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From screen to stage: The making of ‘One More Chance the Musical’
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From screen to stage: The making of ‘One More Chance the Musical’

One More Chance Musical

They revealed it at the final curtain call of “Walang Aray” in October last year.

“She had me at my worst, you had me at my best,” one of the actors uttered lines familiar to any moviegoing Filipino who lived through the aughts.

“Oh my god!” an audience member exclaimed, perhaps already understanding what hearing those lines on the Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta) stage meant. There was screaming and hollering.

Then came the announcement: Peta’s newest musical would be based on “One More Chance,” the iconic Star Cinema/ABS-CBN Film Productions, Inc. movie starring Bea Alonzo and John Lloyd Cruz. But that’s not all.

Surprise appearance

The show would be using the music of Ben&Ben, the hugely popular nine-piece folk-pop band (and the most streamed OPM artist in the country) behind the massive hits “Kathang Isip,” “Araw-Araw,” “Leaves” and more. They made a surprise appearance on the Peta stage that night to perform a few songs and celebrate the big news while the crowd cheered and applauded.

It was a moment that trended online and skyrocketed everyone’s excitement over the new production. People couldn’t wait to see the beloved story of Popoy and Basha and their barkada play out onstage—and they showed their enthusiasm by buying tickets so quickly that Peta set a new record. They sold out 50 shows before rehearsals even began.

Fast forward to March 2024. Peta gave the media a sneak peek at “One More Chance The Musical” which will be opening next month. They’ve also added more shows to meet the overwhelming demand.

Before the curtain rises, Super wanted to go back in time and ask the people involved how this dream of a project happened. Here’s the story behind “One More Chance The Musical” straight from the mouths of the people who made it possible.

The beginning

Maribel Legarda, artistic director of Peta and director of “One More Chance the Musical”: 

This really started in 2017. The girl on top of this, she passed away. She died early of cancer. Her name was Queng Reyles and we’re going to dedicate the show to her. She used to be the program director of Peta Theater Center. Queng was also a romance writer and her book was adapted by ABS-CBN. I think that’s the reason Queng was interacting with ABS-CBN. Who offered to whom—whether nauna ang Peta or ang Star Cinema, hindi ko na alam.

Kris Gazmen, head of ABS-CBN Films: It’s so funny because I don’t remember also who brought up the idea to who. Kasi nga ang tagal tagal na talaga niya. In my recollection, the idea came from Peta. But we always thought that “One More Chance” would make a good musical. Or play. Because it’s very intimate. It’s really an acting piece for the couple, we thought it would be nice to showcase it onstage. So there really was interest from both ends in making the musical happen.

Maribel: Through that 7-year-period, we were going back and forth. Are we going to line produce? Coproduce?

Kriz: We thought, how will we participate? It was a long negotiation. And then of course the pandemic happened.

Maribel: Nag-standstill siya. And then, after the pandemic, we decided, Peta will produce it. We’ll take it on. We will spend for everything.

Kriz: The deal was very straight out, we sold the licensing rights to Peta and then Peta proceeded with it.

Maribel: “One More Chance” is not my generation. I’ve seen it but I’m a boomer and I’m not ashamed to admit it. But Michelle and J-mee Katanyag, my dramaturg and assistant director, they’re fans. And I thought, they should be the ones there. I surrounded myself with fans of “One More Chance.” I need their passion. I’ll provide other things.

Focus group discussion

Michelle Ngu-Nario, playwright: Initially, I was tapped for a focus group discussion. Why did this movie become a phenomenon? Tell us why it’s iconic. FGD lang ‘yun, chika lang kami.

Maribel: This was among us lang. We have a whole slew of young people in Peta who are really fans of the movie. When they discuss the relationship of Popoy and Basha, it’s so real, it’s so personal to them. I was so amazed.

Myke Salomon, musical director and sound designer: Maribel called me and told me I was going to do it. But I hadn’t watched “One More Chance.” Bakit ba hindi ko siya napanood?

Maribel: Because he’s a guy’s guy so he doesn’t watch rom-coms. Or busy siya, nagmo-model-model pa siya nun.

Myke: But this time, I had to watch it. So I did. I was asking myself, “Why will Peta stage this? Why is this an icon?”

Kriz: We didn’t imagine “One More Chance” would become a modern classic. Direk Cathy Garcia-Sampana really just wanted to make an anatomy of a breakup. I think that was what was outstanding about it—its simplicity and its relatability. Even when we interview applicants for our creatives, when we ask them, “What’s your favorite Star Cinema movie?” The answer would always be “One More Chance.”

