Friday, December 13, 2013


December 14, 2013

1 THRIFT SHOP Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Wanz (#1 6 weeks nc)
2 BLURRED LINES Robin Thicke Featuring T.I. + Pharrell (#1 12 weeks)
3 RADIOACTIVE Imagine Dragons
4 HARLEM SHAKE Baauer (#1 5 weeks)
5 CAN'T HOLD US Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Ray Dalton (#1 5 weeks)
6 MIRRORS Justin Timberlake
7 JUST GIVE ME A REASON P!nk Featuring Nate Ruess (#1 3 weeks)
8 WHEN I WAS YOUR MAN Bruno Mars (#1 1 week)
9 CRUISE Florida Georgia Line Featuring Nelly
10 ROAR Katy Perry (#1 2 weeks)

11 LOCKED OUT OF HEAVEN Bruno Mars (#1 4 weeks + 2 weeks 2012)
12 HO HEY The Lumineers
13 STAY Rihanna Featuring Mikky Ekko
14 GET LUCKY Daft Punk Featuring Pharrell Williams
15 ROYALS Lorde (#1 9 weeks)
17 WE CAN'T STOP Miley Cyrus
18 WRECKING BALL Miley Cyrus (#1 3 weeks nc)
19 WAKE ME UP! Avicii
20 SUIT & TIE Justin Timberlake Featuring JAY Z

22 HOLY GRAIL Jay Z Featuring Justin Timberlake
23 SCREAM & SHOUT & Britney Spears
24 CLARITY Zedd Featuring Foxes
26 DON'T YOU WORRY CHILD Swedish House Mafia Featuring John Martin
27 DIAMONDS Rihanna (#1 4 weeks 2012)
28 I LOVE IT Icona Pop Featuring Charli XCX
29 SAFE AND SOUND Capital Cities
30 TREASURE Bruno Mars

31 THE WAY Ariana Grande Featuring Mac Miller
33 COME & GET IT Selena Gomez
34 HOLD ON, WE'RE GOING HOME Drake Featuring Majid Jordan
35 DAYLIGHT Maroon 5
36 FEEL THIS MOMENT Pitbull Featuring Christina Aguilera
37 APPLAUSE Lady Gaga
38 ONE MORE NIGHT Maroon 5 (#1 9 weeks 2012)
39 LOVE ME Lil Wayne Featuring Drake & Future

41 F**KIN PROBLEMS A$AP Rocky Featuring Drake, 2 Chainz & Kendrick Lamar
42 BEAUTY AND A BEAT Justin Bieber Featuring Nicki Minaj
43 SAME LOVE Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Mary Lambert
44 SWEET NOTHING Calvin Harris Featuring Florence Welch
45 SUMMERTIME SADNESS Lana Del Rey & Cedric Gervais
46 HOME Phillip Phillips
47 IT'S TIME Imagine Dragons
48 POWER TRIP J. Cole Featuring Miguel
49 GIRL ON FIRE Alicia Keys Featuring Nicki Minaj
50 HEART ATTACK Demi Lovato

52 I WILL WAIT Mumford & Sons
53 TRY P!nk
54 WAGON WHEEL Darius Rucker
56 I NEED YOUR LOVE Calvin Harris Featuring Ellie Goulding
57 DIE YOUNG Ke$ha
59 BAD Wale Featuring Tiara Thomas Or Rihanna
60 BOYS 'ROUND HERE Blake Shelton Featuring Pistol Annies & Friends

61 GONE, GONE, GONE Phillip Phillips
62 DEMONS Imagine Dragons
64 I CRY Flo Rida
65 LITTLE TALKS Of Monsters And Men
66 THE OTHER SIDE Jason Derulo
67 BERZERK Eminem
68 CATCH MY BREATH Kelly Clarkson
69 CRASH MY PARTY Luke Bryan
70 POUR IT UP Rihanna

71 22 Taylor Swift
72 I WANT CRAZY Hunter Hayes
73 THE FOX Ylvis
74 BEST SONG EVER One Direction
75 THE A TEAM Ed Sheeran
76 CARRY ON fun.
77 HIGHWAY DON'T CARE Tim McGraw With Taylor Swift
79 SWIMMING POOLS (DRANK) Kendrick Lamar
80 SURE BE COOL IF YOU DID Blake Shelton

81 #BEAUTIFUL Mariah Carey Featuring Miguel
82 TROUBLEMAKER Olly Murs Featuring Flo Rida
84 ADORN Miguel
85 HALL OF FAME The Script Featuring
87 U.O.E.N.O. Rocko Featuring Future & Rick Ross
88 NEXT TO ME Emeli Sande
89 MAMA'S BROKEN HEART Miranda Lambert
90 IT GOES LIKE THIS Thomas Rhett

