REVIEW: Kiara Takahashi of PBB Otso shines as Eds in Tabing Ilog: The Musical

by James Patrick Anarcon
Mar 29, 2020
Kiara Takahashi and Batit Espiritu are two of the Pinoy Big Brother: Otso housemates who are part of Tabing Ilog: The Musical.
PHOTO/S: Noel Orsal

The musical adaptation of the '90s youth-oriented series, Tabing Ilog, finally opened to the public on March 8, 2020, at the Dolphy Theater.

Tabing Ilog is the iconic youth-oriented series produced by ABS-CBN that aired from 1999 to 2003.

It was the show that honed the acting skills ng mga artistang tinitingala ngayon: John Lloyd Cruz, Kaye Abad, Desiree del Valle, Baron Geisler, Patrick Garcia, Paolo Contis, and Jodi Sta. Maria.

This time, the Kapamilya network tapped professional theater actors, members of the all-girl group MNL 48, and trainees from ABS-CBN's new talent arm, Star Hunt. Karamihan sa mga cast members na napili ay mga former Pinoy Big Brother: Otso housemates.

Tabing Ilog: The Musical is the debut offering of Teatro Kapamilya, the newly launched theater arm of ABS-CBN.

Last March 5, some members of the press had the chance to see the musical in advance.

Here are cast members who starred in the press preview:

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  • PBB Otso 2nd Big Placer Kiara Takahashi as Eds (Kaye Abad)
  • Theater actor Ian Panganiban as Rovic (John Lloyd Cruz)
  • PBB Otso teen housemate Batit Espiritu as Badong (Paolo Contis)
  • Theater actress Teetin Villanueva as Corrinne (Desiree del Valle)
  • Theater actress Miah Canton as George (Jodi Sta. Maria)
  • Theater actor Jem Macatuno as James (Patrick Garcia)
  • Theater actor Vino Malabot as Fonzy (Baron Geisler)
  • Movie and theater actor Noel Comia as Sammy (new character)
  • Theater actress Krystal Kane as Jerry (Mylene Dizon)
  • Theater actor Franco Ramos as Ely (new character)
  • Agot Isidro as female adult
  • Jojit Lorenzo as male adult

Tabing Ilog: The Musical

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To be honest, I entered the theater with no expectations sa press preview ng Tabing Ilog: The Musical.

On a personal note, kabado ako kung paano ang magiging treatment dito, at kung mabibigyan ba ng justice ng mga bagong actors ang roles ng original cast members ng Tabing Ilog.

It is because I was one of those kids na sinubaybayan talaga ang Tabing Ilog at nakapanuod nito—mahilig kasi ako talaga manuod ng TV kaysa maglaro sa labas, kaya alam ko ang kwento niya.

At base sa mga kakilala ko na talagang fans ng Tabing Ilog, hindi rin sila masyadong convinced sa idea na i-remake ang iconic show especially into a musical with a cast comprised of newbies.

But then, since musical naman ito, at nasa ibang panahon na tayo, hindi na talaga apples to apples ang magiging comparison dahil sa platform pa lang ay nagkaiba na.

Take note that my review of the musical comes from the point of view of someone na nakapanuod at familiar sa original Tabing Ilog: The Series.

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OBSERVATIONS ABOUT TABING ILOG: THE MUSICAL

Aminado ako na hindi ko pa masyadong na-grasp agad ang first few minutes of the musical, especially sa unang scene where magkaka-text sila.

Medyo nahirapan akong ma-gets agad na nagte-textan pala sila because of how they presented it: nagsasalita ang bawat character at may sound effects na ginamit in order to insinuate na sila pala ay magkaka-text.

Nagulat din ako nang una kong makita si James (Jem Macatuno) dahil medyo iba na ang look at personality ng character niya from the original character played by Patrick Garcia in the past.

Tabing Ilog: The Musical

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At the other side of the stage, bigla ring ipinakita ang dalawang characters na nakatira sa ibang bansa. Kung hindi mo napanuod ang original, you wouldn't get the idea that it was George (Miah Canton), dahil siya yung kabarkada nila na nag-stay sa States in the original series (Jodi Sta. Maria).

This time, kasama ni George si Jerry (Krystal Kane), na ngayon ay taga-United States na at best friend na ni George. In the original version, Jerry is the cousin of James na na-involve kay Rovic.

