MANILA -- Will there be another Eraserheads member present in any of the shows?
This has been the question for many fans of both the band and the musical "Ang Huling El Bimbo," which has just started its first weekend run last March 1 at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila.
Vocalist-main composer-rhythm guitarist Ely Buendia, drummer Raymund Marasigan, bassist Buddy Zabala and lead guitarist Marcus Adoro formed in their college years during the early 1990s what turned out to be the most popular and enduring Filipino rock band in the past three decades.
Using the discography of the band in a story about friendship that started in what looked like University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City in the 1990s, "Ang Huling El Bimbo" has musical direction-arrangement by Myke Salomon, direction-choreography by Dexter Martinez Santos and libretto by Dingdong Novenario with additional scenes written by dramaturg Floy Quintos. Live music accompaniment is provided by the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of conductor Rodel Colmenar.
It's just but natural and expected that the band's presence, whether one or two of them together in one night, or better yet if the stars align, all four in any of the shows would mean a lot to the audience and the cast members.
For this year's re-staging, ABS-CBN News has learned that there's an open invitation for all four members to watch the show not only during the gala night, happening on Thursday, March 7, but on any date they are available.
"I was told there is. Although I hear Ely Buendia is out of town (during the gala night)," Menchu Launchengco-Yulo told us on Saturday night via FB Messenger. She is co-artistic director of Full House Theater Company and also plays the older Joy, the central character in the musical, alternating with Carla Guevara-Laforteza.
"I was told that they were invited for the gala. But Ely has declined because he has a show in the province on that date. I'm not sure if the others have sent their RSVP. But, of course, they are always welcome to watch on any other day as well," actor-director Michael Williams told ABS-CBN News.
"Even back then (2018 run), I don't know if they were in town but there was a standing invitation for all. The same this year," Williams added. "After all, this is their brainchild."
Together with Lauchengco-Yulo, Williams is co-artistic director of Full House Theater Company. For "Ang Huling El Bimbo," he isn't playing any character, preferring to be in the background as overall artistic director.
"There's a need for somebody who has oversight," Williams told ABS-CBN News. "If I am too close to the material, hindi ko makikita 'yung pwedeng i-tweak or i-adjust. Menchu (Lauchengco), of course, has to be in show as the older Joy. She sees the material everyday so parang nangyari, naging saturated na siya."
"You need an eye outside, that is primarily my function," added Williams.
In the initial staging last year, it was only Buendia who made it on the July 26, 2018 gala night. He watched with his manager, Day Cabuhat, and some friends. He may not be with the other three Eheads but he was accompanied by The Cruiserheads, a group of bikers with whom he goes on long rides on Harleys and Ducatis.
Prior to the gala show, in his official Instagram account, Marasigan had earlier sent his regrets, saying he had two gigs scheduled that night. He posted an invite from Resorts World Manila, which showed a vintage Nintendo family computer set.
When we personally spoke with Zabala on August 26 at the SM MOA Concert Grounds, right after Moonstar 88's performance during the "Run With Me" marathon that was also organized by Resorts World Manila, he told us he also had a gig that coincided with the gala night. We asked him why not on other dates, Zabala merely shrugged it off and excused himself.
After leaving his post-Eraserheads' group The Dawn, Zabala has been regularly playing bass with Moonstar 88.
Adoro couldn't be reached for comment though there's a possibility he'd attend.
Last February 9, Buendia teamed up with Itchyworms in a concert titled "Greatest Hits," at the Newport Performing Arts Theater. The concert featured the "surprise" guesting of Adoro.
He played guitar for most Eraserheads songs done on acoustics in a segment where there was supposed to be a brownout. As it turned out, it was part of the act and Adoro even sang his reggae version of "Huwag Mo Nang Itanong," from Eraserheads' "Cutterpillow" album. Adoro almost always plays it live with Marcus Highway, his own post-Eheads band.
In the other rock musicals in the past like "Sa Wakas" and "Rak of Aegis," as well as the ongoing "Eto na! Musikal nAPO," there were post-curtain call impromptu appearances or live performances from the likes of, respectively, Sugarfree's vocalist-main songwriter Ebe Dancel, members of Aegis and though on separate occasions, Apo Hiking Society members Boboy Garrovillo, Jim Paredes and Danny Javier.
We asked Williams what if Buendia and Adoro watched the show at the same time and called on stage, would if be possible for spontaneous jamming with the MPO?
Williams somehow answered in the negative.
"For a show like this it's difficult for outside people to be spontaneously involved, unless they're in the band (MPO). Iba 'yung structure ng music," he told us.
"They can't play their structure dahil iba 'yung sa amin. Sina Rodel Colmenar, they worked closely with Myke (Salomon). Their sound is iba (different)," Williams added.
But their presence would be enough as shown by Buendia's appearance after the the gala performance last year, giving the audience, including the musical's cast members, one of the most thrilling, exciting moments in their lives inside the theater.
"I love the idea that art moves people. Ely and the band's music has taken a life of its own. It has almost transcended them and recreated itself," Williams told ABS-CBN News in an earlier interview.
Williams recalled the gala night when Buendia attended.
"When he watched it, he was crying. Na-overwhelm siya. Parang na realize niya, wow, maaari palang ganun ang ibig sabihin ng kantang 'yon. Na-moved sya."
"We used the songs that were popular and weren't popular. Nagkaroon ng ibang buhay," he added.
Williams said that at first, Buendia was apprehensive about going to the stage after the show.
"Noong una ayaw niya maging in the center. Ang gusto niya maging focus is 'yung music (of the Eraserheads) pero after the gala show, umakyat siya. He even blew a kiss to the cast. He was so happy," Williams added.
Buendia promised to watch another show in the last few weekends of the 2018 run. He did during the closing show with some family members, though with less fanfare than the gala.
As for Adoro, Zabala and Marasigan, there were no reports or "sightings" they saw the musical.
"Hopefully he (Buendia) can come again. All of them," Williams said.
As of posting, "Ang Huling El Bimbo" has playdates until April 14, with possible extension until May.