91 BUGATTI Ace Hood Featuring Future & Rick Ross
92 WANTED Hunter Hayes
93 DOWNTOWN Lady Antebellum
94 GET YOUR SHINE ON Florida Georgia Line
95 #THATPOWER Featuring Justin Bieber
96 BRAVE Sara Bareilles
97 LET HER GO Passenger
99 I'M DIFFERENT 2 Chainz
100 STILL INTO YOU Paramore




Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review of DUP's TEATRO PORVENIR: Bonifacio as an Actor

December 7, 2013

The latest production by Dulaang UP is also inspired by the 150th birth anniversary of Gat. Andres Bonfacio being celebrated this year.  This play, "Teatro Porvenir" is already the third Bonifacio play I have seen this year, following the PhilStagers' "Bonifacio Isang Sarsuwela" (MY REVIEW) and just recently TP's "San Andres B." (MY REVIEW).

Unlike the first two, "Teatro Porvenir" is a straight play.  Much like "San Andes B.", the first act started by showing Bonifacio with his two brothers and two sisters making fans and canes. Then it goes one to talk about the renegade theater group that Bonifacio joined, the "Teatro Porvenir," which focuses on local characters, settings and issues, and its rivalry with "Teatro Infantil," the more traditional group that deals with faraway lands, royalty and themes.  

We meet Aurelio Tolentino (Joel Seracho), the prolific playwright, interacting with not only Andres Bonifacio (Russell Legaspi), but also Macario Sakay (Jojit Lorenzo) and Emilio Jacinto (Paul Jake Paule) among his actors.  We also see Bonifacio pay court to his future wife Gregoria de Jesus (Jean Judith Javier).  At the end of the first act, Bonifacio would realize that the way to gain freedom from Spanish oppression is not with Theater, but with an actual armed Revolution.

The second act has more straightforward history telling.  Teatro Porvenir ceases to exist as the drama of real life with the KKK is born. We will see Emilio Aguinaldo and Daniel Tirona as antagonists, as in several other Bonifacio stories.  The play goes through Bonifacio's last days, his betrayal, his trial, his death, creatively told in parallel with his wife, as she muses about its aftermath.  There was even a quasi-fantasy scene of Bonifacio with Jose Rizal.  We also see the entry of the Americans and the fates of Jacinto and Sakay. Tolentino promises that he will continue to create plays about his friends to serve as inspiration for future generations, as the Revolution is far from over.

It is not a good thing when the stage presence of the lead character is overwhelmed by the stage presence of the supporting characters.  Russell Legaspi, while basically proficient as an actor, did not have the requisite charisma for the lead role of Bonifacio.  He does not stand out in the crowd scenes at all.  I wonder how it would have been if I had caught his alternate, screen actor Romnick Sarmienta, in this role instead.  

Joel Seracho imbues Tolentino with passion for the theater throughout the revolution and afterwards. Jojit Lorenzo is a very natural actor as Sakay, with electric stage presence that can command the stage when he is on it.  This is despite the bad wig he had to wear.  Paul Jake Paule stands out because of his body build, but he seemed very nervous in his portrayal as Jacinto.  His stirring final monologue though makes up for his shaky earlier scenes. Jean Judith Javier I remember as Sisa from DUP's Noli Me Tangere the Opera. She really has this haunting presence onstage, and we get to hear her dramatic singing voice as well here as Ka Oryang.

Congratulations to DUP artistic director Alexander Cortez and the rest of the DUP cast and crew for successfully bringing to life this formidable complex play written by Tim Dacanay. 

"Teatro Porvenir" plays at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, in Palma Hall, UP Diliman.  It has two more performances left (10 am and 3 pm) as its run ends today, December 8, 2013. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Recap of PLAYLIST: Celebrating Lea Salonga's 35th Year in Showbiz

December 7, 2013

Ticket says the concert will start at 8 pm.  The traffic in Manila en route to PICC would not be so cooperative.  Mercifully, the production decided to start the show by 8:30 pm instead, so I was able to make it to the venue before the show.  There were still a lot of empty seats where I sat in Level 3 of the Orchestra section even when the show began.  Some people were even trickling in past 9 pm already.

To start the concert, Gerard Salonga led the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra in an overture of classic Lea Salonga songs, from "Tomorrow", to "I Am But a Small Voice", from "Sun and Moon" to "Whole New World."  There were eight brightly lit panels on the backdrop that spelled the concert title PLAYLIST, which later read "35 Years".  Lea Salonga then made her entrance wearing a black suit and pants outfit.  Her first song would be "Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To?)".  Suddenly she stopped, then roared out Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire".  Needless to say, she was in perfect voice this evening and we are definitely in for an excellent concert.

