Sunday, January 6, 2019

BİLLBOARD HOT 100 HITS OF 2018!

January 6, 2019




Here are the Hot 100 Singles of 2018 as ranked by Billboard Magazine. This year-end recap is based on Billboard Hot 100 chart performance during between the weeks from Dec 2017 and Nov 2018-dated charts (December 2, 2017 to November 17, 2018). This is a list of last year's most popular songs across all genres, ranked by radio airplay audience impressions and sales data as measured and compiled by Nielsen Music, while streaming activity data provided by online music sources.



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1 "God's Plan" Drake (#1 for 11 weeks, February to April)

Debuted at #1 (the 29th song to do so). Spent its first eleven weeks on the chart at number one (after "One Sweet Day"1996, "Candle in the Wind" 1997 and "I'll Be Missing You" 1997.)  Replaced at #1 by another Drake song "Nice for What." Spent 26 weeks in the top ten and left the chart after 36 weeks. 

2 "Perfect" Ed Sheeran (#1 for 4 weeks, January + 2 weeks, December 2017)

The duet version featuring Beyonce topped the Hot 100 for the first five weeks (23 Dec 2017 to 13 Jan 2018). The original version of the song (Sheeran only) took over at the top on the week ending 20 Jan 2018.

3 "Meant to Be" Bebe Rexha featuring Florida Georgia Line
4 "Havana" Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug (#1 for 1 week, January)
5 "Rockstar" Post Malone featuring 21 Savage
6 "Psycho" Post Malone featuring Ty Dolla Sign (#1 for 1 week, June)
7 "I Like It" Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin (#1 for 1 week, July)
8 "The Middle" Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey
9 "In My Feelings" Drake (#1 for 10 weeks, July to September)
10 "Girls Like You" Maroon 5 featuring Cardi B (#1 for 7 weeks, September to November)






11 "Nice for What" Drake (#1 for 8 weeks, April to June, non-consecutive)

Drake was the first artist to have a new number-one debut replace his former number-one debut ("God's Plan") at the top of the Hot 100. Stayed at number 1 for 4 weeks first. Replaced by "This is America" for 2 weeks. Returned to #1 for 2 more weeks. Replaced by "Psycho" for 1 week. Returned to #1 for 1 week. Replaced by "Sad!" and "I Like It" for 2 weeks. Returned to #1 again for one more week.

12 "Lucid Dreams" Juice Wrld

13 "Better Now" Post Malone
14 "Finesse" Bruno Mars featuring Cardi B
15 "Boo'd Up" Ella Mai
16 "New Rules" Dua Lipa
17 "Sad!" XXXTentacion (#1 for 1 week, June)
18 "Never Be the Same" Camila Cabello
19 "Love Lies" Khalid and Normani
20 "No Tears Left to Cry" Ariana Grande




21 "Mine" Bazzi

22 "Thunder" Imagine Dragons
23 "Look Alive" BlocBoy JB featuring Drake
24 "Delicate" Taylor Swift
25 "Yes Indeed" Lil Baby and Drake
26 "Friends" Marshmello and Anne-Marie
27 "Bad at Love" Halsey
28 "Taste" Tyga featuring Offset
29 "Let You Down" NF
30 "No Limit" G-Eazy featuring ASAP Rocky and Cardi B




31 "Fefe" 6ix9ine featuring Nicki Minaj and Murda Beatz

32 "Tequila" Dan + Shay
33 "Feel It Still" Portugal. The Man
34 "MotorSport" Migos, Nicki Minaj and Cardi B
35 "I Like Me Better" Lauv
36 "Youngblood" 5 Seconds of Summer
37 "Whatever It Takes" Imagine Dragons
38 "Ric Flair Drip" Offset and Metro Boomin
39 "I Fall Apart" Post Malone
40 "Pray for Me" The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar




41 "Back to You" Selena Gomez

42 "Sicko Mode" Travis Scott
43 "Walk It Talk It" Migos featuring Drake
44 "Gucci Gang" Lil Pump
45 "Him & I" G-Eazy and Halsey
46 "In My Blood" Shawn Mendes
47 "All the Stars" Kendrick Lamar and SZA
48 "Stir Fry" Migos
49 "Too Good at Goodbyes" Sam Smith
50 "Love" Kendrick Lamar featuring Zacari




