Saturday, July 26, 2014

Recap of BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE: The Accompanist is the Star

July 26, 2014

This concert was to be held Saturday July 26, 2014 at the Teatrino at the Promenade in Greenhills. I was worried that Saturday night in Greenhills is going to be a parking nightmare.  But with barely five days to go, I decided that this would be too good and precious a concert to miss and bought a couple of tickets. That day, despite worries about an INC event affecting traffic in the area of my daughter's school, we got to Greenhills and got a basement parking space with a lot of luck. In fact, on the day itself, I bought an additional ticket for my daughter to watch with us. That was to be the last ticket for sale, and we got it.

A few minutes after 8 pm, Mr. Rony Fortich addressed the audience and took his seat at the Mickey Mouse-adorned piano.  We first saw some artists come out and act as if they were auditioning for a show.  Mr Fortich then launched into a funny song of his own which set the tone for the whole concert, "He's Just the Accompanist" while all the other guest artists came in and submitted their music pieces to him, to the audience's warm applause.

With the first few songs, we realize that this will not really be a concert about very big musical theater hit songs only.  Many of the 35 guest artists would sing songs I have not heard of before, but that was good because it introduced me to so many other musical gems I would not have known of otherwise. It is too bad also that there were no introductions on who the singers were.  While I recognize most of them, there were those whom I did not know yet.

Joaquin Valdez opened the show with a strong vigorous song I did not know. This turned out to be "Shiksa Goddess" from Jason Robert Brown's "The Last 5 Years"--a musical he will star in this August with Nikki Gil. Topper Fabregas was hilarious as a waiter who longed for "The Man in Table 3".  Of course he did not miss promoting his upcoming show "Rabbit Hole" which he is directing. Carla Guevara-Laforteza was in an elegant black ballgown when she belted out "Woman" (from "The Pirate Queen"). Fred Lo was dapper in black with a red tie as he sang "So Close" (from the film "Enchanted") 

Gian Magdangal rendered for us a Tagalog ballad "Panaginip" (from Ryan Cayabyab's "Noli Mi Tangere"). There was a beautiful duet "It's Never That Easy / I've Been Here Before" (from "Closer Than Ever") sung by Cathy Asanza-Dy and Jenny Jamora, both so powerful! OJ Mariano and Bituin Escalante had a sassy little duet "Therapy" (from "Tick Tick Boom"), about "a problem of co-dependency". Michael Williams surprised the audience by singing the jazzy "Lies of Handsome Men." 

Of course, there are also very familiar songs in the first half of the show.  Kyla Rivera and Caisa Borromeo sang "What is This Feeling?" (from "Wicked"). OJ's solo number is "Home" (from "The Wiz"). Red Concepcion and Cris Villonco sang an energetic duet mixing two Filipino hits "Ale" and "Limang Dipang Tao".  Then looking back on his career as Musical Director of Hong Kong Disneyland, Fortich also played for us a suite from "Frozen" with Kakki Teodoro on "Do You Want to Build a Snowman", Mako Alonzo and Jill Pena on "Love is an Open Door", Gab Medina on Olaf's song "Summer", and Shiela Valderama-Martinez on the ubiquitous "Let It Go".

After an intermission of fifteen minutes, the second act opened with a group of kids singing songs from Fortich's two youthful original musicals. The first was the title song from last year's "The Bluebird of Happiness." The second is "Let's Get Cooking" from "N.O.A.H.", where the kids were joined by a vivacious Shiela Francisco. Fortich then introduced us to the song he wrote for an anniversary of HK Disney "Celebration in the Air" sung by Sweet Plantado and special guest who flew in just to sing for this show, Felix Rivera.

Bituin Escalante goes jazzy with her soulful rendition of "Guess Who I Saw Today." Franco Laurel draws from "Joseph the Dreamer" with his rendition of the song "You Know Better Than I". Menchu Lauchengco mesmerizes like only she can in the song "Raining" (from "Rocky"). Lorenz Martinez sings a hearty "On the Streets of Dublin" (from "A Man of No Importance"). The audience was taught to sing along to the chorus of this song.

Fortich introduced the next number to be a number of dueling divas.  Carla Guevara and Shiela Valderama belted their best to outshine each other in "Let Me Be Your Star" (from the TV show "Smash")  Following this was a number with Audie Gemora squaring off with Michael Williams in a very entertaining mash-up of "Stars" (from "Les Miserables") and "Impossible Dream" (from "Man from La Mancha.")  (VIDEO)

Fortich then dedicated his final song to his artists "You Have More Friends Than You Know" (from the TV series "Glee') (VIDEO).  This song was beautifully rendered by Felix Rivera. After this, Fortich then sang his own solo song entitled "Best Seat in the House" (a piano ballad by Barry Manilow), during which all the guest artists all came out and joined in onstage toward a gospel-like conclusion.  After some final words, all the singers gleefully sang "Seasons of Love" (from "Rent") (VIDEO). That was a glorious end to a most memorable night of beautiful music and amazing singing.  The giddy spirit of love for theater permeated the Teatrino last night, and we were glad we were there to imbibe it all.

*** Thank you very much Ms. Kakki Teodoro and Mr. Rony Fortich himself for filling in my blanks regarding the singers and songs I did not recognize.  

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