'Rak of Aegis' is a loud, joyful romp
During the daytime, music fans may express love for critical darlings such as Bob Dylan or Miles Davis. But when nighttime comes and videoke joints open their neon-bathed doors, Aegis reigns supreme (apologies to Frank Sinatra fans — please don’t stab me).
The band has been enjoying a bit of a critical resurgence these past few years, thanks in part to a renewed, non-ironic appreciation for power ballads and over the top emoting.
The love for the band is best embodied by Rak of Aegis, the theater musical that is back for its sixth and final run. The title of the production is a cheeky play on the American musical Rock of Ages. But while Rock of Ages draws songs from the great 70s and 80s rock songbook, Rak of Aegis is solely comprised of songs from the Aegis back catalog.
Anyone familiar with Aegis’ roster of hits will be well-served here.
Rak of Aegis is a fun, kilig-heavy musical that stays faithful to its source material — perhaps too much so. Songs like "Basang-Basa sa Ulan" and "I Love You Na Lang sa Tago" form the base of the story, and almost function as plot outlines for the narrative.
Muddying the waters
The story takes us to Barangay Venezia, an area that has been submerged in flood waters for months. Aileen (Shaira Opsimar), one of the residents, sets out to record and upload a video of herself singing.
She does this in the hope of becoming a Jake Zyrus-style YouTube sensation and maybe, just maybe, draw enough attention to the plight of her barangay. There’s a great meta-commentary on the Filipino spirit here: when you find yourself knee-deep in shit, sometimes all you can do is try to sing your way out of it.
Familiar romantic comedy and telenovela tropes are also present. Aileen is low-key torn between her current beau Kenny (Remus Villanueva) and the hunky gondola driver Tolits (Joshua Bulot). Kenny records Aileen, but fails to upload the video when his fancy DSLR gets wet in the rain. Tolits also records Aileen on his mobile phone, but drops his phone into the muddy water.
The flood becomes the visual anchor of the entire production, thanks to the excellent set design of Mio Infante and his team. They designed the set to look like a slum, complete with a flooded channel running down the middle. That channel is filled with enough water and garbage to warrant a leptospirosis shot.
It’s an amazing spectacle, and that damned flood water could almost be the show’s villain, but Fernan (the amazing Rody Vera) assumes the role of the main antagonist. Fernan initially presents himself as a charismatic philanthropist and doles-out relief goods to the residents.
Barangay Captain Mary Jane (Sweet Plantado, also amazing here), discovers that Fernan is the head of the neighboring posh subdivision, the development of which is causing the flooding of Venezia.
Fernan and Mary Jane reach an agreement. In exchange for Mary Jane’s silence, Fernan will bankroll a benefit concert in Venezia. The concert would be a great way to capitalize on Aileen’s budding fame (her video was finally uploaded and had gone viral) and uplift the lives of residents in the barangay.
Mo’ money, no problems
The story dragged a bit, mainly due to the pervasiveness of song numbers. I know that seems like a strange bit of criticism, considering Rak of Aegis is, you know, a musical production. But it’s definitely a case of too much of a good thing.
On the day of the concert, the flood water is pumped out. And with the flood water gone, so is the main schtick of the concert. The residents debate on how to address this strange problem (and why is this even a problem?). One group wants to destroy the pumps and reflood Venezia; the other group questions why a flood is even needed to promote the concert.
These arguments are the most interesting aspects of the story. It would have been too easy for director Maribel Legarda and playwright Liza Magtoto to play up the class conflict between the residents of Barangay Venezia and Fernan. Instead, they focus on the contention between individual residents.
Fernan’s identity is revealed. And in the end, the residents decide to use Fernan’s money to restart Venezia’s ailing shoe industry. Considering the time it took to reach this point in the story, this development feels forced and abrupt. But perhaps providing a satisfying resolution was never the intention.
What drives Rak of Aegis forward is its head-down, sign of the horns-raised commitment to the music. At times, this makes the production feel less like a story and more like a music video — which, given the abundance of exuberance and joy in the delivery, makes for a pretty fun experience. – Rappler.com
For tickets and show dates, call Ticket World at 891-9999, go to Ticket World outlets in select National Bookstore branches, or visit www.ticketworld.com.ph or www.petatheater.com/rakofaegis