51 "This Is America" Childish Gambino (#1 for 2 weeks, May)

52 "Nonstop" Drake
53 "Heaven" Kane Brown
54 "Bodak Yellow" Cardi B
55 "Freaky Friday" Lil Dicky featuring Chris Brown
56 "Gummo" 6ix9ine
57 "Plug Walk" Rich the Kid
58 "Wait" Maroon 5
59 "Be Careful" Cardi B
60 "Wolves" Selena Gomez and Marshmello





61 "Bartier Cardi" Cardi B featuring 21 Savage

62 "God Is a Woman" Ariana Grande
63 "Big Bank" YG featuring 2 Chainz, Nicki Minaj and Big Sean
64 "Sorry Not Sorry" Demi Lovato
65 "How Long" Charlie Puth
66 "Lights Down Low" Max featuring Gnash
67 "Young Dumb & Broke" Khalid
68 "One Kiss" Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa
69 "Natural" Imagine Dragons
70 "You Make It Easy" Jason Aldean




71 "Shape of You" Ed Sheeran

72 "I Get the Bag" Gucci Mane featuring Migos
73 "No Brainer" DJ Khaled featuring Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper and Quavo
74 "Plain Jane" ASAP Ferg featuring Nicki Minaj
75 "Sky Walker" Miguel featuring Travis Scott
76 "Marry Me" Thomas Rhett
77 "Eastside" Benny Blanco, Halsey and Khalid
78 "Call Out My Name" The Weeknd
79 "King's Dead" Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future and James Blake
80 "Happier" Marshmello and Bastille




81 "Te Boté" Nio García, Darell and Casper Mágico featuring Bad Bunny, Nicky Jam and Ozuna

82 "Simple" Florida Georgia Line
83 "Lemon" N.E.R.D and Rihanna
84 "1-800-273-8255" Logic featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid
85 "Say Something" Justin Timberlake featuring Chris Stapleton
86 "I'm Upset" Drake
87 "Get Along" Kenny Chesney
88 "Moonlight" XXXTentacion
89 "What Lovers Do" Maroon 5 featuring SZA
90 "X" Nicky Jam and J Balvin






91 "Outside Today" YoungBoy Never Broke Again

92 "Trip" Ella Mai
93 "Dura" Daddy Yankee
94 "Changes" XXXTentacion
95 "Mercy" Brett Young
96 "One Number Away" Luke Combs
97 "Powerglide" Rae Sremmurd featuring Juicy J
98 "IDGAF" Dua Lipa
99 "Mi Gente" J Balvin and Willy William featuring Beyoncé
100 "Believer" Imagine Dragons





Saturday, December 22, 2018

My Yearend Roundup: THE BEST OF PHILIPPINE THEATER 2018

December 22, 2018

For the year 2018, I had seen and written about 43 theater productions: 13 musicals, 12 full-length plays, and 20 one-act plays. I missed all of the productions staged in Ateneo because of schedule conflicts and the bad traffic in that area. This was a pity because I had missed several of the year's best reviewed plays and musicals, like "Desaparecidos," "Dekada '70" and the revival of "Mula sa Buwan" because it was difficult for me to go to Ateneo. Restagings of productions I had seen and cited before were also not included anymore, like "Rak of Aegis" and "Ang Pag-uusig."

I will list here what I feel were the best among those theater shows I have seen and written about for 2018. (My 2017 list was posted HEREMy 2016 list was posted HEREMy 2015 list was posted HERE.)

I.  ORIGINAL FILIPINO MUSICALS:


Best: BALAG AT ANGUD
(My Full Review)

Music by:  Dodjie Fernandez and Upeng Galang Fernandez 
Written by: Layeta Bucoy
Directed by: Audie Gemora

"Balag" was a bamboo formation adorned with activist sentiments set in front of the Oblation in UP Diliman in 1970 to protest against Martial Law. "Angud: A Forest Once" was an interconnected display of thousands of tree trunk remnants set on CCP grounds in 2007 to protest deforestation of mountains. Playwright Layeta Bucoy took these two pieces of outdoor installation art as her inspiration and came up with a biographical play about their creator -- artist Luis Yee, Jr. (or Junyee), and his quest for artistry against all odds. 