In her first spiel, Lea described this concert to be "the soundtrack of her life, her playlist."  She called it a "musical kuwentuhan (story-telling)".  From that, she sang Miley Cyrus' "The Climb".  Afterwards, an acoustic guitar began to play (by Mr. Cesar Aguas) as Lea took her seat on a stool.  Most unexpectedly she began to sing an acoustic version of Robin Thicke's racy hit song "Blurred Lines" to which she gave a life of her own. She would later dedicate this song to Gerald Anderson and Sam Milby, who inspired her to sing it.  Then, she sang her own poignant version of Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful".

For the next portion, she began to talk about her recent stint as judge on "The Voice of the Philippines" TV show, and how she is the first judge to mentor the first winner.  From there, she introduced Mitoy Yonting.  He entered singing Ric Segreto's "Don't Know What to Do", after which Lea answered with Kuh Ledesma's "I Think I'm in Love."  Mitoy sang Side A's "Hold On", then Lea countered with Kuh's "Till I Met You."  Together they sang Basil Valdez' "You."  After a little seemingly awkward chatting between the two, Lea left Mitoy on stage for a while.  He regaled the audience with his fabled range singing Air Supply's version of "The Power of Love."

Lea then came back out, wearing a bright blue long gown.  She opened this set with Adele's "Chasing Pavements."  She then talked about admiring Barbara Streisand's purity and precision as a child which she aims for to this day, and launched into her own version of "Evergreen."  Then some funny old photographs of Lea as a teenager flashed on the panels onstage.  She described herself as a child on the 1980s and lengthily talked about her hair teasing and Aquanet spraying regimen back then.  She then said that the music of the 80s were so good.  

Ironically, of the songs she sang after that prolonged intro spiel, only one was really released in the 1980s and that was Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody."  "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)" was a duet of Streisand and Donna Summer released in 1979.  The others were from Houston's soundtrack album from her 1992 film The Bodyguard, namely "I'm Every Woman," "Run to You" and "I Will Always Love You."  Lea's falsetto runs were flawless in those last two ballads, sounding exactly like Whitney.

Suddenly, Ms. Ai Ai delas Alas breathlessly ran in from the orchestra section onto the stage, apparently a surprise appearance.  The audience laughed out loud as Ai Ai dished out her self-depreciating humor, saying how Lea's audience were so polite and quiet, while her audiences lacked urbanity and were jologs.  The two reprised two duets they did in a past concert, Imelda Papin's "Isang Linggong Pag-ibig" and Aegis' "Halik."  Ai Ai was riotous as ever, and trooped on despite her very hoarse voice.  Lea maintained her class as she effortlessly sang those local jukebox classics.

Calling Ai Ai "a force of nature" as she exited, Lea started to talk about the natural calamities that just the country had just experienced.  From there, she began to sing a most beautiful and meaningful version of Maureen McGovern's "The Morning After" (theme from The Poseidon Adventure).  After this, Lea went upbeat as she sang "Love Will Keep Us Together" by the Captain and Tennille. 

Lea then began to introduce her next guest, Ms. Rachel Ann Go, who came in wearing a skin tight shiny green gown.  The first song they sang together was "For Good" from Wicked.  Lea then left Rachel alone on stage, and Rachel sang "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid, her first musical theater role.  Lea came back out wearing a red beaded long gown, and together they sang the song that Rachel will sing as Gigi come April of 2014 in London, "The Movie in My Mind."  Of course, Lea sang the Kim part, which she says is getting harder to sing each year.  The duet was out of this world excellent!  It was definitely the highlight of the whole concert for me.

When Rachel Ann left the stage, Lea talked about how the Philippines is now the Broadway of South East Asia. She cited in particular Rama Hari by Ryan Cayabyab, and proceed to sing a song "Magbalik Ka Na Mahal" from this original Filipino musical.  Lea then proudly sang "Higher", a song specifically written for her and her character in the new musical Allegiance, which is waiting for its Broadway debut.  She ended her regular set with with the brassy "Back to Before" from Ragtime.  After that, she bid her goodbyes and left the stage. That was around 10:30 pm.

The orchestra with Gerald Salonga and the backup singers never left the stage, and the spot lights were still spiraling around.  We know this concert is not yet done.  Even Gerald turned to the audience to encourage everyone to shout for more!

