Thursday, January 30, 2014

Recap of DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING? Manila: Timeless Boubil and Schonberg Songbook

January 31, 2014

"Do You Hear the People Sing?" is a touring musical production featuring various international  musical theater luminaries singing classic songs written by the acclaimed pair of Alain Boublil and Claude Michel Schonberg.  This show made its debut staging in Indianapolis in 2011, and has been touring ever since.  Manila had its turn to host this show January 29 and 30, 2014 at the Newport Performing Arts Theater at Resorts World Manila.  

This was expensive affair with cheapest balcony tickets costing almost P5000 each, going all the way up to P25,000 each for Patron seats.  However, the underlying heart of this show is that it was a benefit show aiming to raise P24M to build 200 houses for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban care of Habitat for Humanity.  All the artists who sing and perform on stage will donate their time and talent for this noble endeavor, as the appreciative audience donate their price of their ticket.

Ms. Lea Salonga

The show started when the curtain rose on Gerard Salonga conducting the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra onstage, playing an overture with familiar tunes from Ms. Saigon. Behind them were two rows of choir singers.  The first song number is already a showstopper in itself, Jon Joven singing the rousing "Bui Doi". Jon hit the ball right out of the park right away with his powerful rendition of the song which opened Act 2 of Ms. Saigon.  

After he sang, Jon was joined onstage by guest foreign artist, Australian David Harris.  They told us the story behind the birth of Ms. Saigon.  This was followed by a performance of "The Heat is On in Saigon" by a collection of theater artists called Ms. Saigon Ensemble. I recognized Robbie Guevara and Jake Macapagal among them.  Macapagal nervously stumbled as he introduced the next performer, none other than Ms. Lea Salonga herself.

Ms. Lea came onstage in a red gown and started to sing a series of songs from Ms. Saigon, starting with "I'd Give My Life for You" which was flawless.  After talking about her experiences as a naive 17 year-old struggling with the requisite bed scenes, Lea sang "Last Night of the World," with the dapper David Harris singing the role of Chris.  Harris' voice was so high and soaring. This duet ended in a passionate kiss which surprised the audience.  
Next up was "I Still Believe".  We get to hear the new lyrics to be debuted in the upcoming 2014 revival, though personally I preferred the old words.  Playing the role of Ellen was Carla Guevara-Laforteza, who was breathtaking.  Not that I'm complaining, but I wonder why it was not Menchu Lauchengco who sang with Lea for this song?

The final song in the Ms. Saigon set is "The American Dream" sung by no less than Mr. Leo Tavarro Valdez, who had actually played the Engineer on London.  After he floored us with his flexible vocals and physical comedy skills in this hilariously sleazy performance, he was joined by Lea and they introduced the next set and singer. 

Ms. Marie Zamora

The other foreign guest artist was French soprano Marie Zamora. Her first song for the night was actually in French, "Au Petit Martin" from Boublil and Schonberg's first production La Revolution Francaise.  

This unfamiliar song would be followed by more unfamiliar songs from another less known show called "Martin Guerre."  The performances of these serious songs though were memorably first-rate.  Jed Madela unexpectedly gave an impassioned and intense performance of the title song.  David and Marie joined up to sing the love song "Live with Somebody You Love" which also ended with a passionate kiss."  Then Lea joined them onstage to sing "The Land of the Fathers."  

The next set of songs have been songs which had been deleted or retooled from various shows.  Marie sang Colette's song "I Saw Him Once" from Les Miserables, which was dropped because the play was already too long, though I seem to have heard this song already before.  Then Lea sang "Too Much for One Heart" which was dropped from Ms. Saigon and rewritten as "Please."  I have heard Lea sing this song before in one of her concerts.  Lea introduced Rachelle Ann Go who stirringly sang a new song for the character of Ellen, "Maybe."  

Lea then joined Rachelle onstage and they belted out a pop version of "I Dreamed a Dream" which sounded amazing.  After this duet, the rest of the company joined the two on stage and they all sang "This is the Hour" which closed the first act.

