Saturday, August 3, 2013

Spotlight Artists Centre's KATY!: Vaudeville Lives Again!

August 4, 2013

I was fortunate enough to have seen the original production of KATY! back in 1989, with Mitch Valdez as Katy and Celeste Legaspi as Olivia.  I honestly do not recall much of it anymore, except that it was very colorful, raucously funny and with great songs and great singing.  

I missed the re-staging of KATY! back in January of this year at the LittleTheater of the CCP.  That show starring Isay Alvarez as Katy and Dulce as Olivia was a critical and box office success.  That is why when the opportunity opened up for me to catch the re-run of the re-staging, I wholeheartedly welcomed the chance.  Thank you, Ms. Gimbey de la Cruz!

KATY! is the life story of renowned Filipino vaudeville jazz singer Ms. Katy de la Cruz.  The music is by Ryan Cayabyab.  The libretto is by Joey Javier Reyes.  The direction is by Nestor U. Torre. Great names all.  The result of their collaboration is this fantastic, timeless, vibrant musical about an iconic star of the Philippine stage.  The key factor for the success of a production is really the actors and the cast in this instance did not disappoint.

We see three actresses play her growing up from from a naughty precocious little girl (Leana Tabunar) to a naive spirited young lady (Aicelle Santos) to the mature star we all know her for (Isay Alvarez).  The singing of the three Katy's was so on-point!  They all sounded like the real Katy de la Cruz.  I was actually afraid for the severe stress this impersonating is costing their vocal folds.  

Not only did they have to growl their way into classic Katy songs, there was also that high-pitch shrill speaking/shouting voice they had to do.  This was especially true for Batang Katy Leana Tabunar.  It was scary to listen to, but man, she was so good!  

Young Katy Aicelle Santos seemed to have had to sing the most challenging songs to sing, with "Bituing Tahimik" and "Balut" among them.  And anyone who had to sing a duet on a famous song with the one and only Dulce is really up for a big challenge, and young Aicelle passed this test with flying colors.  

Isay Alvarez actually took the stage only in Act 2.  She definitely showed her full range.  Her songs went from the very slow ones like her sad duets with her father and her husband, to elaborate song-and-dance numbers like "Aba, Ba, Ba, Boogie" during the American Liberation scene to "Basta't Masasayaw" where she had to tap dance with Epy Quizon as Dolphy.

Ms. Dulce, as usual, was in flawless voice.  Her highlight is the show's most famous song "Minsan ang Minahal ay Ako" which was actually a lesson being taught by the old jaded star Olivia to the young bright-eyed Katy.  She also had a patriotic song to sing in Act 2 called "Luha sa Kinalimutang Lupa" which also brought the house down.

Tirso Cruz III played a delightful Tatay, strict but loving and supportive of his only daughter's career.  Gian Magdangal plays a very charming Peping on the piano in Act 1, though his acting in Act 2 was a bit of a downer with the awkward way he delivered his morose lines.  Maybe it is more of the lines than the actor. The ladies playing Katy's theater friends, Hanna, Patsy and Mary Walter, were all very charming and funny, and great singers to boot.  Having Epy Quizon to portray his dad was an inspired decision.

As a whole, this musical is really highly entertaining,capturing the very essence of Katy de la Cruz and vaudeville.  Act 1 is so much livelier and funnier than Act 2, which was saddled with themes of war and death.  However, the song numbers were there to liven things up when the story was getting a bit too serious. The costumes were so good looking. The sets may be simple and small in certain scenes given the huge stage of the Meralco Theater.  But they sure did not scrimp on the big song and dance numbers.

Congratulations to the cast and crew of Spotlight Artists Centre for successfully reviving one of the vital theater musicals in the history of Philippine Theater!

KATY! runs only up to today!  Catch the last two performances this afternoon at 3pm and tonight at 8pm at the Meralco Theater.  Do not miss this last chance today.

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