Lea reentered the stage wearing a green flowing gown.  When she sat on a stool for her next song, the gown's long slit revealed Lea's leg, which drew whistles from the appreciative audience.  She sang a couple of Christmas carols, "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and a jazzed-up version of "Jingle Bells."  She then told the audience that she might have a third movie with Aga Muhlach, and then segued to singing a heartfelt acoustic version of "Sana'y Maulit Muli."  (** This following video is from the second night when Aga surprised Lea by going up the stage, announcing that their next film together has been greenlit by Star Cinema.)

Finally, she began to sing a string of ABBA songs, "Mamma Mia", "Take a Chance On Me" and "Dancing Queen."  Lea tried to encourage the audience to dance along, but too bad, there were very few takers of that invitation.  Nevertheless, she was exuberant in her renditions of these dance classics.  After the last song, she bid her real goodbye and the show is really over.  That was generous 30 minute encore she gave us. 

This anniversary concert was another showcase of Lea Salonga's artistry and musicality, as all her past shows had been.  She knew how to pick songs to highlight her precious vocal instrument and hers was definitely in tip-top shape even for two and a half hours.  Her personality seemed to have loosened up considerably, getting more adventurous in her song choices, knowing fully well how to perform them in her signature way. Congratulations, Ms. Lea Salonga, and looking forward to many more years of hearing and watching you perform beautiful music!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Review of TP's SAN ANDRES B.: Bonifacio as Hero and Saint

December 1, 2013

There are so many productions about Andres Bonifacio this year because 2013 is his 150th birth anniversary. Tanghalang Pilipino's latest show, "San Andres B," an original Filipino opera, is one of them.  

The libretto is by National Artist for Literature, Virgilio Almario.  The music is by Josefino Chino Toledo, who also conducted the orchestra during the performance.  This is directed by the very busy and versatile wunderkind Floy Quintos, who threatens that this work will challenge us to go beyond comfort zones.

In Act 1, you see Andres Bonifacio with his siblings and the fans and canes they sell, then with his theater group (the Teatro Porvenir), then meeting his idol Dr. Jose Rizal in La Liga Filipina. However, you also see Andres being addressed by three women dressed like the Virgin Mary, as the populace was being tormented by four demons dressed in ragged finery.  

The first few scenes can really make you scratch your head.  What is this show all about? This will not be a typical biographical drama with a linear progression.  This show will be suffused with layered metaphors. As you watch, you can connect the dots, but it may not be so easy with the spotty sound system. Frankly, I hardly understood a word being sung, though fortunately, recited lines were clearer.  I do not know if where I sat (about the 12th row up) was a factor.

Dondi Ong and Marvin Gayramon are excellent classical singers, no doubt about that. However, as Andres Bonifacio and Jose Rizal, unfortunately the physical disconnect was too glaring and major to ignore.  We all have preconceived ideas on how Bonifacio and Rizal look like, and these two actors, no matter how perfect their singing voices were, simply could not fit into those iconic roles because of the way they look. I am thinking that maybe the songs Bonifacio had to sing were simply too challenging for just any tenor to hit, and it was only THE Dondi Ong who could hit those killer notes.  Still, this odd casting of lead roles made Act 1 distractingly unconvincing.

But after the 20 minute intermission and Act 2 kicked in, it was a whole new ball game.  (To tell you the truth, I had moved down to an empty seat on the 2nd row during the intermission, to be much nearer the stage now to hear the lines better.)

In the very first scene, we meet Gregoria de Jesus for the first time, as she marries Bonifacio. Ka Oryang was played by the sublime Ms. Margarita Roco.  She plays this role with so much sensuality and passion.  She came across as a really heroic person in her solo aria "Mga Luksang Pangitain" more than Ong did in the entire Act 1.  The audience gave her spontaneous applause right after her breathtaking song.  It was the first time that happened in the whole play.  Ms. Roco's performance, even in that song alone, was already worth the price of admission.

Another performer who stood out in Act 2 was Antonio Ferrer as Emilio Jacinto.  He had the requisite lean body build and masculine stance to be a convincing Katipunero.  His tenor voice is also very strong.  Just had to process a little that I pictured Jacinto to be more of an intellectual type, being the Brains of the Katipunan and all.  But that is only a minor quibble. He could be a more fitting Bonifacio in a future production of this show.

A third performer who stepped into his own in Act 2 is Nicolo Magno. In Act 1, he was just one of the four beggars ("Pulubi") representing the decaying Spanish government who rampantly raped and pillaged the country.  Even then, Magno already stood out because of this younger age (compared to the other three) and his daring costume that bared his abs even below the umbilicus.  But in Act 2, he had featured solos in both spoken and sung lines and dance moves that further pushed him out to be noticed among his companions.  He actually had one of the loudest applause during the curtain call, especially from the females in the audience.