Mr. David Harris

After the 20 minute intermission, the orchestra began to play an unfamiliar Irish-sounding sprightly tune. That turned out to be from the latest Boublil and Schonberg show Pirate Queen.  Carla Guevara again came out playing the title role of Grace O'Malley singing "Woman".  She blew us away with her strong voice and portrayal.  David came out again and sang "If I Said I Loved You" with Carla, which again ended with a passionate kiss, which had the audience tittering with the recurrent inside joke.

The audience clapped with anticipation as the French tricolor appeared on the video backdrop and the Orchestra played the Les Miserables Overture.  The first song would be the first song written for the show, "On My Own."  Marie sang the original French version "Mon Histoire" and Lea joined her with the English version.  The Ensemble followed with "At the End of the Day."  Leo "Understatement" Valdez and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo played the Thernadiers performing the very funny and irreverent "Master of the House."  I have to say I was disappointed that this was Ms. Menchu's only solo spot in the whole show.

What followed were all my favorite songs from Les Miz.  For the beautifully haunting medley of "In My Life" and "A Heart Full of Love," the love triangle was played by the night's three main soloists: David, Marie and Lea. There were a couple of obvious mic glitches at this part but negligible. The Javert ballad "Stars" was sung by Michael Williams.  "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" was heartbreakingly sung by David Harris. 

David then segued into "Bring Him Home."  Surprisingly he was joined onstage by Michael Williams.  Then with the next verse, Cocoy Laurel (who played Jean Valjean in the Manila production of Les Miz) came out and sang.  Cocoy looked awkwardly dwarfed singing beside the tall David, but he still held his own.  Jon Joven sang the punishing final verses before all four sang together to end the song.  Amazing number.

Everybody else came out onstage. The powerful drama of seeing and hearing "One Day More" sung live never gets old, and it was the same here tonight.  This final song ended in a spray of golden confetti and the audience rose for a much-deserved standing ovation.  

Mssrs. Alain Boublil and Claude Michel Schonberg

The audience was in for a surprise because the main men Claude Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil themselves took to the stage and addressed the audience with their special messages of thanks.  These were very touching words indeed.  Everybody onstage then closed the show with the concert title song "Do You Hear the People Sing?"  And with that, this night of thrill- and goosebumps-inducing music and singing for a good cause came to an end.  The exhilaration we felt after the show was unbelievable!  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Review of WICKED in Manila: The Artichoke is Steaming!

January 27, 2014

Wicked is adapted from the 1995 “revisionist” Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" by Stephen Schwartz (music and lyrics) and Winnie Holzman (book).  Since its Broadway debut back in 2003, it always enjoyed full houses everywhere it was staged.

This is already the second time I am watching Wicked.  The first time I watched this very popular musical was in Sydney a few years back.  This was what I wrote about the show back then.

"October 22, 2009

I had always heard of how fantastic "Wicked the Musical" is, but I had only known but two songs from it:  "Defying Gravity" and "For Good."  So when I found out that "Wicked" was showing in the Capitol Theater right beside our hotel in Sydney the weekend we will be there, I plunked down AU$103 over the internet to Ticketmaster even before we left the country!

The Capitol Theater was a full house that night.  The interior of the theater was very plush and classy.  The ceiling was painted like the night sky, very nice effect.  Before the show, I looked around the souvenir shop, but the things there were so expensive!  A souvenir programme cost AU$20 (I did not buy.)  I was curious about this green icy drink they had there, but I did not feel like queuing.   So, I just went in to look for my seat.  Turns out my seat was at the very top of the auditorium already, row YY!  The people around me, who bought last minute tickets like me, all had a good chuckle when they saw how high up their seats were.

The stage was framed by elaborate decor and lighting.  There was a huge metal dragon poised at the very top and center, which was very imposing.  With these set pieces alone, I realized why this musical would be very difficult to stage in Manila (like "Phantom of the Opera").  Later in the play, we would see other complex sets and lighting effects.  The talking "Wizard" robot alone was a very impressive set piece.  The technical precision required for this show must really be something else.  Really amazing and enchanting.