Pero noong finally ay pinagsama-sama na silang lahat, madali mong nakilala kung ano ang mga characters na pino-portray nila.

Slowly, as you watch the musical, you will remember familiar elements that make it feel like it is really Tabing Ilog. It is good to remember that this whole musical is based on the show's pilot episode, particularly the whole set-up of a graduation ball.

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Tabing Ilog: The Musical

Sakto lang rin, kakapanuod ko lang uli ng Tabing Ilog sa iWant, kaya madali ko rin itong natandaan.

But even then, marami pa ring nadagdag na modern elements sa musical ang writer na si Jade Castro.

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Siyempre, dahil ito ay musical, pinasukan ng original songs composed by Vincent de Jesus.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT TABING ILOG: THE MUSICAL

Una sa mga nagustuhan ko sa Tabing Ilog: The Musical ay ang bagong elements na ipinasok sa kwento to make it more relevant and timely.

Nagpasok sila ng mga contemporary issues such as women empowerment, toxic masculinity, male-female platonic friendships, mental health, LGBTQ+, and environmental concerns.

Tabing Ilog: The Musical

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And in all fairness to the script, hindi mukhang pilit dahil swabe lang ang pagkaka-inject nila ng mga situations that will tackle these issues. Hindi siya mukhang nagpa-deep lang.

I wish I could divulge kung sino ang mga characters na nag-deal with these issues, kaya lang magiging spoiler na.

But definitely, nangibabaw pa rin ang istorya ng long-lasting friendship, the hurdles they went through, at kung paano pa rin nanaig ang pagkakaibigan nila.

Tabing Ilog: The Musical

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Nakakatuwa rin na ibinase nila ang first act ng musical sa pilot episode ng Tabing Ilog para madaling maka-relate ang fans ng iconic '90s TV show.

Kasama pa sa ni-retain sa musical ang distinct characteristics ng bawat character: the innocence of Eds, the charm (and pride) of Rovic, the leadership skills of James, and the kasosyalan of George.

Nakakaaliw din panooring ang pagiging astig ni Badong, pagiging pasaway ni Fonzy, at ang pagkataklesa ni Corrinne.

Very good ang ginawa nilang pag-retain nito dahil ang colorful personalities ng mga bida ang nagbigay ng charm sa kwento ng Tabing Ilog.

Tabing Ilog: The Musical

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ACTING OF THE NEW CAST

When it comes to acting, aminin na natin, ang daming nagduda kung kaya bang pantayan ng new stars ang ginawa ng original cast members ng Tabing Ilog.

That was the main reason kung bakit wala akong expectations noong nanuod ako ng musical play na ito.

Surprisingly, the acting of the new bunch is impressive. I was particularly impressed by Pinoy Big Brother ex-housemates Kiara Takahashi and Batit Espiritu dahil sila talaga yung walang major acting background apart from their Star Hunt training.

At mahalagang makita kay Kiara na makapag-deliver at mag-shine siya, because Eds is such an iconic character at maraming nag-e-expect sa kanyang performance.

Tabing Ilog: The Musical

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And in all fairness to Kiara, for me, siya talaga ang pinaka nag-shine among the cast. Kahit first time ko siyang mapanuod umarte, na-convince ako agad ni Kiara. Tama lang ang acting niya at nakuha naman niya ang pagka-innocent at modest ni Eds. Her acting was not over the top, as if trying to impress people.

Aminin na natin, meron kasing mga gano'n, di ba? Kapag medyo baguhan, parang may gustong i-prove so they end up overdoing it.

But Kiara knows the right tone, in fact, medyo nakuha nga rin niya ang nuances ni Kaye as Eds, pero nakapagbigay siya ng sarili din niyang interpretation. Kita rin ang confidence niya on stage, at hindi siya nahiyang ilabas ang talent niya sa pagkanta sa mga scenes that required singing. I believe that Kiara is fit for the role of Eds. I'm sure, kung maaalagaan nang mabuti, mas mai-improve pa ang acting niya at mahihinog na rin siya sa paggawa ng teleserye.

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Tabing Ilog: The Musical, Kiara Takahashi

Maganda rin ang chemistry ni Kiara sa dalawang male cast: kay Ian Pangilinan as Rovic, and kay Batit Espiritu as Badong.