Other Notable Productions:

Himala the Musical (My Review)
Binondo: A Tsinoy Musical (My Review)
Eto Na! Musikal nAPO!  (My Review)
Guadalupe the Musical (My Review)
Ang Huling El Bimbo (My Review)
Supremo Redux (My Review)

Notable Performances:

Rody Vera, Astarte Abraham and Bayang Barrios (Balag at Angud), Aicelle Santos, Bituin Escalante, Noemi Gonzales, Kakki Teodoro and Jenny Villegas de Jesus (Himala), Carla Guevara-Laforteza, Sheila Valderrama-Martinez, David Ezra, Noel Rayos, Ima Castro and Ashlee Factor (Binondo), Jobim Javier, Raul Montesa and Neomi Gonzales (APO), Shiela Valderrama-Martinez, Lorenz Martinez and Cocoy Laurel (Guadalupe), Gian Magdangal, OJ Mariano and Sheila Francisco (El Bimbo), Vincent Tanada, Jomar Bautista and Cherry Bagtas (Supremo Redux)

Memorable Tech Aspects:

The inverted pyramid ceiling fixture of "Balag at Angud." The immersive stage setup of "Himala." The airport scene of "Binondo." The colorful Mexican costumes of "Guadalupe." Toyang's diner in "El Bimbo." 


II. NON-FILIPINO MUSICALS:


Best: SIDE SHOW
(My Full Review)

Book and Lyrics by: Bill Russell
Music by: Henry Krieger
Director: Steven Conde

Daisy and Violet Hilton were a pair of twins conjoined at the hip. They were the star attractions of Sir's sideshow of freaks, which also included the Bearded Lady, the Dog Boy, the 3-Legged Man, Cannibal King among others. One day, talent scout Terry Connor and his musician friend Buddy Foster chanced upon their sideshow, and heard the twins sing. Realizing that he had hit upon a goldmine, Terry wanted to take the twins out of the sideshow and bring them to vaudeville. 







Other Notable Productions:

Waitress (My Review)
Rapunzel! Rapunzel! (My Review)
All Out of Love, the Musical (My Review)

*** Foreign Touring Production: The Lion King (My Review)

Notable Performances:

Gab Pangilinan, Kayla Rivera, Markki Stroem and Arman Ferrer (Side Show), Joanna Ampil, Bituin Escalante and Maronne Cruz (Waitress), Carla Guevara-Laforteza, Arnel Carrion and Alyssa Rosa (Rapunzel); MiG Ayesa, Rachel Alejandro, Tanya Manalang and Raymond Concepcion (All Out of Love), Felicity Kyle Napuli (The Lion King)

Memorable Tech Aspects:

The Roaring 20s costumes of "Side Show." Joe's Pie Diner set of "Waitress." The whimsical set and Socrates' cute Dragon costume in "Rapunzel." The "Circle of Life" scene of "The Lion King." 

III. FILIPINO PLAYS:

A. One-Act:


Best: PULA
(My Full Review)

Written by: Danielle Hill
Directed by: Kyxz Feliciano and Justin Santiago

"Pula" is a play about Martial Law abuses, but this one goes for the jugular in portraying the horrible torture experienced by Lilli Hilao and Boyet Mijares. To say it is gory or explicit is an understatement. This is not a play you "enjoy." Rather, it is absorbing and disturbing, gut-wrenching and painful to watch. The staging, with the dramatic red lights and pulsating music, was very effective. However, the centerpiece of this intense play was the raw, bold and fearless multi-character performance of Sweet Hearty Puyong. One of the most heart-wrenching and realistically harrowing acting I had ever seen on a stage. 





