Art/Style/Travel Diaries

Why exclude I’ll Never Go from One More Chance the Musical—this ‘tito’ gripes

PETA musical—with Ben & Ben songs and hit cast—runs until June 30, with rerun in August to October

Sam Concepcion as Popoy and Anna Luna as Basha (Photo from PETA)

‘One More Chance the Musical curtain call (Photo from PETA)

The crowd-puller One More Chance the Musical, featuring the songs of Ben & Ben, staged by PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association) has had 50 sold-out shows since it opened on April 12, 2024.

PETA announced that due to demand, it added 29 performances. In total, there are now 79 sold-out shows. The musical continues its weekend run until June 30, 2024.

Theater companies usually schedule a rerun in their next season the following year, but because of the requests for more shows, PETA had to do rerun of OMC the Musical within the year itself.

After a one-and-a-half month break, it will return for another 50 shows, from Aug. 22 to Oct. 27, 2024.

There have been mixed reviews. Some praised how loyal the script was to the original Star Cinema blockbuster of the same title that was released in 2007, starring the popular love team of John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo as Popoy and Basha.

Others pointed out lapses, mostly technical. Many complained about the long, distracting pauses in between scenes.

Some in the audience could only hope PETA will take everything into account and make the necessary adjustments in the next three-month-long restaging.

Now, my gripe about what I think is the elephant in the room, at least for middle-aged fans of cinema and theater like me: Why exclude the song I’ll Never Go that was in the 2007 Star Cinema blockbuster?

I know the answer is right there in the subtitle: Featuring The Songs of Ben & Ben. Still, I feel that what has become the unofficial movie theme song needed to be there as an essential part of the theater adaptation.

In the movie, there is actually a song also titled One More Chance, written by Jude Gitamondoc that was recorded by Kapamilya heartthrob Piolo Pascual for his album Timeless. Ironically, it didn’t have the same appeal as I’ll Never Go. I didn’t even know it existed until I Googled One More Chance theme songs.

I’ll Never Go, as the title suggests, has stayed among fans who eventually created a cult-like following of the film.

The song was originally recorded by pop band, Nexxus, in the mid-1990s for its first album, Pictures In My Mind, under Universal Records. It was composed (music and lyrics) by its founding member, guitarist Frank Singcol. Ten years later, or sometime in 2005, it was revived by ABS-CBN homegrown pop star Erik Santos, whose version was used in the 2007 movie.

Santos’ version was again used by Star Cinema to promote the movie’s sequel, the equally well-received A Second Chance, in 2015.


I’ll Never Go was a massive hit that has been associated with the Popoy-Basha love team of John Lloyd and Bea. When bands play it in bars, women and gays high on alcohol would sing along and scream “Popoy.”

In 2012, American balladeer David Archuleta recorded his own version when he tried to revive his moribund career via Manila route.

There is no denying the high expectations of audiences who adored One More Chance the movie in the run-up to the staging of the PETA musical.

PETA artistic director and One More Chance, The Musical director Maribel Legarda puts it, this is the first of its kind “in terms of putting together pre-existing music and story into a musical.” (Legarda’s directorial credits in PETA include the long-running productions such as Rak of Aegis and Care Divas.)

Using the songs of Ben & Ben was seen by the artistic team as a sure-fire hit. “It had to be Ben & Ben,” Legarda pointed out in an interview in Inquirer Super with Pam Pastor titled From Screen to Stage that was reprinted in the musical’s souvenir program.

Kris Gazmen, head of ABS-CBN Films, was also quoted: “The inclusion of Ben & Ben solidified the whole idea of it as a musical.”

True enough, PETA announced sold-out shows for the nearly three-month run even days before the musical opened on April 12, 2024.  Imagine selling all 50 shows that fast. It’s a marketing feat in Philippine theater.

We were at the April 11 press preview at the PETA Phinma Theater, and having viewed the film again on Netflix, contrary to what some theater followers said about how loyal it was to the original material, I had to disagree, if only for the non-use of that vital song.