Believable ang pagiging magkarelasyon nina Kiara at Ian. Kikiligin ka sa sweet moments nila, at maiinis at malulungkot sa mga awayan moments nila. In fact, sila ang pinakaabangan mo sa act two, kung paano ang magiging resolution sa characters nila.

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Tabing Ilog: The Musical

Tunay na mag-best friends naman ang tingin ko kay Kiara at Batit, lalo na sa isa sa musical numbers nila kung saan sinasabi nilang pwedeng maging mag-best friend ang babae at lalaki nang walang malisya. Hindi kilig ang mararamdaman mo sa eksena nila kung hindi genuine friendship.

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Tabing Ilog: The Musical

Batit's performance as Badong is also good. Kuha niya ang nuances na kailangan for the character, at bagay na bagay rin sa kanya ito. Although marami pang pwedeng i-improve dahil may times na nawawala siya at nahahalatang nadi-distract siya sa reaction ng audience.

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Another notable performance is that of theater actor Vino Malabot as Fonzy. Bagay na bagay sa kanya ang role na Fonzy at ang ganda ng timing niya sa pagpasok ng punch lines. Ginawa niyang charming at hindi annoying ang bad boy na si Fonzy, at ang nakakaaliw pa doon, may resemblance ang acting niya kay Baron Geisler, kaya para ka rin talagang nanunuod ng original series, nasa stage nga lang.

Ang pinakamaganda pa sa ginawa ni Vino as Fonzy ay na-capture niya ang hirap na dinadala ng character niya. Damang dama mo ang dilemma niya especially noong nagde-desisyon siyang gumawa ng bagay na hindi siya sigurado.

Tabing Ilog: The Musical

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Okay din ang acting ng theater actor na si Ian Panganiban as Rovic, although may moments na pwedeng mas toned down pa ang interpretation niya sa ibang scenes. Gwapo din ang rehistro niya on stage, at ang ganda ng tindig niya as Rovic kaya bumagay sa kanya.

Tabing Ilog: The Musical

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Miah Canton and Krystal Kane are also both commendable. Bukod sa mahusay ang ipinakita nilang acting as their characters, their chemistry as friends also worked. Watching their parting scene left me with teary eyes. Mahusay rin ang musical numbers nila, dahil ang gaganda ng boses nila at swak naman ang binigay na piece sa kanila.

Tabing Ilog: The Musical

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Kuhang kuha naman ni Teetin Villanueva ang character ni Corrinne—from the looks to the acting. But expect something new from the character, na nabigyang justice ni Teetin.

Very noticeable din ang subdued but scene-stealing acting of Franco Ramos as Ely, a new character introduced in the musical. He is very charming at nakakaaliw ang bawat labas niya. Although his character could've been written better, dahil may mga times na parang nakikisali lang siya, aside from the fact na hindi nga siya talaga parte ng barkada.

Tabing Ilog: The Musical

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Nakakaaliw din ang portrayal ni Jem Macatuno bilang James dahil binigyan niya ng comic twist ang originally ay uptight and stiff personality ng character sa TV series. Yun nga lang, naging boxed ang character sa musical dahil hindi nila na-explore ng mabuti ang development niya. Sayang at sa original story kasi, si James ang may interesting love story. It did not help na hindi isinama sa musical ang love interest ni James sa series na si Anne (Paula Peralejo in the original series).

Naaliw din ako kay Agot Isidro at Jojit Lorenzo dahil iba-ibang characters ang pinortray nila sa musical, pero nabigyan nila ng different personalities ang mga characters na iyon.

Tabing Ilog

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WHAT CAN BE IMPROVED IN TABING ILOG: THE MUSICAL

Siyempre, hindi naman perfect ang Tabing Ilog: The Musical. May mga certain points ka ring mapupuna.

One is the production design. Although nakakatuwa ang effort ng show na maglagay ng reflection ng tubig at gumawa ng sahig na gawa sa bamboo para maging kamukha ng "tabing ilog" na setting sa series, hindi pa rin ganoon kaganda ang rehistro sa stage. May area kasi na patay, habang yung isang area naman ay buhay na buhay. Hindi rin ako gaanong convinced sa blue seats na ginamit just to make it seem na nakaupo sila sa mismong ilog.

