From the court to the stage

by , on February 6, 2012

This review is based on the January 27 opening show, with the cast that features Red Concepcion as Quito, OJ Mariano as Paco, Jeremy Aguado as Tommy and Athena Tibi as Reena.

The clash between the blue and the green often goes beyond the basketball court. For the extreme diehards out there, it permeates the home, the workplace, business and even politics.

For the very first time, Ateneo and La Salle take this old school tradition to the stage in an all-new original musical called Rivalry: Ateneo–La Salle The Musical.

The show makes an effort to combine two widely different realms of interest, namely college basketball and musical theater. At first glance, the two may not conventionally mix, but Rivalry shows how they can work together given a good libretto and a strong veteran cast.

Rivalry takes the audience back to 1968, when the Ateneo Blue Eagles and the La Salle Green Archers were still part of the NCAA. As the men’s basketball semifinals reveal the possibility of an Ateneo–La Salle finals match-up, tensions begin to rise between the green-blooded Basilio family and the blue-blooded Valencia family. The sons, Tommy Basilio (Jeremy Aguado) and Paco Valencia (OJ Mariano), are the stars of their respective teams, and the only thing greater than their animosity toward each other is the pressure to lead their own teams to victory.

It doesn’t help that Tommy and Paco are cousins, with their fathers at each other’s throats as well. This goes back to unforgiving tensions involving hoop and business. Further complicating matters is—as always—a beautiful Maryknoller named Reena San Jose (Athena Tibi), who, after enduring heartbreak, promises herself that she’ll never get involved with another guy again (“Let alone an arrogant Atenean or a smooth-talking La Sallian!”). As for the timid, younger Valencia son, Quito (Red Concepcion), he just wants everyone to get along. After all, “basketball is just a game,” he says.

There were a number of technical difficulties that were rather distracting, such as the malfunction of the lapel microphones and several scenes where the music drowned the actors’ voices out. Aguado looked too old for his role as a thriving college basketball player, which made it sometimes difficult to believe the love story between him and Tibi’s character Reena. A few of the song numbers dragged on longer than it should have, bringing down the pace of the show.

While the plot of Rivalry is hardly anything new, it certainly makes the show relatable and appealing to the Filipino audience, with its themes of family, love and loyalty.

The veteran cast also helped bring the story to life. Red Concepcion shines as Quito, making it easy for the audience to buy his earnest portrayal of a young undergraduate who believes blood is stronger than even the spirit of the Sixth Man or of the animo. Lolo Eliseo Genaro (Noel Trinidad) steals the show in his brief appearance in a vaudeville-inspired number that traces the beginnings of the Ateneo–La Salle rivalry and hints at which school really reigns supreme.

At first, it is easy to be disappointed by the lack of basketball scenes, but even the most devoted hoops fan will appreciate the indirect portrayal of the mountings of the Ateneo–La Salle basketball rivalry through its effects: the pressure from parents and coaches, the incessant hounding from the media and the divides formed between family and friends. The energy that comes with watching an Ateneo–La Salle basketball game live is very much present, thanks to enthusiastic audience participation: alumni in blue or green cheering right along with the crowd onstage and applauding to the witty barbs aimed at the members of the other school.

The wardrobe was nicely done and stayed true to the late ‘60s fashion—they even had the vintage Ateneo basketball jerseys that featured a single blue “A” on the front. There were even a few references to local ‘60s culture and history, such as the “Little Quiapo” and the Harlem Globetrotters visit to the Philippines.

Even with its flaws, Rivalry still manages to entertain. It’s an interesting and rather unusual endeavor to have renowned people in the local musical theater industry create something as a tribute to sports and the culture that comes with it. By using a more mainstream theme in a niche part of culture, Rivalry succeeds in bringing theater to a much more diverse audience.

Editor’s note: Catch Rivalry: Ateneo–La Salle The Musical at the Meralco Theater until March 11. For ticket inquiries, call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or visit www.ticketworld.com.ph.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

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Directed by Jaime del Mundo

Music by Ed Gatchalian

Lyrics by Joel Trinidad

Choreography by Nancy Crowe

Starring Athena Tibi, Felix Rivera, Red Concepcion, Noel Trinidad, Jeremy Aguado, Mako Alonzo, Raymund Concepcion, Juliene Mendoza, OJ Mariano, Sheila Francisco, Jenny Nuida-Tatlonghari, Raul Montesa, Chino Veguillas, Meynard Penalosa, Ashley Immler

Presented by The 4th Wall Theatre Company

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