‘It had to be Ben&Ben’

Maribel: I watched the movie again two times and when I focused on it, I said it had to be Ben&Ben. I’m a fan of Ben&Ben. And the angst in the movie bagay na bagay sa songs nila. My thought balloon was, “My god, bring these two together—‘One More Chance’ and Ben&Ben—and half the battle is done.”

Kriz: The inclusion of Ben&Ben solidified the whole idea of it as a musical. Nung sinabi nilang “One More Chance the Musical Featuring the Songs of Ben&Ben,” I was super sold on the idea. Let’s do it.

Miguel Benjamin, Ben&Ben: We all had the same reaction—do we actually deserve an opportunity like this? It’s humbling because all the now iconic [jukebox] musicals are catalogs by artists that we look up to. They all have storied careers … and we felt like we haven’t reached that yet.

Myke: They’re up there. I mean, they’re the APO of our generation. They wouldn’t need to have a reunion concert because they will stay forever. We’re going to grow old with them.

Paolo Benjamin, Ben&Ben: We spent probably two weeks evaluating … but eventually we said, let’s really give this project our all because it’s something that not everyone gets a chance to be a part of.

Miguel: What changed our perspective was the opportunity to take part in the creation of collaborative art with such a beloved film and such great storytellers such as Peta …

Our fans have been vocal about wanting to hear our songs in a musical and this was one major curveball for them because it’s not just a musical, it’s a musical with “One More Chance” which a lot of them also love. So sobrang happy nila. As a fan of “One More Chance,” sobrang happy ko din.

"One More Chance The Musical"
Ben&Ben with the Popoys and Bashas of “One More Chance The Musical”

Stars aligning

Maribel: We didn’t know that Ben&Ben were really fans of “One More Chance.” And [Ben&Ben member] Patricia Lasaten’s father Jesse is the original music composer of “One More Chance” the movie. So talk about the stars aligning.

Miguel: We were 13 when it came out in 2007. I watched it. Idol ko si John Lloyd high school pa lang ako. Nung nagro-roll-up siya ng pants, pati ako nagro-roll-up ng pants. (John Lloyd was my idol when I was in high school. I used to roll up my pants like he did.) 

And I played Popoy in Ben&Ben’s reenactment of “One More Chance” [on YouTube] pero joke time lang ‘yun, I don’t really act. Yung humor ng universe no? ‘Yung mga ‘di mo akalain na mga bagay na mangyayari, a few years later, nandito tayo.

Choosing the songs

Maribel: What we had to think about was—mag-o-original ba sila? Will they create music for this? But in the end we went towards existing music.

Miguel: Trust ‘yun eh. If you feel our body of work can give this story justice, sige po. When we said yes, talagang all in. Ito po ‘yung mga kanta namin, kayo na po bahala pumili. We trusted them to choose the songs which they feel would resonate with the story and with the audiences who will watch this.

Michelle: Tita Maribel said, we have to create a concept paper for Star Cinema. The directive was: “One More Chance,” Ben&Ben, how are you gonna tell it? Of course at first I was overwhelmed because both are huge but at the same time, it was exciting because sh_t, they’re both icons.

After we passed the concept paper, they gave me the heads-up that I might write it. Syempre kinilig ako. Oh my god. And oh my god din bacause this is a huge responsibility because both Ben&Ben and “One More Chance” have a huge following. How do you please both?

There was a lull, life happened, I got pregnant, we were waiting for the script for me to study. By the time I got the call to start writing, my baby was already 3 months old. That’s how long this took. When this project started, I didn’t have a kid yet.

Maribel: She wasn’t even married yet when it started.

"One More Chance The Musical"
Playwright Michelle Ngu-Nario, musical director and sound designer Myke Salomon and director Maribel Legarda

Writing the script

Michelle: Tita Maribel gave me a month to do the script. I watched and rewatched the movie, hindi ko na mabilang ilang beses, I read the screenplay and I read the book—yes, there’s a book. 

From there, binuo ko na … I can expand this, I can put this song in. I’m a Ben&Ben fan too. I listened to all their songs and reviewed them and while I was writing the outline, I was shortlisting songs. The first draft already had proposed songs.

Maribel: Then the draft will go to Myke, Myke has to work on it and Myke is a busy busy boy.

Musical decisions

Myke: It’s always the same hard challenge, just like when I worked on “Rak of Aegis,” “Ang Huling El Bimbo.” It’s considering the script and the existing songs and what’s the best thing to do for the whole narrative. I make artistic and musical decisions every day … It requires my whole life experience to decide on one bar. My foundation and ‘yung puhunan ko as a musical director is I’m also an actor—that’s my lens. How do I tell this story through music? How do I embody the melody, the songs, the harmony?

Maribel: It’s the first time that we put existing text with existing music. Because usually, jukebox is there’s existing music and then you write a story. Super extra challenge siya. There’s an art to it.