Act 2 is what it was all about.  In fact, Act 2 could have been the whole play already.  We get the full message loud and clear here.  Bonifacio as hero and as saint.  There were parallels to the passion of the Christ in Gethsemane all the way to Calvary.  There was a strongly sung and choreographed number called "Tonto (3) Gago" which was simply so stirring to hear and watch.  The beautiful final tableau was amazingly potent in its drama and symbolism.  Act 2 was written, staged, acted and sung so well that before the last scene I could already accept Ong as Bonifacio. Act 2 definitely saves the show, and in fact, makes the show very much worth watching.

The one consistently good thing about the whole show is the performance of Grupo 20/21 under the baton of Maestro Chino Toledo.  Grupo 20/21 is a new chamber music ensemble dedicated primarily to the performance of works from the last and the present century, especially Filipino and Asian composers.  "San Andres B" is only the initial project of this group, and they sounded like they have played music together for years..

Congratulations to the whole Tanghalang Pilipino cast and crew for this brave and ground-breaking production. Its operatic style is novel, not the typical classical nor is it rock or pop opera.  Act 1 may be tough to wade through its 45 minutes, but the spectacular Act 2 makes this essential viewing, must-watch theater.

"San Andres B" plays at the Little Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines only until next week. Remaining show times are 8 pm on December 6 and 7; and 3 pm on December 7 and 8, 2013.  Tickets are priced at P800 regular patrons and P400 for students.  Just one more weekend left!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Review of Atlantis' THE ADDAMS FAMILY: Full Disclosure -- Tis' an Awesome Show!

November 24, 2013

I know about the Addams Family, although I cannot really call myself a fan of their macabre sense of humor.  I was not able to watch the two movies made about them in the 1990s starring Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston and Christina Ricci.  About this musical theater version (with music by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and book/lyrics by Andrew Lippa), I must confess I was not that excited to watch it at first.  But this being an Atlantis production and with the good reviews from the first weekend, I decided to take the whole family to watch it.  We did not regret it.

This musical takes place sometime twenty five years into the marriage of Gomez and Morticia Addams, when eldest daughter Wednesday is now a young lady in love.  When her beau Lucas brings his parents Mal and Alice Beineke to meet the Addams for dinner, her younger brother Pugsley hatches a prank gone wrong that wreaked havoc on all the relationships on the three couples on the table.

The set design, as was the standard for all Atlantis productions, was impeccable.  It was amazing how the expanse of the Meralco Theater stage had been converted by Faust Peneyra into a graveyard, to a receiving hall of a creepy mansion to a dining room with a long table.  The complementary lighting design by Dong Calingacion was essential to achieve the requisite eerieness of the atmosphere.  

As you can see from the posters, the cast had been completely transformed into the well-known, and mostly, well-loved characters, thanks to the amazing make-up talents of Johann dela Fuente, in full cooperation with the costume designs by Pepsi Herrera and Edwin Tan.  You certainly cannot see Arnell Ignacio or Eula Valdez or Jamie Wilson (or anybody else for that matter) as how you usually know them.  You just see them as their character.

Arnell Ignacio was simply flawlessly in character as Gomez Addams.  At first, I was not so sure he could pull this off, especially he had a wan uneven performance in his last musical The Full Monty. But as Gomez, his voice was full and strong in his songs and in his delivery of those tricky lines.  This was indeed an award-worthy performance that we have seen from this veteran entertainer.

Eula Valdez, I already was mesmerized with her since her last musical Nine.  This beautiful woman can really turn heads and draw attention to her whenever she was onstage even then, more so now in her tight body-hugging black gown as Morticia,  Her accent was adorable.  Her tango was so graceful with all those turns and dips.  Her singing voice was on point, as the songs were completely within her range (something that went uneven in Nine due to some very high notes). This was a totally different Eula here, no hint of Amor Powers.

I had been wanting to see K-La Rivera perform again since I first saw her in In the Heights.  I missed her in Aladdin (which I was not able to see) and Carrie (I saw a Mikki Bradshaw lead performance). As Wednesday, her role is rather limited by the love story angle of the musical compared to the memorable Christina Ricci Wednesday in the films.  Fortunately she had a song entitled "Pulled" in the first act that was the Wednesday we know and love.

Jamie Wilson completely transformed into bald-headed and freaky Fester Addams.  This guy can really do no wrong, tackling even the most offbeat of characters so well always.  Too bad that Fester was not entirely an integral character in the main story in this musical version, so we mostly see him interact with the ragtag group of odd ghostly characters called The Ancestors.  He had a delightful and sweet song "The Moon and Me" dedicated to his lady love that was giddy in its lunacy.

