Thursday, August 20, 2015

Recap of FULL RANGE - The Music of JESSE LUCAS: Enchanting First Encounter

August 20, 2015

Honestly I am not familiar with Mr. Jesse Lucas until his name was cited in this year's Triple Threat series at the CCP. Previously, the CCP had concerts by actors who could sing, dance and act. This year, they decided to highlight composers and their output for film, television and theater.  I know the work of the other two composers, Vincent de Jesus and Rony Fortich, who will have their turn in the next two months. However, tonight is my very first introduction to the music of Jesse Lucas.

The show opened with Jesse Lucas entering the stage and sitting down behind a grand piano on center stage. He began to play a song called "Awit ng Hiling" from a rock musical called "Junto Al Pasig". The singing was led by Sandino Martin, who was later joined by Jun-Jun Quintana and members of the Valenzuela City Center for Performing Arts (VCCPA). I knew Martin from his film work, and was surprised that he can actually sing very well in "Manhid." He opened the show with a strong vocal performance tonight.

The next performer was Liesl Batucan, whom I haven't seen her since "August Osage County" last year. She sang one of Lucas' earlier works entitled "I Will Listen" from the show "Benilde the Musical". She introduced this song as originally sung by a young Faith Cuneta as a mother to a deaf-mute child. After her affecting rendition of the song, she introduced Roeder Camanag who played the original character and sang the next song in the show "Urbana and Felisa". The song is "Muli Sa Iyong Alaala".

The next big number was called the Showstopper Mash-Up, which were songs from the musicals "Quiapo", "Urbana and Felisa" and a couple of Gantimpala Theater productions of fairytales: "Sleeping Beauty" and "Cinderella". This number was led by the powerful yet pristine belting voice of Natasha Cabrera. There were also a trio of girls from the VCCPA who played Cinderella's wicked sisters with twerking glee. A cosplaying girl named CMKC was weaker in her singing beside the other ladies.

It was only at this point that Jesse Lucas spoke to address the audience. He seemed really shy and soft-spoken. He introduced the music video of his various credits on Film (from indies like "Alienasyon" to commercial hits like "Crazy Beautiful You") and Television (from "Maging Sino Ka Man" to "Bridges of Love") shown as a slideshow. Too bad they did not do this like an Oscar show montage where the theme music will play when the poster or scenes of the movie or show were shown on screen.

After this slideshow, he played a clip from a personal favorite film he scored -- Dennis Marasigan's "Sa North Diversion Road". A lady in a white ballgown came out to sing the theme song -- the lead actress from the film herself, Ms. Irma Adlawan. This was a most pleasant surprise for me because I had never seen this esteemed actress sing before. She made that torch song "Sa Kanyang Piling" sizzle.

Lucas also had a Pop Collaboration with film director Jose Javier Reyes for a song called "Kung Bakit" which was rendered tonight by VCCPA talents with the Pillowcase Band.

The next number was a suite from Lucas' historical musical "1898 Ang Pagpatay kay Luna" first staged by Tanghalang Pilipino in 2002.  Sheila Francisco started with a dynamic song that started calm and low, which she eventually took up one whole octave (or more) with mad energy.  Franco Laurel had a handsome look and high baritone as he delivered the second song. He should be singing in theater more. The final song in the set was rendered by the acrobatic voice of Sweet Plantado with restrained power. This was such an amazing trio!

The next set showcased a couple of ballets for which Lucas had written the music. The first number was from "Chanted Journeys" featuring a pas de deux by Lobreza Pimentel and Peter San Juan (of Philippine Ballet Theater) dressed in Igorot tribal costume, while Ms. Camille Lopez-Molina provided ethereal background vocals.  The second number was a group dance featuring more than twenty male ballet dancers from the Philippine Ballet Theater and the UE Silanganan Dance Troupe. The syncopated musical accompaniment was so energetic and driving, fascinating to hear and watch. Both numbers were choreographed by Gener Caringal

The next group of songs were labelled Art Songs, displaying Lucas' talent in challenging classical musical compositions. The first song was "Tawag", a poem of Maningning Miclat set to music by Lucas and sung by Banaue Miclat-Janssen. The soprano vocal quality of Ms. Janssen was so clear and flawless. This song should be part of a collaboration by Lucas and Janssen called "Ginugunita Kita" shown in UP last May and to be restaged at the CCP next month. If this one song is an indication, that full show should be a must-see. The next song was "A Mi Retiro" from "Pepe Rizal: Sa Isip, Sa Salita, Sa Gawa" sung by a powerhouse trio: sopranos Rica Nepomuceno and Camille Lopez-Molina with tenor Al Gatmaitan. The big revelation for me was Ms. Nepomuceno whose slight frame belied her incredibly strong reverberating pipes.

The concluding set were love songs from three of Lucas' musicals. First up was Tex Ordonez with "Nasaan Ka" from "Darna", followed by Ayen Musni-Laurel with "Muling Magmamahal" from "Daan ng Krus." I have heard the names of these two ladies, but I have not heard their voices as clearly as now. Their rich voices certainly need to be showcased in more shows. The next two songs were from "Sandosenang Sapatos". First up was "Tatawirin ng Pag-Ibig" so beautifully sung by Bodjie Pascua. He truly imbued this song with so much passion and emotion. Finally, Sandino Martin and Jun-Jun Quintana came back on stage to lead the singing of "Kaya Ko", later joined in by all the other singers to close out tonight's concert.

This is one concert in which I did not know a single song, but I was certainly not bored with this show. The direction by Floy Quintos kept the show interesting until it gradually built up to a rousing and most memorable conclusion. I am happy that I braved the rain and traffic to catch this show tonight. It may be lower-key than the Lebron James event at the MOA Arena or the "Singing in the Rain" opening night at the Solaire that same night, but this show introduced me to a homegrown talent for whom I have gained much admiration for after this initial encounter with his diverse musical output. Kudos Mr. Jesse Lucas!

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