Other Notable Productions:

Babae Nga Naka-Itum (My Review)
Amoy Pulbos ang mga Alabok sa Ilalim ng Riles ng Tren (My Review)
Ang Mga Propesyunal (My Review
Labor Room (My Review)

Notable Performances:

Sweet Hearty Puyong (Pula), Cindy Liper (Babae Nga Naka-Itum), Gerald Magallanes and Pearl Belen (Lukrezia), Kenneth Sadsad and Vean Olmedo (Tula ni Vito at Lira), OJ Bacor and Ado Villanueva (I Didith Show / PSF Theater Fest), Adelle Ibarrientos-Lim and Rachel Mae Penaflor (I Didith Show / RAIN2), Sheryll Ceasico and Skyzx Labastilla (Labor Room), Arnold Reyes and Acey Aguilar (Tulad ng Dati), Bembol Roco and Sherry Lara (Ensayo), Bong Cabrera and Marjorie Lorico (Amoy Pulbos), Dolly de Leon (River Lethe), Ricci Chan and Guelan Luarca (Edgar Allan Hemingway)

Memorable Tech Aspects:

The hovel under the railroad of "Amoy Pulbos." The eerie doll costume of "Lukrezia." The haunted paintings on the wall of "The Gallery." 

B. Full-Length: Original Filipino Material or Filipino Adaptation:



Best: THE KUNDIMAN PARTY
(My Full Review)

Written by: Floy Quintos
Directed by: Dexter M. Santos

Maestra Adela Dolores, a famous operatic diva from more than 30 years ago, has long retired from performing, and was now spending her time teaching her craft to students in her home. She kept a close circle of friends around her, namely the nurturing Helen, the liberated Mitch and the over-protective Mayen. The four ladies regularly met in Maestra's house where they listened to music and discussed politics. One day, her student Antoinette's boyfriend Bobby, a political activist, had the idea of using Maestra's kundiman to revitalize nationalism in the youth via social media.





Other Notable Productions:

Ang Dalagita'y 'Sang Bagay na Di-Buo (My Review)
Manila Notes (My Review)
'Night Mother (My Review)

Notable Performances:

Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino, Stella Canete-Mendoza, Missy Maramara, Frances Makil-Ignacio, Kalil Almonte and Teroy Guzman (Kundiman Party), Missy Maramara and Skyzx Labastilla (Dalagita), Meann Espinosa, Mayen Estanero and Elle Velasco (Manila Notes), Sherry Lara and Eugene Domingo ('Night Mother), Nico Varona and Hariette Damole (Anim na Tauhang Naghahanap ng May-Akda), Aldo Vencilao and Manok Nellas (Nang Dalawin ng Pag-ibig si Juan Tamad)

Memorable Tech Aspects:

Maestra's living room and staircase in "Kundiman Party." The museum lounge in "Manila Notes." The living room and working kitchen in "'Night, Mother." The strikingly dramatic anahaw-inspired centerpiece of "Nang Dalawin ng Pag-ibig si Juan Tamad." 

IV. NON-FILIPINO PLAYS:


Best: SILENT SKY
(My Full Review)

Written by: Lauren Gunderson
Directed by: Joy Virata

While working in the Harvard Observatory, Henrietta Leavitt began to notice a pattern in the pulsations of Cepheid stars, and eventually concluded that there is a relationship between the brightness of the star and the length of time they take to blink, when she then correlated to the distance of this star. While Leavitt's discovery was published in journals, she was not allowed to do her own independent studies. However, eventually, her vital discoveries were eventually acknowledged as the basis of more well-known work by later astronomers like Edwin Hubble.





Other Notable Productions:

Lungs (My Review)
A Doll's House Part II (My Review)
M. Butterfly (My Review)

Notable Performances:


Cathy Azanza-Dy, Sheila Francisco, Naths Everett and Caisa Borromeo (Silent Sky), Jake Cuenca and Sab Jose (Lungs), Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo and Sheila Francisco (A Doll's House Part II), RS Francisco (M. Butterfly), Frances Makil-Ignacio, Ces Quesada, Missy Maramara and Hariette Damole (The Dressing Room), Lorenz Martinez, Jeremy Domingo and Issa Litton (A Comedy of Tenors), Joy Virata and Jay Glorioso (Arsenic and Old Lace)


Memorable Tech Aspects:

Henrietta's work station in "Silent Sky." The illuminated cube of "Lungs." The ornate and glittering chinoisie in "M. Butterfly." The living room in "Arsenic and Old Lace."