Anton Posadas, just fresh from his successful performance as Tyltyl in The Bluebird of Happiness, is back on the Meralco stage again as Pugsley.  I really like the way this character was written for this show.  I enjoyed his moment on the electric chair with Wednesday in Act 1.  I loved his tender talk with his mother Morticia in Act 2.  He showed off his singing pipes too with the song "What If".

Calvin Millado and Carla Guevara-Laforteza play the odd Beineke couple.  Husband Mal is gruff and headstrong as wife Alice was a flighty romantic.  These two actors are really veterans of the musical stage.  Calvin is not awkward in this role (unlike some of his previous roles in Legally Blonde and Rock of Ages).  Carla had the more challenging featured role as Alice experienced a change of personality within the show which required a demanding song number "Waiting" which Carla totally killed!  Their son Lucas was played by American actor Ryan Gallagher.  Too bad this role is so small you hardly remember anything about the actor afterwards.  He does not even have a solo song number.

And finally, the guy which had the most memorable look and song solo of the show, Ikey Canoy.  This guy played the butler Lurch who generally just strangely grunts his way throughout the show. However, look out for a big surprise from him before the show ends.  He gained what must have been the loudest spontaneous applause within the show from the audience.

I thought the Grandma character was not too well-played, nor were her costumes fitting into the general Addams motif.  I do not know why this role had to be portrayed by a man (Jimmy Marquez) in this production. I found it more distracting than funny. Nyoy Volante alternates in this cross-dressing role.

Congratulations to director Bobby Garcia and the rest of the Atlantis cast and crew for again coming up with another world-class showcase for the Filipino theater talent.  

The Addams Family opened last November 15 and will run up to December 1, 2013 at the Meralco Theater. For tickets, contact Atlantis Productions, 8927078 (look for Claire). 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Review of Rep's THE PRODUCERS: Outrageously Hilarious!

October 16, 2013

"THE PRODUCERS" has a book, music and lyrics by the hilariously multi-talented Mel Brooks.  And when it is by Mel Brooks, you know you will have a LOL-good time watching this show.  As expected, the talented Repertory Philippines' cast does not fail us, and we the audience had an incredibly great time last night as the premiere.

Slimy Max Bialystock was a has-been Broadway producer who has seen better days in his career. With the box office failure of his latest show (a musical version of Hamlet called "Funny Boy"), his new high-strung bookkeeper Leo Bloom commented that he can actually earn more money with a flop than with a hit.  With that idea as inspiration, Bialystock and Bloom joined forces to produce a preposterous musical called "Springtime for Hitler", fully expecting it to fail miserably with the critics. But fate seems to have other ideas for these two scheming producers.

Carlo Orosa was a riot as Max Bialystock.  I did not recognize him at first with the thick mustache he was wearing, but that piece of facial hair was essential to establish his character's sleazy personality. This guy can really sing with that soaring voice of his, which you hear from his very first song, "The King of Broadway".  Those scenes where Max was hustling little old ladies with sex games to sponsor his theater production in the song "Along Came Bialy" were super naughty and funny (making the show flirt with R-16 territory). Carlo's alternate in this role is another theater veteran, Robie Zialcita.

Topper Fabregas plays the insecure, wide-eyed accounting clerk with Broadway dreams, Leo Bloom. He was just in a much similar role in Rep's "Boeing Boeing" last year, so he has got this naive innocent schtick down pat.  His best solo song number was "I Wanna Be a Producer" which he sang fantasizing while slaving in his boring accounting office.

The chemistry between Fabregas and Orosa together was amazingly vital, which was very important for the whole play to succeed. I enjoyed the duets they sang together, especially "Where Did We Go Right?" and "Till Him."  Both tunes had sweet tunes, with sentimental yet witty lyrics.

Giselle Tongi-Walters oozed with sex appeal playing the ditzy Swedish blonde bombshell Ulla who swept Bialystock and Bloom off their feet during her audition.  Joel Trinidad was perfect as the fanatical Hitler fan, Franz Liebkind, who wrote the script for "Springtime with Hitler." Noel Rayos swished and sashayed as a director's assistant Carmen Ghia with such gleeful relish and elan.

However, there was no question that the most scene-stealing role of this entire show is that of the flamboyant cross-dressing theater director, Roger de Bris, so memorably played last night by no less than Mr. Audie Gemora.  It turns out the short cross-dressing we saw of Gemora in his last show "No Way to Treat a Lady" was just a small preview of the considerably wilder, totally flaming queen role Gemora is playing here. Every time he stepped on stage, he just owned it with his eye-catching outfits from glittery gowns to mini-skirt. He will surprise you too with his acrobatic prowess!  I simply cannot imagine someone else, even his alternate, Noel Trinidad, tackle this very bold and showy role.

