With 115 performances, 'Ang Huling El Bimbo' takes a final bow

Totel V. de Jesus

Posted at Aug 18 2019 04:45 PM | Updated as of Aug 18 2019 05:05 PM

The cast of 'Ang Huling El Bimbo' during curtain call. Erickson Dela Cruz

MANILA -- "Ang Huling El Bimbo" closes its final run with its 115th performance at 8 p.m. on Sunday, August 18.

In a lengthy, heartbreaking farewell note in his official Facebook account on Sunday, director Dexter Martinez Santos estimated that the musical has reached approximately 150,000 people.

"May punto sa ating buhay na hindi na isang simpleng joyride ang paghahanap ng alapaap, kaya salamat sa pagkakataon at karanasang ito. Sa ilang saglit, sa ilang mga pagtatanghal, naalala at naipapalala natin sa bawat isa ang lumipad. Lumipad at magtangkang umangat sa gitna at lampas sa maraming pagkadapa at paglagpak. Muli, paalam, at maraming salamat!" he wrote.

"Ang Huling El Bimbo" now holds the record of being the second most staged musical in Resorts World Manila's Newport Performing Arts Theater, right behind "The Sound of Music," which had a total of 117 performances, from 2011 to 2012.

"Ang Huling El Bimbo" started its maiden run on July 20, 2018, to September 2, 2018. It returned for a second run this year from March 1 to April 6, a third run that lasted for three weekends in May and now its fourth and final run that started on July 5.

It marked its 100th performance at its matinee show on August 4.

The NPAT has 1,500 seats and filling it up every performance with ticket prices starting at P1,000 is not that easy.

But what's most remarkable with "Ang Huling El Bimbo" is its attempt in telling a tragic story that is current, relevant, insightful and at times provocative. If you're a fan of the band, you'd expect to be entertained by how the songs were woven into the musical but what you're brought into is a call-to-action, an in-your-face reminder of the times.

There's the opening scene with a dead body and three individuals who could be you, him or me, whose seemingly middle-class nearly middle-aged normal lives are suddenly disrupted and changed for the better. Or so we hope.

All this from a production outfit and performance venue that have been known for staging family-friendly broadway hits like "Chitty Chity Bang Bang," "Annie," "The Sound of Music," even the hilarious "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," and the feel-good original Pinoy musical "Bituing Walang Ningning."

The story written by playwright Dingdong Novenario that was eventually revitalized by dramaturg Floy Quintos deals with injustice, corruption, and realities that have put the Philippines under the media spotlight around the world.

Yes, "Ang Huling El Bimbo" is about extra judicial killings. It exposes how a young woman's life is destroyed by a traumatic incident and shows how those who are supposed to protect her have chosen to move on.

These are subjects that one usually encounter in one-act-plays staged at the annual Virgin Labfest, in university-based productions or smaller theater groups in alternative venues producing plays with limited runs.

Above all, "Ang Huling El Bimbo" has managed to accomplish what many thought was nearly impossible: Using the songs of the Eraserheads.

The legendary group hatched in the 1990s composed of Ely Buendia, Raymund Marasigan, Marcus Adoro and Buddy Zabala, despite their supposed disbandment, has remained the most popular, influential Pinoy rock outift in recent decades. We can go far as saying that the Eraserheads could be the only Filipino band that could fill up the 55,000-seat Philippine Arena in Bulacan.

With a tightened narrative courtesy of Quintos, this final run of "Ang Huling El Bimbo" has become a cultural breakthrough.

(Curiously, the musical used the word "final run" instead of farewell, just Like the Eraserheads with its "Final Set" concert in 2009.)

Meanwhile, "Ang Huling El Bimbo the musical" needs to take a rest, for now. Nevermind if "The Sound of Music" remains ahead with just two shows.