Rushed storytelling, fantastic singing in ‘Dirty Old Musical (DOM)’ | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

The erstwhile Bench Boys played by Robert Seña, Nonie Buencamino, Bo Cerrudo, Jett Pangan and Carlo Orosa
The erstwhile Bench Boys played by Robert Seña, Nonie Buencamino, Bo Cerrudo, Jett Pangan and Carlo Orosa

Among the more redeeming aspects of Spotlight Artists Centre’s “Dirty Old Musical (DOM)” is its utter lack of pretentiousness. The audience, which filled the seats during the show’s first run in 2016 and is coming back for more in this rerun, knows what it’s getting into.


This is a jukebox musical that banks on the ensemble’s singing and acting prowess, and the way that the songs from the 1970s and ’80s still tug at our heartstrings. Unlike its more recent counterparts such as “Eto na! Musikal nAPO!” or “Ang Huling El Bimbo,” “DOM” does not single out or pay homage to any particular band from those eras.


Enjoy the music


In Rody Vera’s very loose script, there is no attempt to burden the plot with more pressing social issues like rising authoritarianism or rampant corruption. The message is simple, especially to Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers—just sit back, enjoy the music, and roll with the sex-laced humor.


Not that the characters are not relatable. The generation who grew up in that era and continue to wrestle with their ghosts from the past 30 years can identify with each character’s regrets—and their joint effort to recapture their lost glory.


After their promising boy band, the Bench Boys, splintered in the ’80s, following their only hit, Spanky (Nonie Buencamino) copes with the humiliation of erectile dysfunction. The now openly gay Stan (Carlo Orosa) asks for acceptance. Greggy (Bo Cerrudo) is wasting away as an alcoholic, and the more down-to-earth Eugene (Robert Seña) is bored with his normal life.


This limbo is mirrored in designer Mitoy Sta. Ana’s boxed, garish set, which passes for an equally gawdy bar that has seen better days.


Upsetting the shaky reunion further is the downright contrarian Freddie (Jett Pangan), a balikbayan with a huge chip on his shoulder.


Director Dexter Santos throws them all into this lonely pit with its flashy-to-fading colors, prepping up the expected confrontations with the occasional breakouts into song-and-dance numbers. The characters individually spout out their internal motivations and struggles, which almost casts them as easy-to-identify stereotypes. No more deeper journey is expected from them, except perhaps to sing in one last reunion (which is what the audience is rooting for, anyway).


Not surprisingly, it is musical director Myke Salomon who lifts this musical on its needed wings. The attempt to make each hit song relevant to a particular scene is obvious. When it doesn’t work, it looks forced (e.g., “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika” as Stan’s coming out scene). But when the lyrics and the music fit that particular narrative, the ensemble just runs with it, and the heart-rending quarrels and reconciliation can be almost glorious (the Act One Finale, which combines “Kastilyong Buhangin” and “Ayoko Na Sa Iyo”).


All loose threads are tied up in the end. And like some song numbers, some resolutions are more convincing than others. Freddie’s revelation on his combative streak was also given far too late. The rushed storytelling can also leave the flow of the musical very uneven—again to be saved in the end by a cast that gives all it has in the reunion concert that everyone is anticipating. —CONTRIBUTED


“Dirty Old Musical” runs until March 23 at Music Museum, Greenhills, San Juan; performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; plus March 16 and 23 at 3 p.m. call Yssa at 09199114444, Music Museum at 7216726, Ticketworld at 8919999 or visit