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Recap of the MISS UNIVERSE PAGEANT 2018 LIVE IN BANGKOK: Catriona Claims the Crown!

December 17, 2018




We left my brother's house in the outskirts of Bangkok by about 5 am. There was an advisory the day before that the gates of the Impact Arena open at 5 am and would be closed by 6:10 am. We arrived at the arena before 6 am, still very dark, and a huge crowd of people were already there. The people were (mostly) dressed to the nines in formal attire -- with more fancy folks tiaras and sashes (conspicuously Thailand and Philippines).  

Upon alighting from the car, we immediately recognized Miss Universe 2016 Iris Mittenaere in her reddish gown with a deep plunging neckline! Walking in, we saw Bb. Pilipinas Universe 2011 Shamcey Supsup, still looking mighty fine in her grey gown. There were a couple of past Ms. Thailands were also being interviewed by the media when we were making our way to the ticket gates to gain access into the auditorium itself. All this preliminary people-watching was a lot of fun. 



Upon entering the auditorium and finding our seats, we excitedly saw the the X-shaped runway on the main floor, and we took a number photos of it. We were quick to note that we were seating among a big group of Vietnamese fans of, of course, Ms. Vietnam. This was the only other contestant that caught my attention prior to these finals, because of her cool short hairstyle, which she carried with elegance. They would prove to be very actively vocal cheerleaders for their candidate which added to our enjoyment during the show.

While waiting for the show to begin, there was an American preliminary host dressed in a silver suit, a Steve Harvey-lookalike, so some audience members thought he was the real thing. He and his Thai counterpart were trying hard to rouse the audience who seemed to be sluggish because of the early hour. To whet the audience attention even more, they were also giving out Apple products in ticket raffles (but, sigh, our numbers did not get called). 

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There was a countdown just before airtime, and the audience was asked to cheer loudly as the house lights were dimmed about five seconds before the count hit one. There were traditional drummers in red on the stage and the spotlights focused on them as they banged on their native drums. Pop star Ne-yo began to sing his opening number from within a group of Thai dancers dressed in gold in the middle of the X. All 94 candidates walked on and off one arm of the X stage in their casual wear. 

After the song, Steve Harvey, now sporting a gray beard instead of his thick black mustache, came out in his sparkly suit to deliver his opening spiel. He then introduced the panel of pageant analysts plus-sized supermodel Ashley Graham, runway coach Lu Sierra and fashion guru Carson Kressley, whose statements we do not hear in the arena. Since we never heard their commentary at all during the show, I was surprised to read all the backlash against Sierra and Kressley after the show. 

Harvey then proceeded to introduced the all-female board of judges. The list this year included two former Ms. Universe winners: Porntip Bui Simon (nee Nakhirunkanok) who won in 1988 as Ms. Thailand, and Michelle McLean, Miss Namibia who won her title in Bangkok in 1992. There were two judges from the Philippines, which was incredible -- world-renowned fashion designer Monique Lhuiller and a lady introduced as an architect and aviation executive Richelle Louise Singson-Michael.


Ms. Philippines and the Top 20

After the break, the top 20 candidates were called by geographic grouping: First called from Africa-Asia group (31 girls) were South Africa, Philippines, Nepal, Vietnam (in pants!) and Thailand. These first five actually stayed onstage throughout the announcements and the breaks! The Europe group (31 girls) consisted of Poland, Belgium, Great Britain, Hungary and Ireland. The audience reaction to this group was lukewarm compared to the first one. The Americas group (32 girls) had Curacao, Costa Rica (a TV host with sassy advice to Steve!), Canada, Puerto Rico and Jamaica. In the Wildcard group were: USA (I sensed a cold reception), Venezuela, Indonesia, Brazil and Australia

In what seemed to be a new segment of the show, these top 20 girls were given 15 seconds each to individually introduce themselves with their personal messages. Some messages were more memorable and had more impact than others. These were from: Philippines ("It is lack of child support and not poverty that killed dreams."); Vietnam ("From nothing, here I am. I can do it. You can do it!"): Venezuela ("Venezuelans are warriors of love."): and Brazil ("Conserving the Amazon is preserving the life on Earth."). 

