Pinoy version of “Rock of Ages” – nobody does it better. Nobody.

200% better than Tom Cruise’s film adaptation.

At least, 50% better than the original Broadway production.

I have never been prouder to be a Pinoy than that night of July 1 when I flew all the way from Jakarta to watch Atlantis Productions take on “Rock Of Ages”.

I had come home reluctantly upon the prodding of my good friend Vic del Rosario and the non-stop, Nazi-like egging of music columnist Baby Gil.

I had explained that I already watched the original version of the musical in New York in 2010. I also over-emphasized that I had just seen “We WIll Rock You” in London and was currently totally enamored with that production.

But Boss Vic never takes ‘no’ for an answer.

He immediateky dispatched my plane ticket as he continued insisting that the 3 1/2 hour flight will be worth it. He also promised to throw in a sumptuous buffet dinner at the Shang, smothered with lots of musical chitchat with Manila’s iconic theatre director Bobby Garcia.

And so, I bade goodbye to my weekend plans of exploring the cavernous Grand Indonesia mall – and along with it, my week-long craving for nasi uduk spesial and gado gado.

Manila, Manila… I keep comin’ back to Manila.

Goodbye, Jakarta. Hello, NAIA 3… and the walkalators that don’t work… and the 2-kilometer trek to the immigration counters…

The food was overflowing (and fattening)… but the conversation, as promised, was sparkling. Dinner dates: Viva bosses Vincent & dad Vic del Rosario, Atlantis Productions Bobby Garcia and my Hotdog co-conspirator bro Rene. (Taken two hours before the show.)

What followed after dinner was simply… unforgettable.

Like “Mamma Mia!,” “Rock of Ages” obeys the cardinal jukebox-musical rule of not taking itself seriously.

It weaves a tale around a fictional L.A. rock club (a thinly-disguised Whisky A Go Go) on the verge of being knocked down by villianous developers and a corrupt mayor (sounds familiar?), a romance between a cute waitress-actress wannabe promdi (played by Vina Morales) and a lovable – though vertically-challenged – wannabe rock star (Nyoy Volante).

Every one on stage was a star that night.

Migs Ayesa – without doubt… and as expected – showed natural “star appeal”. He could… but didn’t hog the spotlight.

He supported the other stars unconditionally.

Nyoy Volante (who was never under my musical radar ever) was a revelation. His “made-for-rock” pipes triggered multiple shock and awe reactions from my usually-jaded rocker bro Rene.

Jet Pangan (again, not under my musical radar in the 90s since I was an expat abroad during his band’s heyday) was brilliant… and totally engaged the audience with nuances unseen in the original Broadway version. A wink here… a wiggle of his butt there… a twitch of the eyebrows… and the audience was eating out of the palm of his hand.

Jamie WIlson was fabulous. I heard that he is a pretty awesome sound engineer but… never knew he was a dynamic wizard on stage as well.

Aiza Seguerra as an activist (and later on, in another showstopping role) was a crowd favorite for reasons I cannot reveal here.

I had expected to see the crowd that would normally come in full attendance for a Pepe Smith or Wolfgang concert… but what I saw, instead, were young bright kids (who probably spend their waking hours blogging and tweeting about Vicky Belo’s new “lite skin is sosyal” ad) – all newly bathed and raring to rock.

A few of us ’70s rock veterans were overwhelmed with nostalgia… and were surprisingly ‘bitin’. Because it was that good.

By combining power ballads such as “More Than Words”, “I’ve Been Waiting” and “I Want to Know What Love Is” with legitimate rock anthems such as “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” the show got to poke fun at romantic ballads—and thus attract the soft-rock crowd—and also make it safe for former headbangers to show up from their boring 9 to 5 jobs and re-live the only time in their lives when they actually felt a rush of power.

One good thing coming out of the show: it gave us a peek into the future of Pinoy entertainers.

Let’s leave pop music to the Koreans – they now “own” it.

Leave the pop music to the Koreans. The jazz to the Indonesians. The heavy metal to the Malaysians.

Pinoys will shine gloriously where very few can touch them:

On stage… singing and dancing… winning hearts… and improvising.

In magical pieces of art called…

The Musical.


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