favorite line courtesy of Anj goes). In the same vein, I’d call Basha marupok (nakita mo lang si Popoy na may girlfriend na ulit, na-miss mo na, gusto mo na makipagbalikan? Sis. You were the one who decided to break-up with him, right?).

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Popoy confronting Basha. Photo by Erickson Dela Cruz

And it’s also Popoy who is one of the most noteworthy “true” adaptations of the movie to the stage. Sam Concepcion’s portrayal makes him what I’d like to tell friends as “the musical theater version of John Lloyd.” Physically, he’s captured the charming looks, but he’s also able to pour so much into the scenes that have made “One More Chance” (the movie) such a classic. And if you’re wondering, yes, he absolutely nailed the “Tang*na naman, Bash, ganiyan ka ba katigas?!” scene. Crushed it. are we ready for all the feels 🥲🥲🥲🎭🎭🎭 #PETAOneMoreChance #PETAOMCTheMusical #OMCXBenAndBen #nolisoliph ♬ original sound –

Another notable addition to the stage version is the fleshing out of the “Thursday barkada”’s stories. We get to see the backstories that made characters like Anj the way she is, or how the relationships of JP, Krizzy, and Kenneth are more intertwined than the film initially portrayed. These little backstories also give us more relationships and types of love to identify with, beyond what we see with Popoy and Basha. 

Anj (played so well by Via Antonio), for example, has more experience to anchor her quips and strong remarks. We now know where she’s coming from—she’s not being negative or a “bad cop” (or a realist) just because. (May pinaghuhugutan!) It’s funny, even if some of it is harsh because the stuff she says is true. And while her clapbacks are callouts to the characters, we have to be honest: sometimes it turns into a personal “I know so many people!” moment, and sometimes it’s even something we ourselves get called out on.

Even JP (Jon Abella) gets a short but heart-wrenching sawi story. We get to see more of him as an individual—a man who loves! Selflessly!—and not just as a member of the barkada who comforts one or the other.

Special mentions are also Neomi Gonzales and Raul Montesa, who play several different roles, most notably Popoy’s aunt and uncle Edith and Willie. It is through them that we get a glimpse of the cultural zeitgeist of the 2020s—notably, hallyu. And as expected, this effectively injects humor into the scenes.

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Half of the Thursday barkada: JP, Popoy, Chinno, and Anj

Matching Ben&Ben’s music

Putting two pop culture icons together in one production is like introducing two overachievers or strong-personality friends to each other, hoping they’ll like each other and hit it off. If they do, they’d be the power couple of the decade. If they don’t, it’ll be World War III.

Ben&Ben’s music in itself features a lot of storytelling, and to be perfectly honest, when rumors were swirling around on the internet years ago about a potential Ben&Ben musical— before it was officially revealed to be a “One More Chance” musical—I was expecting an original story. 

This isn’t to say that “One More Chance” and Ben&Ben are a mismatch, no. In truth, and as the production itself proved, many songs in the nine-piece folk pop band’s discography lent themselves well to the scenes and characters of “One More Chance.” Some even seemed so perfect a fit, and with the new arrangements by Myke Salomon, transformed into a song with a whole new context.

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Anna Luna as Basha

One of the early songs in the show, “Nakikinig Ka Ba Sa Akin,” underscores one of Popoy and Basha’s arguments. Where the original was calming, almost comforting—a reminder and call to listen and respect others’ opinions—the musical version has turned angry, spiteful, and sarcastic at some points even.

“Upuan,” originally a cute, wistful song filled with the innocent pining of sitting next to a crush, is now set post-breakup, as Popoy confronts his feelings of seeing Basha again. The upbeat track retains its rhythmic pace (punctuated by a stunning chair stunt by Concepcion), but has turned into an anthem of the heart-crushing, rock-dropping-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach feeling of wanting to be around someone who doesn’t feel the same, short of pushing you away.

Personal favorites are the musical’s take on hugot anthems “Langyang Pag-ibig” and “Kathang Isip”—interestingly, both songs attributed to Tricia, Popoy’s new girlfriend. Sheena Belarmino is a revelation playing the bar singer; we first meet her when Popoy spends his night at the bar, drowning his sorrows in alcohol—this time accompanied by friends Anj, JP, and Chinno. As the group recounts their failed romances, Tricia leads the company in a passionate rendition of the 2022 hugot track. 

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Sheena Belarmino as Tricia
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Popoy joining in the bar’s rendition of “Langyang Pag-ibig”

Unlike the movie’s more mellow song choice in introducing Tricia, the musical’s stronger “Langyang Pag-ibig” also alludes to Tricia’s character arc. At first it seems ironic that we meet her with this song, but ultimately it’s apt: “Kung balak mo akong iwan, oh ba’t mo pa ‘ko minahal?”

But in Act 2, she also breaks up with Popoy with more visceral anger and pain than what was portrayed in the film. This felt more like she had a bigger stake in the situation than before, than just being a “receiver” of this circumstance.