One, not all audience members who were die-hard fans of the movie were followers of Ben & Ben. Some of those middle-aged theater followers like I may know only a song or two of the nine-piece pop band.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Ben & Ben is one of the finest bands of the younger generation, able to fill the SMDC Festival Concert Grounds with 65,000 fans, and with, as of last count, 5.4-million monthly listeners on Spotify, as well as three million You Tube subscribers.

Just say I am an out-of-touch tito, when it comes to music of the Gen Z and the millennials. Pardon if I sound like I’m still stuck in the era of the Eraserheads, Rivermaya, Wolfgang and Parokya Ni Edgar.  The first time I heard Ben & Ben performed live, I thought of their music as among the best of the indie folk pop genre.

Still, I have to admit I am that detached and clueless. I won’t be able to tell if the piped-in music in a restaurant or bar frequented by my pamangkins, who are in their 20s, are songs by Ben & Ben or SB19.

But I must admit, because of One More Chance the Musical, I got to like more songs by Ben & Ben. I began to experience LSS (last-song-syndrome) after hearing Maybe The Night, the bonus track Tricia’s Song, and the other titles in the track.

My honest observation as a theater addict for decades is that adapting a movie to the stage, that has popular theme songs but not including these in the final draft, would be something akin to sacrilege.

I’ll Never Go is the background music of the movie’s iconic post-breakup montage of Popoy and Basha that lasted for more or less seven minutes.

The montage starts at 33:30-minute mark, when Popoy slips into his nearly catatonic depressed state and ends at 40:08 minutes, when Tricia (Maja Salvador) finds the drunken Popoy in the car park. A total of seven minutes and 18 seconds (7:18).

Tricia or Trish is the rebound girlfriend of Popoy who has had her share of followers and sympathizers. A well-respected theater and film director, Marlon Rivera, considers himself a member of Team Tricia. For followers like him, Tricia deserves the happy ending with Popoy.

A quick search on YouTube yields several versions of I’ll Never Go with this seven-minute long montage. Even the YouTube channel of ABS-CBN Entertainment has one, using Santos’ version.

I’ll Never Go is a vital song in the movie that you, ugh, can’t let go of just like that.

In the PETA musical, the song has been taken out. Common-sense assumption is, it would cost a lot for the production team to get the song’s license from music publisher Universal Music Philippines, while the songs of Ben & Ben were recorded under Sony Music. The souvenir program noted also that all songs in the musical were published under Ben & Ben Music Production.

To sum up this middle-aged tito’s irrelevant gripe: The song is the movie, the movie is the song. Removing I’ll Never Go is like creating a musical adaptation of Bagets with SB19 songs and not including Odette Quesada’s Growing Up or Cecile Azarcon’s Reaching Out.  

(By the way, why is there no established local theater group doing a musical adaptation of something from the 1980s, as iconic as Bagets?)

At any rate, Michelle Ngu-Nario in her playwright’s note, said, “It’s never a final draft. Even if you’re staging your 50th show, there’s always something you can add, and I’m very open to that because our process in PETA is very collaborative.”

The theatrical experience also must have felt different for some in the audience. It was because there were scenes from the original screenplay that weren’t in the film, but are now in the nearly three-hour long musical.

Vanessa R. Valdez, co-writer of the movie and creative director of ABS-CBN Film Productions, Inc: “This stage play interpretation of OMC also allows for portions of the screenplay that never made it to the big screen to finally be shared with fans of the movie.”

Be that as it may, the message of OMC The Musical is about healing, of having real friends around you, of keeping your mental health in check.

Carmi G. Raymundo, co-writer, creative head of ABS-CBN Film Productions, Inc., said, “Popoy and Basha were born out of our simple desire to tell a story about the heartbreak that comes with growth. Our hope is that the musical will also do the same for a new generation—to bring them together like a big barkada reunion and make them fell that no matter how painful life gets, everything will be OK.”