As the musical unfolded, I immediately saw why people loved it.  The songs were all very good, delightful and catchy, and easy to like, even the dramatic ones.  The script was very funny.  There were so many witty one-liners scattered all over the play.  I enjoyed the way this story of two witches Elphaba and G(a)linda interweaves so neatly with the well-known classic tale of "The Wizard of Oz", and you do not even really see Dorothy!  It was very funny how they speculate the origins of the flying monkeys, the Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and the Scarecrow. 

And of course, the singer/actresses who played Elphie and Glinda were so good. Amanda Harrison was certainly a showstopper the way she sang green witchElphaba's desperate paeans and dreams.  Her voice was so clear, strong and resoundingly dramatic.  On the other hand, Lucy Durack plays good witch Glinda ala "Legally Blonde" which made it hilarious.  Her soprano was also strong and soaring, yet lilting and crisp.  The third angle of the love triangle Prince Fiyero was played by Australian Idol 2003 finalist Rob Mills.  There were several respected Australian actors also who played the more senior characters like the Wizard and the School Mistress, and they elicited applause when they first appeared on stage."


The cast in this touring production is supposedly the same cast many Filipinos caught in Singapore a couple of years back.  There was a different cast from the show I saw in Sydney.  Glinda is now played by Suzie Mathers, and Elphaba by Jemma Rix.  The rest of the cast include: Maggie Kirkpatrick (Madame Morrible), Glen Hogstrom (Dr. Dillamond), Emily Cascarino (Nessarose), Edward Grey (Boq), and Steve Danielsen (Fiyero).  In an innovative bit of casting, they have a Polynesian actor Jay Laga’aia playing the Wizard. 

They have obviously done this so many times, and mastered the show completely.  Everything was flawless. However, the passion and the joy of performing were still all there. Suzie Mathers was so cute as the gleeful Glinda, with her hair tossing and snickering. Her soprano can really soar!  Jenna was likewise excellent as the forlorn green girl who discovered her powers and her calling in life.  Her "Defying Gravity" brought the house down!

If you read my past review above, at that time I was doubting how any local stage can support this production.  Well, since that review was written, we know how the CCP had already been the venue for big musicals with huge sets like "Cats" and just a year or so back "Phantom of the Opera."  When they did "Phantom" here and pulled it off so well, I knew "Wicked" would not be impossible.  And here it is!  The stage and the complex sets were as magical as I remember it.

I felt like I was watching the show for the first time since I vaguely recall the full details of the story, and I felt that joyous excitement all over again as the story unfolded this time.  The first act was really so much more fun to watch than the second act when the heavy drama comes in.  All the famous songs were in Act 1, namely "No One Mourns for the Wicked", "The Wizard and I", "Popular" (recently sampled in a radio hit song by Mika ftrg. Ariana Grande), and of course the big show-stopper "Defying Gravity."  There was only one famous song in Act 2, and that was the beautiful ballad "For Good."  For this watching, I have discovered better the poetry in "I'm Not that Girl" sung in Act 1 by Elphaba, and reprised in Act 2 by Glinda, very touching indeed.

This is a must-see show for all musical theater fans and their families.  I am sure they have already bought all their tickets well in advance as I have maybe six months ago.  All the weekends are sold-out already, but weekday performances are still available as of now via Ticketworld.  Do not miss this show!  



Going to the CCP tonight was not really pleasant experience.  I had been informed that there would be a Sto. Nino Parade which would cause traffic on January 26.  We left the house early and was at the Harrison Plaza area by 6pm.  However it turned out the whole CCP Complex had been blocked off.  So I parked at the Traders Hotel across the boulevard and everyone walked to the CCP.  We made it to our seats in time, though barely. Should remember to steer clear of this last Sunday of January date for future CCP show bookings.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Recap of I HAVE A DREAM: St. Jude Catholic School 50th Anniversary Cultural Show!

