Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Soaring Soliloquies, Belting Songs and Moving Symbols In Himala, Isang Musikal.

From screen to stage, Himala, a 1982 critically acclaimed film by the late National Artist for Film Ishmael Bernal still reflects, replicates and resonates today. Thanks to the creative, collective and collaborative production effort of The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical for bringing back HIMALA: Isang Musikal, their first co-produced full-length musical in Filipino. An original musical with book and lyrics by Ricky Lee, music and lyrics by Vince de Jesus and with direction and set design by Ed Lacson Jr. is now playing at the Power MAC Center Spotlight, Circuit Makati from 10th of February to 4th of March. "Walang Himala" debuted at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Tanghalang Pilipino's 20th theater season and returned on its 21st season due to popular demand. This new production with new cast took three years to reinvent. It became a rare iconic evening as the original and current cast and creative gathered during the invitational press and VIP night, in attendance of course is Nora Aunor, the original Elsa in the film, hailed as Superstar of Philippine cinema.

The very excited and scared Aicelle Santos stepping into the classic shoes of Elsa, considered the hardest role she have ever played. Her recent performance in "Maynila Sa Mga Kuko Ng Liwanag" was a thrilling and moving scene but in Himala everything was all about her. Santos tenacity, clarity and maturity was undeniably and unbelievably a signature. The creative process and motivation to discover the inner anguish of Elsa was definitively convincing, an act of moving silence. The vivacious and voluptuous singer turned theater actress Bituin Escalante playing the loving and caring Saling who adopted Elsa deserve highly recognition. Seated on a very good sightline and saw her very up close and personal made my watching experience moving and mesmerizing. A favorite of mine ever since she turned pro, I can't wait to see her vicious in the upcoming production of Rapunzel later this year. I like her because she's always a monster onstage regardless of the role. Pilo former lover of Chayong is Sandino Martin, a follow-up from his featured performance as Bitoy in the screen adaptation of Ang Larawan. The moment he entered the stage, it became statement already. The innocent looking face turning into a lunatic freak is hard to be missed, effectively insane. 
Regular and seasoned actor David Ezra, son of Dulce who originated the role of Saling, is playing filmmaker Orly who came to Cupang to document as the story unfold until the bitter end. It's not surprising that you will catch Ezra in full swing of his character, as always he never fails to amaze and surprise. For him to look mature, he had trimmed moustache, that's a pro. Everyone in the cast made a remarkable and notable improvisation and impersonation whether nonverbal or verbal, hauntingly beautiful and strikingly deep.

This new experimental staging has both minimal and permanent set to achieve realistic approach combined and complemented with mood dimmed lighting designed by Barbie Tan Tiongco. The idea of having patrons seated in theatre-in-the-round is suitably perfect for the actor-audience interaction. Authenticity is required for props and scenery because of the close proximity to the patrons. Lacson, responsible for stage businesses, blockings and movements was impressive. He created quite stunning placements of these actors specifically the ensemble, with proper emphasis on both symmetrical and asymmetrical balance despite the limited space as the story takes place. 
The Cast and crew of Himala:Isang Musikal with Superstar Nora Aunor and Master writer Rickey Lee.
Himala: Isang Musikal is a story about faith and truth, miracles and curses, morality and immorality, love and friendship depicted in the eyes of Elsa and the people of Cupang. A must see musical mirroring and lamenting Filipino values, cultures and traditions narratively and symbolically expressed in different forms and genres.

