Theater review: Talented cast keeps 'Breakups and Breakdowns' afloat

Fred Hawson

Posted at Apr 21 2023 08:04 PM

The cast of 'Breakups and Breakdowns' at curtain call. Jeeves de Veyra
The cast of 'Breakups and Breakdowns' at curtain call. Jeeves de Veyra

One Friday night, playboy commercial model Derek (Nelsito Gomez) was getting prepared for spending a night in a bar to meet up with a new girl. He was trying to convince his roommate and long-single best friend Mark to go out with him so he could meet girls. However, Mark (Reb Atadero) was still struggling to begin writing his new play about finding the perfect girl, so he won't budge from his computer. 

Mark's ex-girlfriend graphic artist Nina (Tanya Manalang), with her boss Felicia (Sarah Facuri), was dealing with difficult clients Howard (Joel Trinidad) and Morgan (Rachel Coates) at work. Sandy (Nicky Trivino) was seeking advice from her friends Richard (Trinidad) and Pamela (Facuri) on how best to get on Derek's good side. She was leaving for Singapore in a few weeks and wanted to get serious with Derek before that. 

The libretto of the original musical "Breakups and Breakdowns" was Joel Trinidad's first work for theater back in 2005. Its music was composed by Rony Fortich back then and even now as new songs were added to beef up the show. This present edition of the play had been reworked extensively by Trinidad, together with his creative partner and dramaturg Nicky Trivino, along with additional script suggestions by the cast members themselves. 

Reb Atadero and Tanya Manalang are powerful belters, and, as the lead couple of the show, they both get to sing the best songs in the show. The most vocally- and emotionally-challenging song is "Tired of Goodbyes" sung by Mark and Nina, the most traditional showtune in the list. Both also get show-stopping solo numbers -- "Only Words" for Mark, "Outside the Lines" for Nina -- to highlight their vocal range.

Those who only knew Nelsito Gomez for his iconic roles in "Angry Christ" or "Asher Lev" will be pleasantly shocked with his all-out transformation of persona, as much as they will be shocked by the electric colors of his shirts. The energy of the show tends to sag when his Derek was not onstage. The most attention-getting songs were those naughty ones by Derek, especially "Be Prepared," sung with a small square packet in his hand. 

Rachel Coates, Sarah Facuri and Trinidad himself got to play multiple distinct characters, and their side stories were sometimes wittier than the main love story. I liked the "Clients from Hell" side story best of all. The wishy-washy boss Howard was Trinidad's best character for me. The wig he wore made him look like a totally different person. Coates was so good playing annoying suck-up Morgan, practically echoing everything Howard said. 

The current version of the show now runs for about 2-1/2 hours, with a 15-minute interval between acts. Admittedly, because of the slimness of the plot, I felt the length of this running time, particularly when the momentum and the wit faltered in the second half of both acts. Surely, this pacing issue can still tightened for the regular shows. 

Anyhow, the vibrant talent and personalities of the actors still kept the show afloat and engaging to the end. 

Upstart's "Breakups & Breakdowns" will have shows on April 22 (3 p.m. and 8 p.m.) and April 23 (3 p.m.) at the Creative Arts Centre, The British School Manila, 38th Street, BGC, Taguig. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."