Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rama Hari (Ballet Philippines)

December 2, 2012

I have long heard about the 1980 theater classic "Rama Hari," who starred Basil Valdez, Leo Valdez and a then relatively unknown singer named Kuh Ledesma.  This epic show was  a collaboration among giants in the theater world.  The choreography was by Alice Reyes, the founder of Ballet Philippines.  The libretto was by Bienvenido Lumbera, a National Artist in Literature, adapting stories from the Indian epic "Ramayana". The music was by Ryan Cayabyab, who was only 26 years old back then when he wrote the score.  The set and costumes were by the late Salvador Bernal, also a National Artist.


This year, Ballet Philippines (under Ms. Margie Moran) brings all the magic back to the CCP from November 30 to December 9, 2012, with a cast headed by pop stars Christian Bautista and Karylle.  This is must-see theater!

Must see, yes.  But I have not had the time to go buy tickets.  Then just earlier this week, I chanced upon a promo in Facebook for free tickets to Rama Hari from  I just answered the questions and shared their FB status, and did not think much about it anymore.  Then, last Thursday November 29, while doing surgery in the operating room, I unexpectedly get a call from Ms. Kae of announcing that I had won THREE free tickets to this show on December 1!  I picked up the tickets that very afternoon.

Being a Saturday, my clinic on December 1 was only supposed to be up to 2 pm. However, it did not end on time.  I saw my last patient by 4 pm.  Without having eaten lunch yet, I immediately went home to pick up my wife and daughter.  We unfortunately reached the CCP Main Theater already past 6:30 pm.  We barely sat down, already regaled by the clean white stage design, and Christian Bautista's amazingly soaring voice that we caught, when after he sang, the intermission was announced!  We barely caught the last 10 minutes of Act 1.  So this article will basically be a review only of Act 2.


Act 2 tells the story of Rama and Sita encountering the evil brother and sister duo Ravana and Soopranakha.     Sookpranakha lusts after Rama and tries to seduce him.  Sita was deceived, lured and abducted by Ravana.  Rama enlists the help of Monkey King Hanuman to help him get Sita back.  Will the devoted couple ever get back together again?

Wait a minute, isn't that already the whole story we read in all the press releases for this show?  So what on earth happened in Act 1?  Anyway....

It took a while to figure out what was going on onstage.  The conceit here is that the story of Rama and Sita were being simultaneously told in both dance and song!  While Christian and Karylle were playing Rama and Sita as actors and singers, there were Jean Marc Cordero and Katherine Trofeo  playing the same characters Rama and Sita as ballet dancers.  Even the supporting roles of Ravana, Soorpanakha, Hanuman and Rama's loyal brother Lakshmana, have both singers and dancers to represent them.  Your eyes will be very busy following all the action on stage, not to mention the English subtitles they are flashing overhead!

When it reached the Ravana/Soorpranakha episode, I did not expect the language of the play to turn modern, funny and even vulgar!  There were definitely Parental Guidance moments in that part of the play, not only in the dancing, but also in the song lyrics!


Christian Bautista and Karylle really carried the show very well as Rama and Sita.  They both look regal in stage presence and demeanor.  And their singing is flawless!  Soaring and effortless, this was a vast improvement of my previous viewing experience of their performances in "West Side Story" years back, which was sadly lacking in excitement or power.  But tonight, their performances as Rama and Sita were memorably stellar, though both were a bit stiff in the dancing department but we can overlook that.

As for their ballet counterparts, Katherine Trofeo danced Sita very well indeed.  Very very graceful.  That part where she was being ravished by Ravana was heartbreaking and dramatic.  On the other hand, Jean Marc Cordero, in my opinion, unfortunately did NOT have bearing enough to look like a Rama.  He did not feel credible as the King and Hero.  The male dancers who essayed Lakshmana (Luis Cabrera, Jr.) or Hanuman (Emmanuelle Guillermo) all had better physicality than Jean Marc, so he pales in comparison when he is dancing with these other guys.  His ill-fitting old-rose-colored outfit did not really complement him as well.


The singer who played Ravana (Christian Rey Marbella) had a fantastically high voice.  His songs were reminiscent of those of Judas in "Jesus Christ Superstar."  The more famous Ravana may have been Robert Sena, but Mr. Marbella did not disappoint.  The dancer who played Ravana (Timothy Cabrera) similarly had that appropriate sinister look, presence and dancing skill.  The singer who played Soorpranakha (Amparo Sietereales)  had a lot of fun with her naughty role and sang powerfully with evil glee, and so did her ballet counterpart (Rita Angela Winder) match this with lustful dance moves.  The singer who belted the songs of Hanuman (Breznev Larlar) had a strong voice to match his sense of humor, as did the dancing counterpart of this simian role (Guillermo) with his physical comedy.

"Rama Hari" was really a stage experience of a different sort we rarely encounter now.  The live music played by the Philippine Philaharmonic Orchestra, with the amazing vocal stylings of the UP Concert Chorus, was perfectly rendered and in sync with the busy stage action. It is indeed must-see theater.  Go catch it as it runs only up to December 9, 2012.


  1. Karylle and Christian Bautista is really a nice combination as they have already developed chemistry from working together in the past.

  2. Hi Franc. Some of the parents in our homeschooling group went to watch the press con today together with their daughters. Honestly, I haven't watch Rama Hari so I am not familiar with the plot but I know its one of the popular Indian stories and its a story about love.

    Had a pleasure to talk to musical director, Ed Gatchalian yesterday and he mentioned something interesting about plays. He said that most of the timeless plays or performances are based on a historical period or event but not really about the history. Like Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, and I guess you can include Rama & Sita.

    Anyway, are you going to watch Rivalry? or have you watched it before?

    1. Hi Ia. This is Fred. While this show is a triumphant show of Filipino talent in terms of music and dance, it is just a little issue that it does not tell a truly Filipino story. "Rama Hari" is based on episodes of the classic epic of India called the "Ramayana."

    2. About "Rivalry" I have not seen it before, but am curious to see it because of the good reviews it got in its first run. Maybe it is because I am neither blue nor green that was why I was not too keen to watch it the first time. How about you? Why do you ask?

    3. Omg. Im sorry Fred. I mix up names. Of course, I knew that your name is Fred but I still wrote the wrong name. Sooooooooo sorry. (red with embarrassment) :(

  3. Haven't watched the show yet, couldn't find the time to do so but I really want to. I think we should all support local theatrical and musical productions like this one. Lets not make this a dying art here in the Philippines - the next generation deserves to experience this.

  4. I heard this is one of the best play this year... i hope i can watch this Rama Hari :(

  5. I thought at first it was something like Rama at Sita, later did I realize it was a different production. I heard the song Nagbalik ka na, Mahal on youtube , listening to this piece is good enough to inspire people.

  6. i agree Karylle and Christian really have good chemistry like in Kitchen Musical.. As for Rama Hari, it looks interesting but I don't think I'll be able to watch as my December is already packed with work and other plans. :(

  7. Speaking of Karylle, I hope they bring Miss Saigon to Cebu this time. I'm not interested in this musical coz I've already seen the Christian tandem on the kitchen musical.

  8. Love those chemistry as I fond watching them in Kitchen Musical especially when they sing together lalo n cguro s play like this. Hope they can release an album together just like Tony Gonzaga and Sam Milby tandem.

  9. The Kitchen Musical is a totally different category. Rama Hari is worth watching because you get to watch it live and that's where you'll see how good a performer is as far as acting and singing is concerned. A TV show went through a lot of editing already.

  10. The orchestra who performed for the recent staging of Rama Hari was Manila Symphony Orchestra and not the one indicated above. :)