Text and Photos by Gilbert Kim Sancha. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Popular Folktale and Familiar Love Tale In "Nang Dalawin Ng Pag-ibig Si Juan Tamad"

Tanghalang Pilipino, the resident theater company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines will raise its final curtain as the 31st Theater Season concludes with " Nang Dalawin Ng Pag-ibig Si Juan Tamad, " Rody Vera's stage adaptation of the book, " How Love Came To Juan Tamad " written by National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin. Presented by Cultural Center Of The Philippines, Tanghalang Pilipino and Hotel Kamana Sanctuary Resort & Spa to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of Nick Joaquin, and brought by Yellow Pages. Included in Joaquin's 1979 " Pop Stories For Groovy Kids, " Critics weighed and described the exact depiction of the forever brokenhearted Mariyang Makiling and Juan Tamad hailed as pop idol and remained model to the youth. Following the love triangle of Filipino legends Mariya Makiling (Goddess Of Love), Monte Banahaw (God Of War) and Juan Tamad. 
The iconic characters are reinvented and reimagined to spice up the millennials through notable and quotable " hugot " lines and quotes wearing eclectic and colorful costumes where new age meets indigenous. The mash-up play will become more complex with Ba'I, brother of Monte Banahaw and God Of Laguna Lake who created a " love potion " for Mariya Makiling asked by Monte Banahaw. The spell worked with Mariya Makiling, Banahaw learned that she truly, madly and deeply fell in love with nobody but a loafer Juan Tamad whom she feeds and fawns. Juan who desired anything but to sleep and laze away asked help from Ulap to bring him back including the gilded and bejeweled bed given by the fairy.
Celebrate the month of " Feb-ibig " and world class Filipino artistry and craftsmanship with the staging of Nang Dalawin Ng Pag-ibig Si Juan Tamad from February 16 to March 11, 2018 at Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (CCP Little Theater) with evening performances every Friday and Saturday at 8pm and matinee performances every Saturday and Sunday at 3pm. Sponsors, show buyers and block buyers may call Tanghalang Pilipino at 832-1125 local 1620 to 1621. You may also reach Lorelei Celestino at 09156072275 or Juan Lorenzo Marco at 09998843821. Tickets are also available by calling CCP Box Office at 8323704 or Ticketworld at 8919999. Ticket Prices: Orchestra Center 1,000 and Orchestra Side 800 with 50% off for students and 20% for government employees, senior citizens and person with disabilities. 
The Cast JV Ibesate (Ba'I) Aldo Vencialo (Monte Banahaw) Lhorvie Nuevo (Ulap) Antonette Go (Abugada) Ybes Bagadiong (Juan Tamad) Manok Nellas (Mariyang Makiling) Eunice Pacia (Ina/Hukom) Guest Artists Cheeno Uy Macaraig Dessa Marqueses Jeremi Flores Ariel Cruz Jonalou Fabon Artistic Staff Rody Vera (Stage Adaptation) Jonathan Tadioan (Director) Marco Viaña (Production Designer) Paw Castillo (Production Designer Assistant TJ Ramos (Musical Director/Composer) John Batalla (Lighting Director) Ronelson Yadao (Choreographer) Doray Dayao (Stage Manager) Erick Sindol (Deputy Stage Manager) Cristina Adigue (Assistant Stage Manager)

Text and Photos by Gilbert Kim Sancha. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Don Quixote, Ballet Philippines' Quintessential 48th Season ender Ft. American Baseball Player Joseph Gatti

Ballet Philippines, the first resident company of Cultural Center of the Philippines, founded in 1969 by National Artist for Dance Alice Reyes and Eddie Elejar, is the preeminent classical and contemporary dance company in the country widely recognized today as a cornerstone of contemporary Filipino identity. Ballet Philippines presents this classic lavish and flourish tell tale of Miguel Cervantes following the lofty adventure of Don Quixote in Barcelona where he meets an innkeeper daughter, Kitri, whom he thought his ladylove Dulcinea.
Historically speaking, DON QUIXOTE was first staged in 1973 and 2011 was its last performance. This timeless splendor celebrating its crystal year in Ballet Philippines' stage, is a perfect show for first timer because of romantic-comedy theme, known for dizzying turns, signature leaps and death-defying lifts.
Joseph Gatti. 
For nearly three decades, spanning four continents, Adam Sage, current Associate Artistic Director and Ballet Master of Ballet Philippines is this year's "regisseur" Not only that he has mentored, coached and choreographed 50 works to his credentials, he performed as Don Quixote in 1981 production of Ballet Philippines. Appearing as International Guest Artist in the titular tole is 23 year old Joseph Gatti, born in Warwick (New York) and raised in Orlando (Florida).
Being the first American male dancer to win gold at the New York International Ballet Competition, a former Principal Dancer of Cincinnati Ballet and Corella Ballet and First Soloist of Boston Ballet, he was amazed how Filipino dancers supports each other during rehearsals. Sportsman Gatti who loved playing baseball, was mentored and influenced by Sage, arrived in Manila January 31, Wednesday is enjoying the Philippines for the first time. Playing opposite to Gatti as Kitri, is returning Resident Guest Artist for the fourth times this season is the beautiful Candice Adea.