Myke: Yung music is text, it really has to come from the storyteller. That’s my approach. Michelle considered all the songs for the scenes—ang dami nun, parang jigsaw puzzle siya.

Michelle: Does this song fit? What other context can we find in this song? It’s a collaboration.

Unreleased songs

Paolo: They will be using songs that we haven’t necessarily released on streaming but are very very close to us as a band. To hear that they’re making it a significant part of the story means a lot to us.

Myke: I have to see the scenes, I have to see the people involved in the scenes, what’s the objective, what do the characters need to do here? Ano bang setting nito? Nasa pyesta ba o nasa beach? A lot of ideas come from that. I call myself a flower arranger—I line up the flowers at the wedding but I don’t meddle in the love story.

Maribel: They’re fans, I’m not. It’s also important to have that voice. Sometimes it’s hard to question if you’re a fan, you don’t want to touch it, because you’re so reverent. But of course we had no intention to deconstruct this.

Ang ganda ng script’

Kriz: When we read the script, “Oh my god, ang ganda ng script. (It’s beautiful)” Wala talaga kaming nai-comment masyado sa script because it stayed true to the essence of “One More Chance” (the Musical) and ang ganda ng pagkakapasok nila sa Ben&Ben. What a pairing made in heaven, that’s really how I feel about it.

Michelle: It’s very faithful because we respect the material. We know a lot of people love this story. What you saw in the movie, you’ll see here and more. That’s what’s exciting. What else can you add to something so beautiful?

Maribel: In the film, the barkada was there but the focus was really on Popoy and Basha. But here, they have their own stories. Michelle fleshed it out. We also built up the barkada because musically, hindi naman pwedeng duet lang sila nang duet, ‘di ba? (the leads can’t just keep singing duets.)

"One More Chance The Musical"

Michelle: We based it on the book, on the screenplay, because the original screenplay had scenes that didn’t make it to the film. Yung plus plus… oh my god, I might reveal too much! But we expanded on the different stories, their history as individuals and with one another. And personally, while I was writing the script, I wanted to give Tricia a moment.

Myke: Do you remember the scene where Tricia gives Popoy a song? That’s going to become a song.

Michelle: Kasi justice for Tricia, ‘di ba? We’re going to give Tricia a moment so she can release her angst.

Myke: When Michelle was done with the script, we had another level of discussion and argument. That’s how our relationship is, that’s how all relationships are, right? That’s when we developed paano namin hihimayin yung mga verses and the context so the songs will fit the different characters. 

How will this song become a barkada song? How will this become a barangay song? That’s the fun thing about musicals, you can go beyond the wall and go crazy. There are so many things we can play with and work hard on.

Cancel order

Maribel: And it keeps on going. Recently we decided, “No no no no no, we don’t open Act II that way.” So we changed from “Bibingka” to “Coming Home” because we’re resetting it in a different location, it’s going to be an art festival.

Myke: Cancel order yung “Bibingka.”

Maribel: Gawa na yung “Bibingka” biglang cancel order. Myke was cool about it. It happens.

Myke: I’m open to a lot of things. I have certain parameters to keep the integrity of the songs but that side of me is just 10 percent because I’m not serving the music. There’s no point in me saying, “No, this is my sound,” if it doesn’t mean anything. The purpose is really storytelling.

Maribel: It really has to be the narrative and storytelling. Everything should serve the narrative. The three of us agree on that.

Myke: Nag-aaway lang naman kami sa casting. (We only fight over casting.)

See Also

Casting process of ‘One More Chance’ Musical

Maribel: First, we had a video audition. We looked at over 200 videos.

Myke: We attracted a lot of auditionees… and show buyers. (laughs) A lot of people auditioned to show buy.

Maribel: (laughs) There were more show buyers than auditionees.

"One More Chance The Musical"

Myke: This show is so hard to cast because the chemistry between the characters is so delicate. At the same time, you have to sing well and dance well. They need to be triple threats in telling the story.

Maribel: The first strength of the movie is really the chemistry of Bea and John Lloyd. Grabe, they’re so iconic, ‘di ba? How will I try to match that? You can’t match that. So first is letting go of that. 

In terms of the guy, I was sure that I wanted him to be very male, yung you can imagine him existing with all the macho sh*t inside of him. And then that kind of charm that Bea brings… I just wanted them to really look like friends. When I do casting, I want them different shapes, sizes so when you put them together, they look beautiful onstage. We cut the actors down to 14 so there are a lot of people doubling up the roles. This is the theater, we can do that.

‘Who will play Popoy and Basha?’

Kriz: I’m particularly excited about the cast. That’s what we were most worried about—who will play Popoy and Basha? We give our full trust and faith in Peta. I have so much confidence in Peta. 

