Wednesday, December 22, 2021

An Entrancing World Premiere from a Masterful Musician


We've Battled Monsters Before (John McLellan)

We’ve Battled Monsters Before
Through December 26, 2021 (and virtually)

Justin Huertas was born lucky. He is perfectly positioned to take advantage of exactly this age of “becoming inclusive,” as theater works to widen and embrace diverse stories from diverse backgrounds. He’s Gay and Filipino American. He is also, luckily, a hugely talented musician/writer/actor/performer. And it’s lucky for us (particularly in Seattle) that we get to experience his art.

Huertas often writes from a perspective of a young person uneasy with their circumstance or background or family. His first major musical, Lizard Boy, set the table with a story of a boy who magically is turned into a lizard and has to manage how he stands in the world being so clearly different from everyone else. The genesis of the story is linked to Huertas’ journey of coming out Gay, and his Filipino-American heritage, and having to deal with feeling different than others. Like the stories he’s chosen subsequently, the boy triumphs in the end.

While his next effort, Howl’s Moving Castle, was not his own story (it’s an adaptation of a well-known book and movie), it, too, has magical elements and young people struggling with who they will be and how they will navigate life. His songs showed progress in sophistication and in how they move the story along and help the musical come to life.

The summer before Covid, Huertas teamed up with Mathew Wright and Artswest, where you can also see We’ve Battled Monsters Before until December 26th or possibly virtually online, with his next world premiere, The Last World Octopus Wrestling Champion. The premise for that story is based on real Puget Sound octopus wrestling! Around that, he crafted a family story of secrets, magic (of course), and learning about how to accept and be your real self.

With each new creation, his musician-ship matures a little bit more, his lyrics become more pointed, and the “reasons” things happen in his musicals continue to strengthen. And now, his latest world premiere, We’ve Battled Monsters Before, arrives. Based on a Filipino poem, Ibong Adarna, we have a family of generations of secret warriors with a young woman who doesn’t know her own power or what it’s to be used for.