The first Filipina to win First Prize at the 7th Helsinki International Ballet and Silver Medalist at the 2010 USA International Ballet Competition, quoted by National Artist for Dance Alice Reyes as a lucky girl to share a stage with Gatti. Adea is reprising her role, she played Kitri in 2011. Other Guest Artists to appear onstage are Jojo Mamangun as Don Quixote and Ronelson Yadao as Espada. Resident artists Jemima Reyes and Monica Gana as Kitri alternates, Denise Parungao and Katrene San Miguel as Mercedes alternates and Victor Maguad and Ian Ocampo as Basilio alternates.

Text and Photos by Gilbert Kim Sancha.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

PETA’s “Night, Mother”: Raw and Golden



Opening its curtains for 2018, PETA brings an intimate production of the Filipino adaption of  Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Night, Mother”. The play, adapted by Ian Lomongo and directed by Melvin Lee, will be PETA’s culminating production for its 50th season.

Set in EJK and Tokhang era of 2017, the play’s narrative revolves around the complex emotional and provocative issue of urban modern life. This two-woman play is a story of a night when a divorced woman, Jessie, reveals her plan of ending her life to her mother Thelma. Throughout the 90-minute course of the show, no intermission, would take the audience to rollercoaster of emotion as Thelma convinces Jessie how worth-living life is.
Entering the intimate PETA-Phinma theater, cross-sectioned typical middle-class Filipino home will welcome you on stage. Stacks of cubic façade is prominent on the stage bringing a strong and hard atmosphere in contrast with the cozy homey feeling of the house. Moreover, it is a working house which was really amazing. A working refrigerator and stove complete with kitchen wares makes it possible for Thelma to prepare hot chocolate on set! This great set design by Ben Padero, sends the audience back to their homes which makes it easy to for them to be immersed into the plot.  
Wouldn’t it be a big stage for just two actors? That’s a no, for Eugene Domingo and Sherry Lara. Their portrayal of the roles of Jessie and Thelma respectively were bigger than the stage itself. Waves of subtle emotions crashes as Thelma and Jessie exchange lines, bargains, favors and untimely last will. Sherry Lara’s motherly care is as natural as it can be- effortless and effervescent. On the other hand, Eugene Domingo’s Jessie is very relatable-no pretentions and sincere. The timing of the dark humorous banters is on point in a sense that you could catch yourself cracking a light laugh in the middle of a dramatic exchanges. There’s no particular time all throughout the act where you feel the stage is empty or seem spacious. Instead, you will be locked to where the two actors are. Just still and savor.
The exposition of the material was seamless. Although the original material was written four decades ago, the story-telling was very relevant to today’s setting. It bears the current socio-political climate that gives body to the material. The Filipino adaptation captures today’s context of a family, urban living and self struggles that even some millennials are going through.