Hats off to composer and musical director Myke Salomon, who proved to be the certified virtuoso when it comes to jukebox musical.

Same with choreographer Michael Barry Que and assistant choreographers Abbey Carlos and Kirby Dunnzell, who came up with the appropriate, not too self-indulgent, dance steps for the triple-threat actors and actresses.

Sam Concepcion as Popoy (Photo from PETA)

If you have someone like Sam Concepcion in the cast, you got to come up with the perfect hip-hop moves, and Que and his team made Concepcion shine as the dancing Popoy.

‘Those words I say’. from left, Kiara Takahashi as Tricia, Nicole Omillo as Basha and CJ Navato as Popoy (Photo from PETA)

I saw the musical for the second time a few weeks later— the lead stars Concepcion and CJ Navato, who alternate as Popoy, as well as Anna Luna and Nicole Omillo alternating as Basha, really give their best, and the result is always a memorable and outstanding performance onstage, so good that the young audience might forget the movie actually exists.

Johnnie Moran as Chinno with the Thursday ‘barkada’ (Photo from PETA)

Big applause for the ensemble who composed the Thursday group: Kiara Takahashi and Sheena Belarmino alternating as Tricia; Poppert Bernadas and Paji Arceo alternating as blind Kenneth, the best friend of Popoy; Ada Tayao and Rica Laguardia as Krizzy and Jon Abella as JP.

Then there are the hilarious scene-stealers Via Antonio and Dippy Arceo as Anj, Neomi Gonzales and Carla Guevara-Laforteza alternating as Rose/Edith, Raul Montesa and Floyd Tena as Bert/Willie and Hazel Maranan as Elvie.

In the two shows I’ve seen, I only chanced upon Jay Gonzaga playing Mark, the character in the movie portrayed by the buff Derek Ramsay. Mark is the supposed savior of Basha after her breakup with Popoy.

In the preview, I remember the confrontation scene between Popoy, played by Concepcion, and Mark, played Jay Gonzaga. The jealous Popoy tells Mark, “Malaki lang katawan mo, pero hindi mo ako kayang patumbahin (You may have a well-built physique but you can’t beat me).”

A few scenes later, where Concepcion takes off his shirt, Concepcion bares a bigger well-chiseled body (in Filipino, “bato bato”) than Gonzaga’s toned, athletic physique. So I thought Popoy’s earlier line could have been: “Di mo ako kayang patumbahin, mas malaki ang katawan ko sa yo.”

In the movie, it obviously worked well for John Lloyd Cruz and Derek Ramsay. In the musical, it’s awkward and funny. Gonzaga’s alternate is theater heartthrob Jef Flores, who I think is taller and has bigger, longer arms than Concepcion and Navato.

And there’s the magnificent comedian-actor Johnnie Moran, who plays Chinno, the comic character essayed by Janus Del Prado in the movie.

True enough based on earlier reviews, distracting is the use of the wheeled metal scaffoldings as main prop in several scenes, like the construction site where Popoy and Basha work, the houses of their friends and all that. The gap in between scenes is that long the audience’s interest could wane.

When the lights are turned off, we hear the sound of moving metallic scaffoldings.

At some point, Johnnie Moran as Chinno blurts out in the dark, “Bakit brownout na naman. Ang hirap gumalaw.”

In another scene transition, where Chinno and Kenneth the blind character try to locate the centerstage, with lights out, Chinno says something like, “O Kenneth, akala mo ikaw lang hindi nakakakita ha. Ako rin (Kenneth, you think you’re the only one who can’t see. Me too).”

Such adlibs brought the house down.

Alternate cast: from left, Nicole Omillo as Basha, CJ Navato as Popoy, and Johnnie Moran as Chinno (Photo by Totel V. de Jesus)

Tickets for the August to “ber” months rerun will be made available via starting July 1. From July 1–3, a pre-sale will be made exclusively available for credit cardholders of Metrobank

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