July 19, 2013
"Sandosenang Sapatos" opened July 13 and will run for two weekends up to July 21 only. Being based on a children's book, I thought at first I'd pass on it. However, with very good word of mouth raves on social media and sold-out shows, they had to add new performance times! I knew we had to catch it. When I saw that there was a 10 am show on July 19, I resolved that this show will be part of our wedding anniversary celebration today.
From the very first scene when we see a little girl on a wheelchair with no legs, I knew this was going to be one tearjerker of a play. I was not mistaken.
Susie is a very sad little girl. She knows her dear shoemaker father had dreamed for her to become a ballerina. But she felt she could not make her dad happy since she had no legs and feet. Instead she retreats into her own dream world, the only place she feels happy with her shoe friends, one for each year of her life. She wishes that on her 12th birthday that the shoe fairy could grant her greatest wish. Can her father finally have the ballerina he dreams about, or does fate have other plans?
This is only a short play, a little more than an hour only, with no intermission. Tanghalang Huseng Batute is small and intimate. The stage is just two circular platforms surrounded by a wooden figure-8 path. However, the powerful poignancy this musical projects transcends the simplicity of the stage or the material.
This is mainly because of the enchanting central performance of young Trixie Esteban as Susie. Her voice has the purity and innocence of a child so all her sad songs and impossible dreams hit us hard with so much dramatic impact. She is on the stage during the entire play, and she pulled off the complicated script and emotional singing without a hitch. Very very impressive for a girl of her tender age. A new theater star is born!
Jonathan Tadioan and May Bayot portray Susie's parents. The power of their voices is well-known to me from previous musicals I have seen them perform in. Tadioan's deep baritone sounded so good in contrast with Susie's sweet gentle voice. Their father-daughter scenes together were moving even when there were no words spoken.
As for the shoe friends, I am very impressed with their rollerblading skills as they danced and frolicked on that narrow wooden pathway on stage. Their costumes were very colorful and their playful interaction with Susie gave the entire show its most vibrant moments. It was too bad that some of their lyrics were barely understood because of poor enunciation, poor lapel mic alignment, or even out of tune singing for some of them.
Now for the key character of the Shoe Fairy. According to the poster, this character was to be played by the ever-fabulous Ms. Tessa Prieto-Valdes. It was not Ms. Tessa who played when we watched, but instead it was Raquel Pareno. I would have understood if it was Ms. Tessa, because her flamboyant personality is more important than the singing voice. But if it was not Ms. Tessa, I wish the singing voice of her alternate would have been better. Instead, Ms.Pareno's singing was weak, and had no magical impact at all, and this was a pity.
Overall though, this play was all about Susie and her dad, and everything else simply fades into the background. The stellar portrayal of these characters by Esteban and Tadioan captivates and rivets us. Their chemistry as father and daughter was very palpable, and we feel the emotion of the story all the more. I cannot deny that my wife and I had tears in our eyes, and so with many other people in the audience, both adults and kids.
Congratulations to Tanghalang Pilipino for another successful production! The last TP production I watched was also written by Layeta Bucoy, and was a far from this story as could possibly be, the violent political drama "Walang Kukurap" (MY REVIEW). Looking forward to the next TP productions, especially Virgilio Almario's "San Andres B." in November, and Nick Joaquin's "Mga Ama, Mga Anak" next February 2014.