After they went through the auditions, nakakatuwa na it was these four people who emerged as Popoy and Basha—Sam Concepcion and Anna Luna who are very incredible actors, CJ Navato and Nicole Omillo… I know they’re going to feel pressure but I hope they get super excited also. I’m also very, very excited to see how they’re going to portray Popoy and Basha.

Sam Concepcion and Anna Luna  in "One More Chance The Musical"
Sam Concepcion and Anna Luna in “One More Chance The Musical”
CJ Navato and Nicole Omillo in "One More Chance The Musical"
CJ Navato and Nicole Omillo in “One More Chance The Musical”

Maribel: I believe you are with the people you need to be. This is our cast. These are who we are meant to be with and we shall do our best. There are many challenges, ang daming montage.

Myke: Especially that opening scene. How? Pano ima-Maribel magic yun? Yun pa lang P1500 na yun, charing!

Maribel: And remember, our theater is small and it’s very bare so you really have to think kasi wala kang tago-tago dito.

Sneak peek

Myke: [This media sneak peek] is like a condo pre-selling, you get to see the drawing. Kung masaya na kayo dito, t*ngina balikan niyo kami in a month. (laughs)

Andrew de Pano, Ben&Ben: I’m seeing everyone’s eyes and they’re wet. We’re all kind of teary-eyed right now. We’ve been playing these songs almost every day for the past few years and to see them in this kind of setting performed by these amazing, amazing performers and to see them with a new story that we’ll get to bring along with us throughout our lives, grabe, we are so touched.

"One More Chance The Musical"

Overwhelming

Miguel: It’s really overwhelming. It felt like an out-of-body experience—you’re watching your music and the plot of a film you love come together, para siyang naging Voltes V. (laughs) Volt in. Nag-fusion, kumbaga. It warms my heart. 

It also felt like they weren’t our songs and I mean that in the most beautiful way possible. It’s like listening to a song for the first time and you feel amazed not just by it but by the experience…

Ang galing. Because apart from the actors, ang galing din ng nag-adapt because they were able to bring together two unrelated works smoothly. It’s like they were made for each other. That’s not easy.

Myke: Lalo akong na-affirm ngayon. For months, I was scared. It was a mix of nervous excitement and fear. I wasn’t a fan of Aegis so I didn’t have that wall, that bubble [while working on “Rak of Aegis”]. But I’m a fan of Ben&Ben. 

When Miguel and Paolo said it was so refreshing to hear these elements because those were things that they also wanted to do but couldn’t because of the context, it felt good. Okay, I can continue tomorrow.

CJ Navato and Nicole Omillo in "One More Chance The Musical"
Myke with Ben&Ben’s Paolo and Miguel Benjamin are in-charge of “One More Chance The Musical”

Sold-out

Maribel: Another first—us selling out the show even before it had been produced. This is the first time this has happened.

Kriz: Literally, I don’t have a ticket yet. To let you know just how crazy it is, Carmi [Raymundo] and Vanessa [Valdez] are both writers [of the movie], Cathy was the director, lahat kami wala pang ticket, ganung level yung pagka-sold out niya. We even wanted to buy shows but they were sold out.

Maribel: We sold out 50 shows so we’re adding. Now we have 65, almost 70 shows. If we feel that there’s still a demand, bakit naman namin hihindian?

Myke: You never know, maybe it will run for seven years. But we have a three-month rule. Charing!

Paolo: For people to have been excited enough to sell it out really quickly, nakakawindang din sya sa amin. It all the more excites me to see what happens because I think a positive response elicits a positive energy to work even harder to make it the best quality musical.

Pressure

Miguel: I’m not even part of the production, I’m just going to watch but I’m feeling the pressure. After seeing today, I feel excited. I feel grateful to everyone who bought tickets ahead of time. Let’s all enjoy it together.

Maribel: Rehearsals started on Monday. In Peta, we always have what we call our working draft. The working draft is our initial roadmap during rehearsals but things change. Like, “Act II has to start this way, Myke, change the song.”

Myke: I remember during “Rak of Aegis,” three days before the opening, we changed Act II.

Maribel: Not the whole thing naman! Just scenes. We did rewrites.

Michelle: It’s never a final draft. Even if you’re staging your 50th show or 60th show, there’s always something you can add and I’m very open to that because our process in Peta is very collaborative. I’m so excited to see how the cast will bring this to life.

Maribel: It didn’t happen before because it wasn’t its time. Now is its time.

“One More Chance The Musical” opens on April 12 at the Peta Theater Center in Quezon City. The musical is presented by PETA together with Metrobank and Robinsons Malls. Get tickets through TicketWorld. Contact Peta at 0917-5765400 or email petatheater@gmail.com.

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