Another scene that was made even more poignant by being set to music is Chinno’s depressive breakdown. Chinno (played by Johnnie Moran), confined to a hospital bed, is not the same loud, brash, happy-go-lucky Chinno we all know. Ghosted and dumped by his fiancee, he spirals into despair, downing bottles of shampoo (blergh) so he could end it all. Only Popoy, he cries, would understand him. 

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Johnnie Moran plays Chinno

The scene, unscored by “Leaves,” turns the pitiful scene into a stirring journey toward acceptance. In the same way the repeated refrains of “all will be alright in time” have carried many of us through dark times, we see the same effect in Chinno as he listens to Popoy.

Kinks to iron out

Being a fan of Ben&Ben, and being so thoroughly aware of “One More Chance” (I, too, have thrown the quotable lines around in conversation way too many times), the musical has definitely been an enjoyable watch. But seeing it on preview night meant there were still some little kinks to work out.

The opening scene, where we see Popoy and Basha at a hotel—later revealed to be with different companions—was a touch clunky in its execution. I can only think that if I hadn’t rewatched the film recently to refresh my memory of all the scenes and lines, I probably would’ve already forgotten how exactly it played out. It’s a scene where the twist to me seems more effective on screen than on stage, and could have benefitted from a slight deviation in blocking, perhaps.

And perhaps my ears used to/years spent listening to Ben&Ben on repeat have come to my detriment because I found some of the harmonies and key changes on preview night hit a few snags. Maybe I expected too much, being used to the band’s own harmonization, and coming from other recent productions’ preview/opening nights with impeccable ensemble vocal work. Some transitions into the scenes also felt abrupt, as if the songs were really just injected into the story instead of being a seamless flow from dialogue to song.

The set design is also simple and sparse, with only key furniture and set pieces like scaffolding making up most of the scenery (the rest filled in by stylized renders of locations through video projection). It works for the most part, but because a lot of the scenes in the film take place or involve cars, the production has come up with a make-shift steel frame car that gets the job done ultimately, but conked out mid-show and needed to be manually pushed around by stagehands—detracting from what otherwise might’ve been more serious scenes. (The actors played it out well though, and managed to stretch the scene until help came. Also apt because the common problem of the car in the film is that it would break down! So… it worked out… somehow.)

Of course, mishaps happen, but I hope and assume (and expect!) everything would be more polished as the run goes on. 

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Recreating the iconic scene where Popoy and Tricia pick Basha up after her car breaks down in the rain

Reflecting on “One More Chance” 17 years later

On the surface, much of “One More Chance” (the film) highlighted the ups and downs of the romantic relationship between Popoy and Basha. But ultimately—and the stage version gives us more opportunities to explore this more—“One More Chance” is also about our relationship with ourselves. 

As it showed us each character’s toxic traits, their faults, and why they didn’t work out, it also taught us what it would take to rebuild a connection that has crumbled. (“It takes grown-ups to make relationships work,” Mark famously says, both in the film and the musical.) By showing us the different sides and actions and reactions of these characters, it also holds up a mirror to ourselves, allowing us to see the parts of ourselves that are similar to them. It makes us think: Would I do the same thing? Maybe that isn’t the best way to act; I should do better. She did the right thing; he did the right thing. 

If you know the film inside-out, this will be a great watch. It is a beautiful ode to the classic film, but more importantly, it has been infused with so much new energy and fresh elements. The music and additional context make the story as a whole more engaging. Despite the kinks, I’d actually give it one more chance. Audiences of 2024 should, too.

But with the show’s tickets all being sold out, what I really want to tell the coming weeks’ audiences is “Sana ako na lang, ako na lang ulit” in your place. Kidding. Ipapaubaya ko na ‘yan sa inyo.

“One More Chance” runs at the PETA Theater Center, Quezon City until June 30. Directed by Maribel Legarda, adapted for the stage by Michelle Ngu-Nario, with musical direction and sound design by Myke Salomon. Set design by Ohm David, costume design by Carlo Pagunaling, lighting design by David Esguerra, projections by Bene Manaois, and choreography by Michael Barry Que. Starring Sam Concepcion and CJ Navato as Popoy; Anna Luna and Nicole Omillo as Basha; Kiara Takahashi and Sheena Belarmino as Tricia; Poppert Bernadas and Paji Arceo as Kenneth; Ada Tayao and Rica Laguardia as Krizzy; Via Antonio and Dippy Arceo as Anj; Jon Abella as JP; Johnnie Moran as Chinno; Jay Gonzaga and Jef Flores as Mark; Chez Cuenca and Coleen Paz as Helen/Guia/Roselle; Matthew Barbers and JC Galano as Francis/Mr. Tan; Neomi Gonzales and Carla Guevara-Laforteza as Rose/Edith; Raul Montesa and Floyd Tena as Bert/Willie; and Hazel Maranan as Elvie.

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