Tabing Ilog: The Musical

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Mahina rin ang volume ng lapel mic kaya may mga times na hindi marinig ang dialogues, lalo na ng dalawang bida.

Maganda pa rin naman ang kwento ng Act Two, at naging defining moment siya ng musical dahil dito na pumasok ang bagong elements ng kwento at completely nag-veer away na sa series.

Hindi naman nagmukhang pilit lahat ng issues na ipinasok. Pero yung pagkakasulat ng Act Two, parang naging very abrupt. Kahit scene-by-scene ang pagtatahi ng mga issues ng characters, hindi naging masyadong klaro ang resolution at parang nagmadali na papunta doon.

Tabing Ilog: The Musical

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Magaganda naman ang mga kantang ikinompose for the musical, kaya lang, wala silang "last-song-syndrome" (LSS) factor. Hindi siya yung tipong mahuhuli mo ang sarili mong kumakanta, or may cathartic feeling tuwing kumakanta ang characters.

Mas maganda kung gumamit sila ng mix of familiar and new songs, and siguro, mas ginawang bongga ang treatment sa mga musical numbers, nilagyan pa ng drama, or mas dinagdagan ng choreography, para talagang tumatak.

Lyrics ng chorus lang din kasi ang ginamit sa mismong song na "Tabing Ilog" by Barbie's Cradle, e, isa yun sa charm ng original story at talagang tumatak sa mga naging viewers ng show, kaya definitely, malaki ang nostalgic effect sana nito sa mga manunuod.

Most importantly, kailangan ding i-work out pa nang kaunti ang camaraderie among the cast. Nandoon naman na yung chemistry ng grupo, lalo na kung naka-by pair sila, pero hindi pa ito evident on stage, especially since they are touted to be friends since childhood. May mga times kasing dama mong ang friendship ng barkada ay dahil lang sa plot, pero hindi mo masyadong maramdaman na barkada sila.

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Mahalaga ito para sa kanilang musical because apart from teenage issues and love stories, friendship at barkadahan ang pundasyon ng kwento ng Tabing Ilog.

Tabing Ilog: The Musical

FINAL VERDICT FOR TABING ILOG: THE MUSICAL

All-in-all, Tabing Ilog: The Musical is a good start.

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Siguro, kailangan lang ng mas malaki pang venue at matagal na paghahanda para mas mapaganda pa ang production, especially the stage design and the technical aspects.

Mas maganda rin kung in the future, mas mapalinis pa ang script at hindi mukhang minadali ang mga pangyayari para marating ang dulo.

Very relevant ang mga changes na ginawa sa kwento dahil nagpasok ng very timely issues. And this being a teen drama, maganda ring na-tackle ito para sa kamalayan ng mga manunuod, especially kung mga teens ang papasok sa theater.

Okay din ang naging acting ng bagong cast, pero mas maganda kung lahat sila ay nabigyan pa ng exposure to shine sa musical.

If you'll ask if napantayan ng bagong cast ang performance noong original? Siyempre, nothing beats the OG. But then again, hindi mo talaga maiko-compare dahil nga magkaiba sila ng platform.

But then, for me, the new cast gave an impressive performance. Hindi sila yung ine-expect natin because of our pre-conceived notions about remakes and newbies.

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Mayroong mga dapat i-improve, pero wala namang sobrang kapintas-pintas sa acting nila that will make you walk out of the theater. Kaya nga impressive dahil most of them are beginners.

Lalong-lalo na para kay Kiara at Batit, dahil fresh lang sila from their stint sa PBB house at walang known major acting credit after the contest.

Nakaka-excite din tuloy makita kung paano rin ang magiging atake ng iba pang PBB Otso ex-housemates like Sky Quizon, Lou Yanong, Argel Saycon, Lie Reposposa, Hanie Jarar, Abi Kassem, Gabby Sarmiento, Missy Quino, at Art Guma.

Tabing Ilog: The Musical opened on March 8, 2020, but is currently on a break due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

ABS-CBN has yet to announce whenTabing Ilog: The Musical will be staged again for the public.

Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial team.

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Tabing Ilog: The Musical

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Kiara Takahashi and Batit Espiritu are two of the Pinoy Big Brother: Otso housemates who are part of Tabing Ilog: The Musical.
PHOTO/S: Noel Orsal
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