August 6, 2013
The story of "Lorenzo" is told as a musical within a musical. Ex-theater actor Laurence Ruiz, an OFW convict condemned to die for murdering his lecherous employer, is writing a play about the saint whom he identifies with the most, San Lorenzo Ruiz. He recounts in his musical play how his sad life parallels that of San Lorenzo, his journey, his suffering, and his marytrdom.
The first major production by the new Green Wings Entertainment Network headed by actor Christopher de Leon, "Lorenzo" boasts of music by Ryan Cayabyab, with book & lyrics by Juan Ekis & Paul Dumol in the collaboration of Joem Antonio. Cayabyab's music in this show is very much reminiscent of "Jesus Christ Superstar" with its edgy rock opera feel where the voices of the cast soar and wail to heavenly heights. Veteran director Nonon Padilla skillfully integrates the past and present stories of the two Lorenzos into one seamless meaningful whole, both socio-political and religious aspects.
The most memorable aspect of this play is its unique and spectacular production design courtesy of Gino Gonzales. Multiple Japanese references, from Kabuki to Giant Robots, are used to drive the story forward. This play had a story which is very challenging to stage. Gonzales was able to convincingly show us a sampan caught in a squall in the high seas, the graceful passing of four seasons, as well as how the martyrs were tortured and executed (in an ingenious manner which I will not spoil for you here). His fertile imagination can also be seen in the many ways Balikbayan boxes were used in this play.
The rest of the crew should be proud of how the technical aspect of the play turned out. They are Dingdong Fiel (Musical Director) and the live band, Jonjon Villareal (Technical Director/Lighting Design), and Christine Crame (Choreographer).
LORENZ MARTINEZ stars as San Lorenzo Ruiz. There is no argument that he is one fantastic singer and such a wide range. No wonder he is one of those who survived the Ms. Saigon auditions last year, it is clear why. And his acting in those passion scenes at the end when he was contemplating his fate was positively intense. Truth to tell though, Martinez never really completely became Lorenzo for me because of a marked physical disconnect with how we usually imagine San Lorenzo to look like. Martinez's long hair, hefty build and even his blue shirt did not help identify him as San Lorenzo.
OJ MARIANO plays the "dead man walking" playwright Laurence Ruiz. He looked quite thin and gaunt than how we usually see him. I guess that was a triumph of his black-white striped prison costume and sallow make-up. He is such a consistent performer in any show I see him in, and this one is no exception. While his singing is flawless, he did flub a number of spoken lines, but nevertheless he kept quite in character.
The first song in the show was sung by Rosario Ruiz, wife of Lorenzo. SHIELA VALDERRAMA sang this song of longing so beautifully. Actually she sung ALL her songs beautifully with her crystal clear high notes. She really stood out because she was only one of two female characters, and she had more than one song and thankfully so.
The four Dominican friar missionaries whose sampan to Okinawa Lorenzo joined were really very inspirational characters. They actually dreamed of being martyrs for their faith and this was their noble dream come true. They had many good songs which they sang in perfect harmony in four voices, one time even in impressive a capella in Act 2 of Laurence's play which focuses on the friars' guesses why Lorenzo joined them.
I first saw JULIENE MENDOZA in PETA's "Bona" and he caught my attention despite his short quiet role. It was no fluke that this guy can act so well, and in fact he can even sing very well as Fray Antonio Gonzales, the leader of the mission. He can effortlessly connect with the audience up to his very final scene out of his monk robes. It was awesome to witness him own the stage again.
Two former TV celebrities make comebacks via this play. That's Entertainment talent BRYLLE MONDEJAR as Fray Guillaume Courtet and Philippine Idol contestant MIGUEL MENDOZA as Fray Miguel Aozaraza. Mondejar surprised me with his deep baritone voice. Mendoza stood out because of height and youth, and I have to say that his voice has since improved from his days on TV. But the big discovery here is RHENWYN GABALONZO as Fray Vicente Shiwozuka. His solo while singing in the "cold" winter shivering and coughing was so strong!
I was puzzled why the Japanese interrogators had European names in the cast list. Red-haired and masked Rodrigues was played and sung by talented NOEL RAYOS while on a wheelchair. I had never heard him wildly scream rock songs before, and boy, can he! And his final exit, what an impact. When he appeared out of costume at the curtain call, and it turns out he was actually in a leg cast for real. Amazing professionalism. The other interrogator Carvalho was played by BREZHNEV LARLAR.
Giving Juliene Mendoza tough competition in the Featured Actor category come awards season is TERENCE GUILLERMO in the challenging role of Lazaro,a Japanese Christian who also happened to be leper. His tenor voice is booming and strong, standing out of group songs and duets. The character of Lazaro becomes the point of view of Laurence in the concluding act of his musical, and that was when Guillermo shone in his role.
I was wondering why opera diva Ms. CAMILLE LOPEZ-MOLINA was just playing the Reporter to whom Laurence dictated his play. Turns out, of course, that she will have one amazing solo operatic aria of a psalm at the end of Act 2. Now that was a showstopper!
And in all the plays and musicals I have seen, I must note that this had one of the most memorable and unexpectedly fun curtain calls I have seen.
Kudos to Green Wings, director Nonon Padilla, his entire cast and crew of staging this huge, audacious, original Filipino rock musical. I understand that this play will be toured around different provinces and universities, culminating in a run at the Cultural Center of the Philippines next year. Producer Christopher de Leon is not closing the door on taking on an acting role in the future of the run, and that is something to look forward to.
This maiden run of "Lorenzo" is now playing at the fresh, spacious and comfortable SDA Theater of the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde along Vito Cruz in Malate. Performances are scheduled on September 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, and 14 with shows at 1:00 PM and 6:00 PM. The start time of 6 pm was quite unusual but understandable because of the three hour long running time with 10 minute intermission.
There are three Price Zones when you buy your tickets at Ticketworld: Orchestra Center (Reserved Seating) at P1,274.98, Orchestra Side and Loge (Free Seating) P1,062.48 and Balcony (Free Seating) P531.24. Buying onsite will save you the online service fees.