This segment was followed by a special feature on Angela Ponce, Ms. Spain, the first transgender candidate in Ms. Universe. A video about her controversial journey was shown which ended with her most powerful statement, "I do not need to win Ms. Universe. I only need to be here." Then, Ms. Ponce came out on stage amidst loud applause. The first thing she did was to remove her Ms. Spain sash as if to say that she represented all transgenders with the same dream, representing diversity in the world. Meanwhile, the controversy about trans-women in pageants for women rages on. 


The Top 10


Top 10 candidates were then announced. All the first five girls from the first cut were still very much in the race: South Africa, Vietnam. Philippines, Nepal and Thailand. Perennial Ms. Universe favorites went in: Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Canada (the only Caucasian left so she certainly stood out in looks). Costa Rica and Curacao were unexpected surprises in the Top 10. These were the girls who the underwent the Swimsuit and Evening Gown competitions that followed. 

Ms. Laos, on their first time to join the pageant, was named Best National Costume. She wore a golden Buddhist figurine costume with two similarly styled puppets in front and behind her. Last year's Ms. Universe Demi Leigh Nel-Peters's advocacy on #Unbreakable because of her horrifying hostage experience. She came out in a white pants suit, which is certainly out of the ordinary. 


The Top 5

The Final Five were announced: Puerto Rico, Vietnam, Philippines, South Africa, and Venezuela. The Philippines was a clear standout in the group with her fiery red gown among the silvery gowns of the others. The questions were provided by fellow contestants. Puerto Rico answered a question about freedom of the press. Vietnam's question was about the #MeToo movement. Philippines question was about legalizing marijuana (I did not like the question because it does not lead to a memorable answer.) South Africa was given a question about refugees, which I thought she nailed quite well. Venezuela's question was relatively easy for veteran beauty queens, about the relevance of beauty pageants. 

The pace picked up when the Top 3 was announced: Philippines, South Africa and Venezuela. It was very disappointing for me that Vietnam did not make it into the Top 3 because she was the most unique candidate, but those are the breaks of the game. All three were given only one question, and it was: "What is the most important lesson you've learned in your life and how would you apply it to your time as Miss Universe?" Philippines wowed the crowd when she spoke about finding silver linings in adversity. South Africa talked about people wanting to be loved and to belong so we should treat each other that way -- felt too short. Venezuela's answer was about working hard to achieve one's dreams -- felt too generic. 


The Top 3

For the final look, Ne-yo serenaded the Top 3 with his 2008 hit song "Miss Independence." The audience was asked to turn on their phone flashlights once Ne-yo starts singing. With the moving backdrop of floating paper lanterns, the collective effect of all the lights within the dark arena was very dramatic and glamorous. From our seats, we can see Philippines gamely dancing to Ne-yo's song off-camera while South Africa and Venezuela were taking their respective walks. 

After Demi Leigh Nel-Peters took her final walk, the final verdict was announced. Second runner-up was Miss Venezuela Shtefany Gutierrez. The first runner-up was Miss South Africa Tamaryn Green. Miss Universe 2018 is Catriona Grey of the Philippines!!! She was the fourth Filipina to win the prestigious title.  As Pia Wurtzbach thwarted a Colombia back-to-back win in 2015, Catriona prevented a South Africa back-to-back this time around. You can see my video of this crowning moment is posted HERE


The Crowning Moment


It was ecstatic pandemonium among the Filipino fans in the audience with that announcement and there were a lot of us there. The Filipino celebrations continued outside the auditorium as Pinoys (many proudly wearing the Barong Tagalog or Filipiniana outfits, some wearing sashes with the country's name or Catriona's distinct ear-cuff behind one ear) gathered together to rejoice together. For one moment of united patriotism, we joined in the group singing of the National Anthem to celebrate Catriona Grey's victory. You can see my video of this Filipino celebration posted HERE


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For me, it had been a crazy impulsive decision to go visit my brother in Bangkok to watch the Miss Universe pageant together. However, it turned out to be a most fortuitous one that paid off big time in terms of memorableness because of Miss Philippines' victory. 


