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.