January 25, 2014

Just like that, my Alma Mater, St. Jude Catholic School, which we alumni would like to believe is the best Chinese school in the Philippines, has now turned 50 years old.  Our dear school, nestled securely beside Malacanang Palace along the Pasig River, was a dream come true in 1963 for three intrepid SVD missionaries: Msgr. Peter Tsao, Fr. Peter Yang and Fr. Charles Tchou.  Throughout the years of its existence, it has produced graduates who take pride with their tradition of academic excellence in English and Chinese, neat penmanship and an ingrained sense of strict discipline.

One of the highlighted events to celebrate this momentous golden milestone is a cultural extravaganza entitled "I Have a Dream," held in no less than the posh and luxurious Newport Performing Arts Theater at the Resorts World Manila.  The school produced this show in cooperation with SJCS Bath 1978, the SJCS Alumni Association and the SJCS Parents Auxiliary Group.  This special twin-bill musical program will be run for two nights, January 25 and 26, 2014.

Outside the venue before the show, there were souvenirs on sale in the lobby of the theater. Notably, there is a SJCS Golden Anniversary Commemorative coffee table book that costs P3000 each.  There were also t-shirts and various smaller knick-knacks with the insignia of the school and the title of the event.  There was also a desk where alumni could register and get photographed for their SJCS Alumni  ID cards, which has some benefits in select shops around the city.

The show started with an invocation song "I Will Carry You" sung by a priest.  This was followed by the National Anthem and the SJCS Hymn played the Drum and Bugle Corps.  I wished the SJCS Hymn would have been sung with the words.  We have not heard it sung since we sang it during our high school graduation!  School Director and Principal Fr. Vicente R. Rayco then delivered the welcome remarks.

The first half of the program was a performance of excerpts from Cam Floria's "Joseph the Dreamer", following the life of the Joseph, the favored son of Jacob, who was thrown into a well by his jealous brothers. He was then sold to an Egyptian lord Potiphar and seduced by his wife.  Because of that, Joseph was thrown in prison. He later interpreted the Pharaoh's dream and eventually became Egypt's second-in-command.

The kids played their parts with gusto the best they can for such an elaborate story on a huge stage. There were so many sound glitches but they did not fall out of character and just continued to perform. Of course, the performances were not really perfect, but we do not really expect perfection for an all-student presentation such as this.  These kids are not professionals and I heard they only had the chance to practice on this stage a day before this performance, yet they still delivered. 

The lead role of Joseph was played by HS 4th year student Troy Espiritu, who was visibly nervous, but understandably so for he was playing such a formidable part. High school students from all levels played the other supporting roles. It is remarkable that the role of Mae East (a.k.a. Potiphar's wife) was played by a Grade 6 student who recently played professionally for Trumpets' successful "The Bluebird of Happiness", Chimmi Kohchet-Chua.

While I blame the sound system for the garbled words which were not too easy to understand, but the backdrops, set pieces and costumes were grandiose and glittery!  We are entertained by the efforts of the students, and were amazed at the number of singing talents in this segment of the show. (VIDEO)

Nothing like this had ever been produced when I was in SJCS, and I am glad to see that the school is taking big strides in promoting the theater arts among the students.  During our time, we only had the Passion Play, which of course had no singing and dancing in it.

There was a 10 minute intermission.  After the short break, there was a raffle draw for people who had bought a P500 raffle ticket at the lobby.  Prizes ranged from P60,000 to a whopping P100,000! Following that, there was an awarding of an outstanding alumni, Sherwin Christopher Tiu, for his valuable contribution in the promotion of sports in the school  Three awards were also given for donors for scholarship grants, namely: Batch 1978, Mr. Alfred Lao and our Batch 1983!

