Great news: You can now listen to Myke Salomon’s radical, revivifying take on the seminal Filipino rock band Eraserheads in the comfort of home or car or computer.
Joining the ranks of warhorses such as “ZsaZsa Zaturnnah Ze Muzikal” and “Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady,” the stage musical “Ang Huling El Bimbo” has released an original cast recording, now on sale at the foyer of Resorts World Manila’s Newport Performing Arts Theater, where the production has returned for a second life.
The album has 14 tracks sung by the original cast—the performers from the musical’s 2018 premiere—plus one bonus track performed by the new cast members.
It’s no secret that the best thing about “El Bimbo” is its music. About the initial run last year, Inquirer reviewer Emil Hofileña wrote: “[‘El Bimbo’] understands the legacy of its source material, and [Salomon] boldly resists catering to our expectations,” resulting in a production “stuffed with thrilling musical moments.”
The Eraserheads is only the latest addition to what is already a peerless body of work hereabouts—one that embraces just about every genre, from the vocal cord-busting pop rock of Aegis (for “Rak of Aegis”) to the nationalistic rap of Francis M (for “3 Stars and a Sun”), the old-school Original Pilipino Music in the rerun of “Dirty Old Musical.”
And yet, Salomon admits to being apprehensive about taking on this project when the producers approached him in 2016. “Eraserheads was the reason my elementary school afternoons were all about picking up a beat-up guitar and learning how to strum G, D, Em, C chords. My thought bubble was like, ‘My God, what a big responsibility.’ But I took on the challenge. Might as well be the culprit of the failure/success of the project.
“The tricky part [has always been] to find the right song for a scene,” Salomon adds. “Thinking out of the box is not enough. Thinking out of this world is the better option. After fully understanding each scene and character, I just trust my first gut feel. For example, ‘Pare Ko,’ [now a military march of sorts]—it was so clear in my head that I will go that way. The first scene with Tiya Dely—taking it from her name, ‘Tiya/Cha,’ I went Cha-cha/Latin with it.”
For the album, Salomon served as record producer, with JC Magsalin of the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra as band conductor and orchestrator. Work started last November, while Salomon starred in “Mula sa Buwan,” with the final mixing session wrapping up barely two weeks before the “El Bimbo” rerun’s March 1 premiere.
Reb Atadero, one of the many returning cast members from last year, says, “[Recording the album] was absolutely surreal. I grew up listening to these songs, and you’re telling me the first album I’m ever going to be part of is me singing those songs?”
Concurs Tanya Manalang, another ‘El Bimbo’ veteran and formerly of the 2014 West End revival of “Miss Saigon”: “The recording demanded the same energy and connection as doing the actual show. Even though I’d done Trumpets’ ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ back in ’97, [‘El Bimbo’] still felt like my first [time doing a cast album], given that I was more involved in the process. We were there on most days of the recording. The boys and I stayed in the studio and watched each other do our individual tracks.”
“During the first run, we’re told around 53,000 people saw the show,” adds Atadero. “With the recording, we can reach all those people [again], and then some.”
“Nothing beats the actual capture of everyone making music harmoniously,” says Salomon. “Last year, people kept asking if we would sell a recording of the show, [so] I hope this CD makes them happy. This is a rare opportunity to immortalize the musical.” —CONTRIBUTED