Saturday, December 15, 2018

Review of PhilStagers' RAIN 2: JUVY LEE'S ROMANCE, THE GALLERY, I DIDITH SHOW

December 15, 2018




The show title "RAIN" was actually an acronym which meant "Reinventing Anthology of Individual Narrative." This 3-in-1 show was conceived to offer PSF fans a variety of straight one-act plays, much different from the historical or social musicals that they are known for. The first RAIN last year featured TULA NI VITO AT LIRA by Rachel Gianan, BAGYO BUROL BEKI by Sonny O Valencia and ALIMUONG by JP Lopez. Three new plays have been chosen to be presented this year.

*****


Juvy Lee (Alex Baylon) does her radio show.

The first play was JUVY LEE'S ROMANCE, written and directed by Vince Tanada. Juvy Lee was a very popular radio deejay who hosted a top-rating love advice program. She was offered to transfer her show to television. Problem was she was not attractive and overweight, so she was rejected by the TV execs. Not even her manager Kenji Park could not do anything to help her, as her bitchy but pretty rival Cara MIl got the TV stint instead. Juvy's godmother, who just so happened to be a dermatologist and plastic surgeon, heard of Juvy's plight and came to her rescue. 


Kenji (Kenneth Sadsad) and Penny (Bea Martin)

This play uses a lot of K-pop songs and dances to appeal to the young millennial crowd. I noted that these college students were very fond of romantic scenes, squealing with thrill everytime Kenji (a dashing Kenneth Sadsad) and Juvy Lee (Alex Baylon, in drag) or her alter ego Penny Woo (a flustered Bea Martin) have a close clinch together. Everybody was doing their campiest best to connect to their audience all in good fun, but delivering an important message about how inner beauty trumps outer beauty. 

*****

The second play was THE GALLERY, written by JP Lopez and directed by Vince Tanada. I had seen this play performed for the first time during the PSF Theater Festival just last summer in a much smaller venue. The truly Rated SPG stuff was tamed down a bit when it transitioned to the bigger SM cinema stage. This was an absurd, over-the-top story about a young drug addict gigolo Roy (Johnrey Rivas) who answered an ad by a bizarre intersex artist Dion (OJ Bacor) for a model. 


Roy (Johnrey Rivas) and Dion (OJ Bacar)
get to know each other

The titular gallery was home to weird paintings that their artist claimed were alive so they should never be touched. Later on, what was real and what was hallucination about these paintings were blurred as the intake of illegal drugs entered the picture. As I described it the first time I watched it, "this wild play went in all directions, with diverse elements of various genre -- comedy, sexy, horror and even politics -- all rolled into one flamboyant and schizophrenic show. Its sense of the macabre simply went off the charts!" These words still express exactly what I thought about this play on second watching.

*****
Lilibeth (Gerald Magallanes) talks to 
Didith (Adelle Ibarrientos-Lim)

The third play was I DIDITH SHOW, also written by JP Lopez and again directed by Vince TanadaI first saw this play just last summer as well, but it had a history of winning the grand PSF prize back in 2014. Didith Lorenzo was a superstar singer who has had been hosting a long-running TV variety show, on air for the past 20 years. In this latest episode of her show, her special guest was a pretty and popular new singer named Love Moreno. The two singers vie to get the upper hand over the other during the whole show. While Love had her boyfriend and her manager in her corner, it seemed like Didith only had her loyal gay PA Lilibeth in hers.


Didith (Adele Ibarrientos-Lim) and Love (Rachelle Mae Penaflor)
fighting for the camera



The play is very entertaining, frenetic and hilarious, roasting showbiz stereotypes, with some unexpectedly touching bittersweet moments. Adele Ibarreintos-Lim felt very right as aging bitter Didith, one of the best performances I had seen her play. Rachelle Mae Penaflor, still channeling Ariana Grande's spunk as she reprised her role as Love, much better than when I saw her perform last summer. Their duelling duet of "Tell Him" was like vocal fireworks, bravo! Gerald Magallanes extends his versatility further by playing the distraught gay fan Lilibeth. Vean Olmedo was also playing against her usual type by playing a loud lesbian who was Didith's ex-manager, now Love's.