The second half of the program was divided into four parts:  Dreaming, Praying, Striving, and Winning.  Each segment was portrayed by very big song and dance numbers featuring kids from kindergarten all the way up to alumni.  I have to say the small kids were all so cute on stage in all their various numbers.  There was this little girl even sang solo to kick off an inspiring "Imagine" (by John Lennon) group number while beautiful photographs of the kids flashed in the background. (VIDEO) There was also a very energetic number by elementary kids where they danced to a medley of modern dance pop songs like "Superbass", "Titanium," and others while doing complicated formations and electric choreography. (VIDEO)

There were a group of ladies from the parents, faculty and school administration who danced to a series of hit disco songs like "Proud Mary", "Tragedy", "Staying Alive" and "I Need a Hero" dressed in brightly color-coordinated 70s-inspired psychedelic costumes. The 60-strong Alumni Choir had solid performance of Celine Dion's "Power of a Dream."  (VIDEO) This was followed by a quartet of young alumni guys singing a great arrangement of "Long and Winding Road."  (VIDEO)

The Chinese segment of the performances was so vibrant with their gold and red motifs representing dragons and phoenixes.  The part where little kids were synchronously banging on drums while many others were dancing was done so well! The solo of alumnus and professional tenor Sherwin Sozon of a Chinese ballad was very solid and strong. (VIDEO)

This second half of the program is mainly what I was expecting to see when I went to see this show. All the numbers were grand and at the same time, very inspirational.  Obviously so much effort had been expended to rehearse the precision of the choreography. So much money had been poured into all the beautiful sets and costumes, and I would say it was worth it.  All those kids running up and down the stage, apparently not getting confused with their complicated blocking.  All the bright and vibrant colors working so well with each other. Whoever conceptualized all of these numbers, bravo!  You have great vision, and they have come to life so well.  We the audience were so moved and entertained.

Even seeing the second half alone makes the whole price of admission already worth it. Practically all the numbers in this second half were so good visually and aurally, even with still some obvious sound glitches with the microphones. This is not to take anything away from the performers of the "Joseph the Dreamer" though, as they really had a formidable task to pull off, and they delivered the best they could given their age and experience.

Congratulations to Overall Director Belly Ng, costume designer Ranito Santos and all the backstage staff and crew for efficiently running the show.  I am glad to see that the students also put in efforts backstage with overall student production head Pauline Ang.  I hope they can still improve on the coordination with with sound system before the show tomorrow. 

Most specially, congratulations the students (and their parents) who really took a lot of time and dedication to rehearse all of these very elaborate song and dance numbers.  It must definitely have been so difficult to juggle their studies and their rehearsals throughout the past few months, and to perform at this level for TWO nights in a row!  Kudos also to all the alumni who have dedicated time and effort to sponsor and organize this special event.

I am pretty sure the message of Fr. Rayco during his inspirational speech in Act 2 about GRIT (or the passion and perseverance to achieve goals) got through to everyone.  We will imbibe the persistence of the dragon and the resilience of the phoenix as we go through life as proud alumni of St. Jude Catholic School.  Here's to 50 more years of academic success!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Review of Repertory Phil's WAIT UNTIL DARK: Tightly Suspenseful

January 18, 2014

Just three weeks into January and the local theater scene is already coming to life!

Repertory Philippines' initial offering for its 77th season is something out of the ordinary -- a straight play that is a suspense-thriller.  Now how many of those have you seen before?  I think this would be the first one I have seen.  I was very excited to watch it because of its novelty, and my curiosity on how to pull off suspense on stage.  

The play was written by Frederick Knott and was first staged in 1966 on Broadway with Lee Remick as Susy.  Knott's main theatrical output were thriller plays like "Dial M for Murder," "Write Me a Murder" and this one "Wait Until Dark."  Repertroy Philippines had staged "Wait Until Dark" back in Season 8 in 1973 with Celia Diaz-Laurel as Susy.  It is certainly ripe for a re-staging for the new generation.

I have vague memories of watching the 1967 movie version of "Wait Until Dark" on Betamax I believe, way way back.  I do not really remember the story at all anymore.  I just remember those mesmerizing big eyes of Ms. Audrey Hepburn and the distinct lilt in her voice as she delivered her lines, especially the imploring way she pronounced the word "please".  It would be a formidable task for the actress who will play her role onstage to create her own Susy.