Director Jaime del Mundo, just fresh from the success of "The Bluebird of Happiness" for Trumpets, was able to harness the grandiosity of the script and scale it down to a production that fit very well into the confines of the Onstage stage.  That challenge of making the most of the limited stage space was addressed so well by Mio Infante by his set design.  The costumes in the colorful "Keep It Gay" and the spectacular "Springtime for Hitler" scenes were a triumph for designer Raven Ong.  Congratulations once again to the entire Repertory Philippines cast and crew of this very energetic outrageous show!  


"The Producers" opened last night November 15, 2013, and will have Saturday 8 pm and Sunday 3:30 pm shows up to December 15, 2013, at Onstage in Greenbelt 1, Makati City.

Buy your tickets online at the Repertory Philippines website at, or from the Ticketworld website at Tickets are also available in all Ticketworld outlets in Metro Manila.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Review of MAXIE THE MUSICAL: Entertaining, Emotional, Eye-Opening

October 9, 2013

"Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros" is a familiar title among recent favorite local indie films.  Unfortunately, I have not watched the film version myself, though the general gist of the story is already familiar (but I still do not know how it ends).  The DVD is already available, and the full film is also posted in Youtube, so I will be able to check it out one day.  This is especially because tonight, I have just watched this new all-original musical theater version of this film entitled "Maxie The Musicale."

Maxie is a twelve-year old gay kid who lives with his father and two elder brothers who were burly, macho and cellphone thieves in the slums of Sampaloc.  Victor is a new, still idealistic young policeman who gets assigned to the same area.  One night, Victor saves Maxie from being molested by two drunks.  Maxie begins to fall in love with his handsome savior.  Conflict develops in their budding friendship when Victor begins to close in on the criminal activities of Maxie's family.

Having a colorfully gay lead character lends the material a natural pick to be translated to the medium of the stage musical.  Big song and dance numbers with the whole company (which are not directly related to the story) are interspersed between smaller, more intimate scenes (that actually relate the story).  Among the more memorable of these big musical numbers is the Procession of the Sto. Nino, the showering policemen, and the most extravagant of all (and certainly most expected in a play like this), a local gay beauty contest, complete with talent competition!  The story is told in three acts, with the intermission coming after Act 2.

While this all can be a lot of fun, for me this show is rated R-16 due to the sensitivity of the subject matter, sexually-charged humor and the coarseness of the language, especially during the greetings part of the Parade of Nations where the words were crisply graphic.  The gay story line may also be uncomfortable for people not familiar with their subculture.   But anyhow, the pink posters do not hide the fact that the main character is gay, so people who decide to watch this show should be ready for things like this.

The eclectic music of William Elvin Manzano, Janine Santos and JJ Pimpinio brings alive the book and lyrics of Nicolas B. Pichay.  The music is an unusual mix of pop, rock opera and classical opera, with samples from 80s pop music and Filipino folk tunes.  This varying genres may be unsettling for some audiences as the transitions can be abrupt.

The lead role of Maxie is played by a high school senior flamboyantly named Jayvhot Galang. This talented young boy was a champion of several TV singing competitions.  He was actually invited to audition because of his online video clips.  He is a natural fit for the role of Maxie. Despite this being only his first theater production, he carried on like a pro.  He shone in his delightful scenes of glee, his dramatic scenes of heartbreak, and even in those scenes where his microphone died. He may occasionally not be too clear in the enunciation of words in his songs, especially in those where he was required to sing in a falsetto.

The role of Victor was played by architect turned model, then theater and film actor Jojo Riguerra. He was able to provide the role with requisite charm and dignity, with his dimples and tall stature.  His singing voice was also very strong for the demanding pop-rock songs his character gets to sing.

Maxie's father Paco was played by Nazer Salcedo tonight. He was a grand national champion in a kundiman singing competition, which went perfectly with the practically classical operatic arias his character sings.  While he sings well, his songs tend to bog the production down with their bitter seriousness.  Also, it was confusing that Nazer looked more like an elder brother rather than a father to the actors who played his sons Boy and Bogs. The alternate in this role is Roeder Camanag.

Maxie's brusque brothers Boy and Bogs are played tonight by Al Gatmaitan and Jay Gonzaga respectively.  These guys also get to sing very challenging songs (meaning very high notes) together where they had to harmonize.  On top of that, they also have a number where they had to rap, which was also very well done.  They also share very intense acting moments with Maxie which were quite heartwarming showing brotherly devotion despite, or maybe because of, Maxie's gender preference. OJ Mariano is Al's alternate, while Jay has none.