The theme of “Night, Mother’ transcends time. The material has no absolute theme in general, but a web of themes that concludes to a night where the story all happens. One facet that can be literally seen is the theme of depression and suicide which is timely due to increasing awareness to mental health. Nevertheless, this play can give at least a peek to the face of depression and suicide and why it is an important human concern.
Furthermore, as what its director always emphasizes, the play encompasses beyond the literal and the obvious. It provokes us to talk about those taboo life themes that are essentials such as family relationships, isolation and loneliness. Specifically, it emphasizes the significance of an open and honest conversation between family members. Basically, the play is all about that night when Jessie and Thelma engaged to a meaningful family conversation which will also be their last. A type of conversation that can be done any time of the day and with a topic in which bidding goodbye would be the least. Instead, being full with her despair, Jessie had the strength to have the talk when she finally decided to end her life that night. This leads us to question that if an open and honest line between Thelma and Jessie could have avoided Jessie of committing suicide. Or, thus Thelma’s “motherly” instinct of overprotecting Jessie, to the point of sugarcoating bitter truths and realty, provoked her decision? Or, Jessie just fall out of love with life or with her family? Answers were unknown. Open-ended as it is, it leads to discussion of the value of human relationships, communication and listening.
PETA’s “Night, Mother” is a fresh breather from their grandiose musicals. Raw and pure, it would dig and bore to your consciousness the true sense of human relationship. This intimate play also epitomizes PETA’s maturity in staging theater productions and its relevance to society. Indeed, a solid culmination of its golden season.
Catch PETA’s “Night, Mother” which will run from February 2 to March 18, 2018 at PETA Theater Center, New Manila, Quezon City. For Tickets visit www.ticketworld.com.ph or contact PETA PR Office at 0927-603-5913.

Text and photos by Arriane Dave Farnazo. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

REP’s A Comedy of Tenors: An Operatic Mayhem.

Repertory Philippines (REP) open this year with a bang with its first stage production offering “A
Comedy of Tenors”. Directed by Miguel Faustmann, this operatic comedy by Tony Award-winning Ken Ludwig promises a hilarious chaos that could left you gagging. A way to start REP’s 51st Season.

Set in 1930’s Parisian Hotel, the narrative revolves around the chaotic mayhem as the veteran tenor Tito Merelli, the uprising star Carlo Nucci and Max prepare for their concert that would be leave a mark as the concert of the century. As the preparation draws toward the performance night, the gang finds their selves in the intersection of secret love affairs, mistaken identities and romantic misunderstanding that stirs the quirks and qualms of the different personalities of the characters. Through-out the 2-hour show, humorous banters and timeless comedic acts will surely keep you indulging.
1930’’s Paris is known for their marble hotels which grandeur was captured by the set design. The comic yet plush hotel stage sets the tone of the show. Classy marble posts, elegant chandelier, and gold-lined French fixtures brings you to a time capsule back to its era. Moreover,  lighting on the set was light but with the right kind of vivid which is smooth to the eye without compromising the mood of the scenes. Overall, the set complements and did justice to the material.
A frantic producer and his equally frazzled assistant, an Italian age-insecure tenor and his hot-blooded wife, an actress-wannabe daughter and her uprising singer lover, the venetian-pride bell hopper, and the Russian vixen soprano make the colorful crazy ensemble. Aside from the difficult toll of delivering on-point comical punchlines, the actors must also have an operatic prowess in singing which is being asked by the material. Seasoned cast that possesses the best of both worlds give justice to the play. Lorenz Martinez was great in playing both the roles of Bepo and Tito at the same time in tandem with the very witty Issa Litton as Maria. Arman Ferrer’s debut performance on a full-length theater play was stellar and at par with his veteran co-actors paired with his impressive singing. Flawless performance from the cast really shows their experience and their veteran status in the theater scene.
Using and sticking to an original period-themed comedy piece does not always ensure to capture contemporary audience, but “A Comedy of Tenor” material pulled it off. It has a simple plot, but with intricate scenes with language that is both contextually accurate and still relatable. The use of fade away transitions between sections of the play creates a sitcom atmosphere which enhances the over-all experience of the play. Witty acting and big movements that uses almost the whole stage which never leaves a dull moment and would lock you up until to very last moment. Kudos to the director for putting a good ensemble for this kind of material which makes it not hard to chew instead offers a fruity bubbly experience. 
The play may come across as simple comedy that is plainly written to make you laugh and entertain you for a night but there are also snippets of takeaways with this play. It shows how the concoction of different egos could create a chaos, blur people’s judgment and leads to misunderstanding; how love and passion could conquer dreams and also how much it cost; and, that open communication and unveiling the truths would eventually bear harmony. Subtle depth messages may not come as obvious as being shadowed by its very good entertainment value but it manages to afloat above the comical skits.
Known for its grand productions and adaptation of award-winning international plays, Repertory Philippines again delivers with “A Comedy of Tenors”. With its up roaring and hysteric cast and story, Comedy of Tenors offers a light-hearted play with a taste of great operatic singing that will just lit up your weary hearts after a tiring week. Indeed, a solid jump-start for REP’s 51st season.
Don’t miss and join Tito, Carlo, Bepo and the crew as they put up the concert of the century! A comedy of tenors runs from January 26- February 18, 2018 at Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1, Makati City. For tickets, visit www.ticketworld.com.ph or contact REP at 843-3570.