The setting is London, in the mid-1960s.  Susy Henderson is a young woman who had recently lost her eyesight in an accident.  She lives with her photographer husband Sam. Sam had been asked by a mysterious woman to bring a doll over from the Netherlands. Unknowing to the Hendersons, the doll contains a valuable stash which a trio of con men, led by a ruthless drug lord Harry Roat, is trying to get their hands on. When Sam was away on a trip, they try to convince Susy that her husband murdered the woman who gave the doll to him, and it was necessary to find the doll to save Sam.  This handicapped housewife whom they thought would be a cinch to trick and scare in their elaborate scheme turned out to be smarter and more gutsy than they imagined her to me.

For being so convincing as the blind Susy, Ms. Liesl Batucan certainly exceeded all expectations with her bravura performance of a most difficult role.  All those little mannerisms we expect from blind people -- the constant stare in her expressive eyes, the feeling of the floor with her feet -- all done as if they were second nature already.  From the moment she entered the set, you already feel the tension. She excelled not only in the suspense scenes, the success of which hung on her performance as much as the lighting effects, but also shone with her ebullient heart in those quiet and tender scenes.  Even if this is still January, as early as now, I have a feeling Ms. Batucan will be in all the Best Actress lists by year end.

Arnel Carrion plays the evil criminal Roat.  I have to give him props that he only learned this major villain role in six days after the original actor Jamie Wilson literally broke his leg (knee actually) during rehearsals last Thursday and required surgery.  His long lines were perfectly delivered, no flubs.  With his thick eyebrows, brawny physique and piercing glare, Arnel looked positively sinister in the last scenes.  He promises to continually develop his character and improve on it during the course of the run.

Joel Trinidad in the post-performance press conference said this was his most difficult role ever, only getting the proper character just two days ago.  I would have been fooled because he totally captured character of Mike Trenton, the petty criminal with a kind heart.  Mike's role in the con was to pretend to be Sam's friend and earn Susy's trust.  He did just that and then some, lending the play some touching moments.

Robbie Guevara provided the humor in this production with his simpleton thinking and obsession to wiping off his fingerprints as Trenton's partner-in-crime Croker.  This play marks Robbie's return to the Rep stage after many years. Young Daniella Gana plays the Henderson's upstairs neighbor Gloria with spunk.  Now we know her successful stint as Alice (in Wonderland last year was no fluke).  Lorenz Martinez got the role of the husband Sam also only six days ago after the original actor Arnel Carrion was upgraded to play Roat. The role is small and was a walk in the park for him.

Despite being set in the 1960s, the play did not feel dated at all.  The whole play was set in that neat underground flat of the Henderson's designed by director Miguel Faustmann himself. The critical elements of lights (especially in the last scenes supposedly happening in total darkness) was very well done by John Batalla.  The eerie sound effects of Jethro Joaquin completes the necessary atmosphere for excitement. 

Congratulations to the Repertory Philippines crew for this rare, effectively suspenseful stage production. Jamie Wilson's unfortunate accident just a week before opening night was big hurdle to jump over, but troopers as they are, the show went on as scheduled with nary a hitch.  Even the souvenir programs had already been edited accordingly to reflect the new cast.  I am very impressed.

"Wait Until Dark" will run at the Onstage Theater at the second floor of Greenbelt One, from January 17 to February 9, 2014.  Take a break from musicals and comedies for a while.  Do catch "Wait Until Dark" for a different kind of theater experience!  For tickets call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or log on to 

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Yearend Roundup: The BEST of PHILIPPINE THEATER 2013

January 3, 2014

Last year, I had seen 28 theater productions, 21 of which were musicals. That is only a fraction of everything the very active local theater scene has offered for the general public in the past year.  I will recount here what I feel were the best that I have seen and written about for 2013.


This category is the hardest to rank because the productions were all very good. The talent of Filipino musicians are in full display.  For this list, I am just going to include productions who had their first run in 2013.