Playing Maxie's close friends are Aaron Ching, Nomer Limatog Jr. and Teetin Villanueva. Aaron was shameless in his hilarious and naughty antics, not caring how awkward or how ugly he can look. Nomer is very young, only in sixth grade, but he looks very smart and bold. Teetin is so different from when I last saw her as the divine Hermana Augusta Beata in Dulaang UP's Collection earlier this year.  They are quite a wacky group. Their highlight was the opening segment of Act 3, where they play out a very funny summary of the entire Acts 1 and 2.  That bit is a must-see!

Playing the new police chief Dominguez is baritone Greg de Leon.  His rich tones can really be heard from the rest of the group when everyone is singing together.  Standing out in the chorus is Jules de la Paz, who plays multiple roles that become notable, especially that of the sassy carinderia owner.  We remember not only because of his hefty body size and stage presence, but also his unexpected skill and excellence in dancing!

Congratulations to Director Dexter M. Santos and the rest of Bit By Bit Production, under producers Darwin Mariano and Carlo Miguel Francia, for coming up with an all-Filipino musical theater production with a story that was entertaining, emotional and thought-provoking, eye-opening to people still alien to the real world of homosexual teenagers, their pleasures. their loves and their travails.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Relaunch of Lito Casaje's MGA PREMYADONG DULA

The Philippine Center of the International PEN (Poets & Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists) held a book-club discussion on writer-director Lito Casaje’s collection of stage plays, “Mga Premyadong Dula,” yesterday, October 26, 2013, at 5 p.m.  This was held in the Solidaridad Bookstore, along Padre Faura St. in Ermita, Manila. It was also a re-launching of sorts for this award-winning book of award-winning scripts for the theater.

“Mga Premyadong Dula” was first published by De La Salle University Press back in 2006.  Five of Casaje’s award-winning plays are featured in this book.  These are:

1.  “Juan de la Cruz, New York” - This play is about Filipino living in New York, amid the HIV-AIDS outbreak and rallies against Marcos in 1984.  This play won Second Prize in the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature in 1986. This is first play Casaje wrote.

2. “Editoryal” - This play is set in Tagum, Davao in 1985. It dealt with crusading journalists and their fate during the Martial Law era. It also won Second Prize in the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Playwriting Contest in 1986.

3. “Separasyon” - This is a feminist play.  Its original production starred Eugene Domingo. It won First Prize in the  Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature in 1993.

4.  “Matrimonyal” - This play is about an estranged married couple. This also won the First Prize in the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature in 1995.

5. “Padre de Familia” - This was an experimental play within a play.  This won the Third Prize in the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature in 1998.

This published anthology itself won the National Book Award in 2007.  This award is given every year by the National Book Development Board (NBDB) and the Manila Critics Circle (MCC) to the best books written, designed, and published in the Philippines.

This is the first time I have attended an event like this. I have been inside the Solidaridad Bookstore before, but I never knew that they had a meeting room on the third floor where the country's premiere organization of writers, the Philippine PEN meets regularly.  This group was born in 1958, founded by F. Sionil Jose, who later became a National Artist for Literature. Other PEN members who also became National artists were Francisco Arcellana, N.V.M. Gonzalez, Bienvenido Lumbera, Alejandro Roces and Edith Tiempo. It was heartening to be in the same room with Sionil Jose and Lumbera, who were actually in attendance at the event yesterday.

During the event, Lito Casaje talked about himself and his brush with Stage 4 Burkitt's Lymphoma this year, recently just receiving his last dose of chemotherapy.  He looked very good yesterday, his body not showing evidence of his ordeal, except maybe for the bald pate. He talked about his fascination about the relationships between men and women.  He talked about his favorite playwrights, especially Strindberg.  He talked about his forte, that of writing realistic dialogues.

Of course, he talked about his book and the plays therein.  He invited some young actor friends and students to read selected excerpts from these plays.  Here are a couple of readings which I was able to record:

This is a monologue from "Juan de la Cruz: New York":

This is an impromptu reading of a scene from "Matrimonyal":

This was a new experience for me, to be watching actors read plays and listening to the playwright himself discuss his work.  I was also happy to be seated with Lito Casaje's father, Dr. Louie Casaje, during this occasion.  

Listening to the plays yesterday, they are as vital and pertinent now as they were back when they were first staged.  I think it is high time for the new generation to rediscover the work of Mr. Lito Casaje.