Text and photos by Arriane Dave Farnazo. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Himala: Isang Musikal, the 2018 comeback.

It’s been 30 years, but Himala the movie by the late Ishmael Bernal written by Ricky Lee is still an immortal icon in Philippine Cinema, it star no less but the Superstar Nora Aunor as the iconic Elsa, the lady from Cupang who brought many changes because of a miracle she witness.

This 2018, Sandbox Collective with 9 Works Theatrical is bringing once again the intense and dramatic stage version of this film, it features a new set of cast mostly young and proven powerful in delivering performance on stage.
Ed Lacson is directing this 2018 stage version, he is putting a lot of new things in this production that is extremely new to all theater fanatics.

“We’re trying something very different from typical musical theater, were experimenting on not using any lapel, not doing choreography, it’s a big risk and at the same time it excite me as the director as well as the cast. “ Lacson said.

Master writer Ricky Lee is happy and excited for this year’s staging of Himala, he find it more dramatic and not far from his movie version.

“Mas gusto ko yung magiging treatment nila sa musical, I think mas totoo yun sa spirit ng movie, diretso sa puso at kaluluwa yung connection mo sa audience.” Lee said.

Former Ladiva and the star of Rak of Aegis is playing the lead role as Elsa, Aicelle Santos find it challenging and complex since it is an iconic landmark for Nora Aunor.

“We go to rehearsal every day, character analysis because we know how complex the character of Elsa at kung paano nakapagandang ginampanan ni Ms. Nora yun at ni Ms. May Bayot sa Musical, hoping we could give justice to it.” Santos said.
Other cast include Kakki Teodoro as Nimia, Neomi Gonzales as Chayong, Sandino Martin as Pilo, Bituin Escalante as her mother Nanay Saling. Part of the cast also are David Ezra, Floyd Tena, Omar Uddin, Jenny Villegas, Glenda Liao, Cristy Peredo, Matel Patayon, Sigrid Balbas, Hazel Maranan, Raflesia Bravo, Roxy Aldiosa, Ej Pepito, Joshua Cabiladas, Kits Falcis, Roby Malubay, Gary Junsay, Mano Domingo, Neil Tolentino, Jasper Jimenez and so many more.

Himala: Isang Musikal is an original Filipino musical with book and lyrics by Ricky Lee and music and lyrics by Vince De Jesus, Direction and set design by Ed Lacson, Jr, musical arrangement by Jed Balsamo, lighting design by Barbie Tan-Tiongco and costume design by Carlo Pagunaling.

It will be stage at Power MAC Center Spotlight, Circuit Makati from February 10 to March 4, 2018. For Inquiries and tickets contact 0917.5545560, 586-7105, sab@thesandboxcollective.com or Ticketworld at 891-9999. For list of show buyer and contact details please visit TheSandboxCollective & 9WorksTheatrical in Facebook page.