1.  The Bluebird of Happiness (Trumpets)

The whole production had a vibe that you were not watching a Filipino play.  It had a distinctly foreign flavor, very much like a Disney production.  While the story was based on a Belgian play by Maurice Maeterlinck, this production is proudly all-Filipino.  The sprightly music was composed by Rony Fortich, whose seven years as Musical Director of HK Disneyland must have rubbed off on his musical stylings.  The sweeping musical arrangements were care of Mon Faustino. The book and libretto by Director Jaime del Mundo was so witty and insightful, such a joy.  (My Full Review)

2.  Lorenzo (Green Wings)

"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, with multiple Japanese references, from Kabuki to Giant Robots, used to drive the story forward. (My Full Review)

3.  Sandosenang Sapatos (Tanghalang Pilipino)

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. (My Full Review)

Honorable Mentions:

Sa Wakas (My Full Review)
Maxie the Musicale (My Full Review)
Bonifacio Isang Sarsuwela (My Full Review)

Revival of the Year:

Katy! (My Full Review)


1.  The Producers (Repertory Philippines)

Director Jaime del Mundo 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. Audie Gemora stole the scenes from under the leads Carlo Orosa and Topper Fabregas with this flamingly wild performance as director Roger de Bris. (My Full Review)

2.  The Addams Family (Atlantis)

The set design, as was the standard for all Atlantis productions, was impeccable.  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. (My Full Review)

3.  The Full Monty (Viva Atlantis)

There was hardly a dull moment throughout the two acts.  Both the comedy and dramatic highlights were all on perfect point.  The material in itself was really so good, very well-written. This show is not only about an the climactic "full monty" strip show at the end, which I know is the main point of interest for many.  It is actually an interesting examination into the male psyche, as well as an insightful treatise on the relationship of husbands and wives.  The lyrics of those songs were so witty, so real and so affecting, on top of having very clever rhymes. (My Full Review)

Honorable Mentions:

Carrie (My Full Review)
Tarzan (My Full Review)
No Way to Treat a Lady (My Full Review)

* Note:  I was not able to watch "Cinderella."


Collection (Dulaang UP)

The title is nondescript, does not say much.  The ticket simply billed it as a "very dark comedy."  I totally did not expect what would come out on stage.  The very first scene was an auction with no less than the Banaue Rice Terraces as a piece of real estate up on the block. This shocking opening already sets the over-the-top, bombastic mood, pace and scope that would characterize the next three hours of complex, witty and mesmerizing theater.  The play would go from the mystic 17th century to the electric future, with a vivid script in both English and Filipino, on an impressive and innovative set that looked like it had doubled the size of the old Wilfrido Ms. Guerrero Theater stage miraculously.  Jeremy Domingo and Teetin Villanueva owned the stage with electric performances. (My Full Review)

Honorable Mention:

Teatro Porvenir (My Full Review)

* Note:  I was not able to watch "Der Kauffman" nor any of the Virgin Labfest plays.


Piaf (Atlantis)

This is an ultimate acting piece for the actress who will play her.  It is an awards-baiting role, and indeed it had won a Tony in 1981 for the actress who originally played Piaf on Broadway, Jane Lapotaire. Even if this was shown early in March, the Best Actress of the year award belonged to Ms. Pinky Amador already.  She was giving this character everything she's got. It is her powerful, full-bodied smokey singing voice that is front and center in this play. Even if her spoken voice was already quite strained, her singing was still breath-taking! (My Full Review)

Honorable Mention:

Closer (My Full Review)

* Note: I was not able to watch "Red" nor "The Maids".


Looking forward to more vibrant productions of the various local theater companies this year! Action already starts this January 2014 with "Rak of Aegis" by PETA, "Wait Until Dark" by Repertory Philippines, "Mga Ama, Mga Anak" by Tanghalang Pilipino and "Ang Nawalang Kapatid" by Dulaang UP.  And of course, there is the much-anticipated, big, sold out visiting foreign production of "Wicked" at the CCP.