Unseen Monsters: A Review of Monsters The Musical

From the promos and marketing all over Facebook about this original, Cebuano musical, the only thing I’ve expected about Monsters: The Musical is that it’s about LGBTQIA+ and #LoveWins but, man, was I still in the dark even with those facts on hand.

Monsters: The Musical is a breakaway from traditional musical play format, but with its timely theme, brilliant cast, and stellar music, made it a grounded and realistic portrayal of what the members of the LGBTQIA+ community are struggling with in the Philippine context, specifically the ever looming heteronormativity that serves as a barrier for our LGBTQIA+ brothers and sisters to ever have a truly happy life.

Monsters: The Musical tells the (more than a) decade-long friendship/relationship of Bea and Elle; a friendship that grew beyond just homework on Filipino Literature (hey there, Edith Tiempo’s Bonsai! It served as the play’s symbol, and anchored definition of love, which seriously left me amused the whole time because we have discussed that poem in our writers org); both having struggles to ever find themselves, and that ever philosophical “happiness.” It’s more than just #LoveWins to be honest. Bea and Elle also have this one close guy friend, Dexter, who secretly crushes on Elle, and sometime in the future, marries Elle and have a family with her. What I love about the idea of this is that the play portrays that love knows no gender and labels. Bea and Elle have their own male partners, while even having their intimate relationship, but it’s portrayed so naturally, nobody in the audience seemed to have bat their lashes on something deemed “unnatural”—because, duh, this is really happening right now. Relationships like these—the throuple, the open, the polyamory, and even the toxic ones—do exist! And that’s one of the strongest elements of Monsters.

Before I get to the rest of the strong elements, I shall mention my problems with the play, of course. I’ll make it brief. First: as I mentioned above, the play’s format is a break from the traditionalist, chronological three-act structure. I have no problem with it starting en medias res; almost all playwrights use that technique. I probably have a bit of qualm over the fact that it started already almost to the end point of the play then jumped back through flashbacks. What I’ve learned from writing plays is that flashbacks should be rarely used because plays show what is in the moment. But, somehow, the style fits the story, and it worked. Not to mention it’s something new. Kudos to Mr. Jude Gitamondoc because the play really held itself firmly to the end! Second: the clichés and the kill your gay trope. But still they are minor things to be worried about. Third: the use of language. I expected the play prominently-riddled with Binisaya/Cebuano lines. I mean, it is an all-Cebuano/Visayan cast but majority of the dailogue is in English. But I totally understand since the songs are in English. Again, not a major problem.

Now, the strong points.

Monsters: The Musical has a brilliant cast. That’s also due to the brilliant direction by Jude Gitamondoc. I’ve watched the 2PM run last November 17, 2019. Alyza Kamille Miole, as Bea, was gripping everyone with her strong vocals. Not only that, her chemistry with both Shaun Pilapil, who played Elle, and Les Paul Pineda, who played Dex, was something you must see for yourself. It was so natural you’d think those three really have endured the moments from the play in real life. I label them the Throuple of the Year. I’ve worked with Shaun Pilapil before, both in theatre and film, and to see her as one of the leads in Monsters is very heartwarming. Her portrayal of Elle, biases aside, marked in my brain the idea that the musical wasn’t Bea’s story, but Elle’s. How Elle has touched both Bea’s and Dex’s lives served more as a pedestal and tell us the story of somebody who has to change and suffer the heteronormativity in society to fit in. Les Paul Pineda gives life to Dex with his voice, and he brings in the subtle comedy this tragedy needs. Every Dex solo is just so captivating and so smooth to the ears you have to focus on the stage to see whether he was lipsyncing or not. The three complement each other so well, they need the well-deserved acknowledgment.

The ensemble was amazing as well! And the subsequent knowledge that the alternates were there all the more grounded this as a great team effort. The choreography was not distracting and fits perfectly. And it reminded me a bit of the dances from Hamilton.

Let’s talk about the music. Cattski Espina’s songs perfectly meld and create Monsters: The Musical. She is Monsters: The Musical, and it’s amazing. The songs were damn relatable and catchy, and can be used in almost every experience. I have to be honest, when Elle had to give up being a writer, I bawled like a baby watching the scene. There’s something about the lyrics and music that just pulls on your emotions and after that scene, I have to keep on wiping my tears, because I just couldn’t stop crying up to the end.

The lights and production design are something to praise as well. Admitting minimalist set the likes of Dulaang Atenista here in Cagayan de Oro, the play felt so close to home. Regardless of the little set or props to play with, the musical was compensated with one of the best lights design I’ve ever witnessed. The curtain call was one thing–the colors of the rainbow smoothly blending into white in the end, signifying the enlightenment of Bea was, for me, cinématique.

Monsters: The Musical is a great addition not only to Cebuano Literature but to Filipino Literature as well, and for one who promotes and advocates literary arts and equality, this is a proof that art appreciation isn’t dead.

Realizing Bea’s tragedy and change because of her monsters, seen (in the form of Jake) and unseen (mental health and trauma), and being uplifted from such circumstance through Elle’s love is the core of Monsters: The Musical. This is their story. #LoveWins jud.


Highlights and Observations:

  • “Loving is not owning” will now be a motto in life.
  • The fact that Elle had to give up writing to pursue what she thought was her dream was so painful to watch. Quitting something you love because of heartbreak is an experience I’ve temporarily encountered, and seeing Elle let go of her journal with her voice cracking sent me hysterically crying.
  • Memes from this play: “mama’s boy,” “fuck girl,” “abi nako bayot ka,” “akong playmate bahog ilok,” “san mig light apple flavor” and the classic “boys are stupid.” Check out all the Monsters: the Musical no context accounts in Twitter!
  • Dex being a writer and a law student is basically me. I felt so seen.
  • Monsters: The Musical didn’t preach about the LGBTQIA+ at all! It showed us what love really is. That is boundless, encompassing, and can never be tamed. Love is love is love is love is love is love is love…
  • “Okey keyohh…” lmao
  • 12 years….5 years….7 years…. damn. Can you imagine–we were seeing their lives in that length of time???
  • The eulogy scene was heart-wrenching and heartwarming at the same time. I bawled again.
  • It’s been years and we’re still crying about the same thing/Why can’t we just let it go/” pretty much sums up the whole musical.
  • Wish I could’ve witnessed the alternates (Jacky Chang of Atik Ra fame, Marlon Tansengco, and Trixie Alturas) as well because I’ve heard they also did likewise powerful performances.
  • Will watch out for the rerun in 2020!!!

~ by bipolarthespian13 on November 20, 2019.

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