Thursday, May 7, 2015

Recap of KATY PERRY PRISMATIC IN MANILA: Colorful and Celebratory!

May 8, 2015

My daughter and I attended a concert at the new Philippine Arena last month with the Best of Best K-Pop concert. That time we decided to take the shuttle bus from Trinoma Mall, for P50 per ticket. This time for the Katy Perry concert, since I am bringing my whole family with me, we decided to try and drive ourselves to the venue, and compare the pros and cons first hand. 

We arrived a little past 6:30 pm. It was not really that hard to find a parking slot, although there was need to walk a distance. Parking fee is  It seems they are strict about unloading beside the Arena. Entering the Arena proper was not difficult at all this time. There was no long lines to be seen unlike before. People simply walked in as they arrived. So far so good.

By 8;15 pm, a couple of quirky ladies appeared on the stage. They were The Dolls, composed of international DJ Mia Moretti along with the charismatic violinist, Margot. During their initial spiel, Mia Moretti actually had a scary fall off the narrow ramp of the stage (VIDEO)! Luckily she recovered from her fall with a big smile on her face. Their set was very energetic and entertaining. They played their enchanting brand of electronic music for about 40 minutes.

After The Dolls, we had a very long wait. I was afraid Ms. Perry would arrive past 10 pm already as she did in her previous Manila concert at the MOA Arena grounds. My kids were already very sleepy. Fortunately, we did not wait that long. By about 9:45 pm, the lights dimmed down again and the screaming began. This is it! The Prismatic show is beginning!


On the darkness of the stage, we begin to see some things that looked lit-up spears. Then the introductory strains of the rousing anthem "Roar" (VIDEO) was heard and Katy Perry came out in a stylized dark-colored outfit with glow-in-the-dark bright neon highlights on her hair, chest and skirt. This number was marked by Katy jumping a glowing neon jump rope to great effect. Using the same costume and dancers, Katy went on to sing two more big hits, namely "Part of Me" and "Wide Awake".

A video about stars and space played on the screens. Then the stage lights came back on to reveal an elaborate golden Egyptian-inspired set and costumes. We see Katy in a glittering gold short dress, with a skull cap on her head and a whip in her hand, sitting on the back of an elegant horse powered by two dancers underneath. That elaborate song number "Dark Horse" would be one of the most exciting of the night. Using the same shining costume, Katy went on to sing two more electronica-tinged songs, namely "E.T." and "Legendary Lovers"

After a short pause, the red lights bathed the stage. Still wearing her headgear but just her shiny leotards without the skirt this time, Katy shouted that the next song was for the ladies. It was her breakthrough hit song "I Kissed A Girl". Her backup dancers were notably wearing pads to exaggerate their breasts and bottoms. 

There was a cute video showing cats with the cool Snoop Dogg song "Gin and Juice" in the background shown on the screen. Then, dancers in furry cat costumes began to tap dance on the stage. Katy rose out from under the stage wearing her own glittering cat ears and catsuit with tail, standing on a huge golden ball. She sang a sultry version of "Hot N Cold." This was followed by "International Smile". Towards the end, her dancers donned silver sleeves and lattice-petticoat on Katy. She then surprisingly segued into a short cover of Madonna's "Vogue" to end the segment. 

After another short pause, slow music was heard coming from a sunflower-adorned piano on the ramp of the stage. The two backup singers came out wearing sunflower design skirts. Katy then came out looking ethereally gorgeous, wearing a platinum blond wig and a flower-power inspired outfit with sunflower-decked long skirt and and bosom. This was going to be the slow set where we get to hear the strong clear pipes of Katy unplugged. Her first song was the inspirational ballad "By The Grace of God."

Then, Katy wanted someone to teach her how to speak Tagalog. She spotted a guy in the VIP section who was wearing the same silver sleeve and petticoat (dubbed "fish costume") she had on in her last set! Obviously a big KP fan, the young man was overcome with excitement, jumping up and down, and hugging Katy. He introduced himself as Marty, 20 years old from Rizal. Katy was delightful in this funny segment, and seemed genuinely friendly and sincere. Her initial attempts to say "Salamat" became "Salami" to the delight of the audience. (VIDEO)

Going back to the music, she then sang "The One That Got Away" and "Thinking of You" as an acoustic medley. In her spiel, she said that last night May 7 is the anniversary of the kickoff of the Prismatic tour in the UK a year and 137 shows ago. Calling everyone to shine their gadgets in the darkness, she sang "Unconditionally" with the audience seen as a sea of bright lights. This was a beautiful and serene part of the concert, though personally I did not really like that last song too much because of the awkward pronunciation of the title in the song.

There was an interlude of high-energy dance music from the past. The two backup singers came out singing CC Peniston's "Finally" to the amusement of the audience, since that song was being used for a popular Ariel TV commercial lately. Katy came out wearing a sexy neon-colored cleavage and midriff-baring top and short skirt, with a green wig and neon-yellow knee-high socks. She sang "Walking On Air", followed by "This Is How We Do" into which she incorporated the chorus of "Last Friday Night". Her two big Number 1 hits followed one after the other, "Teenage Dream" and "California Gurls" (VIDEO), winding up the main show.

The lights were off but the audience simply knew this show was not year over. There was still one big song left unsung, and every one knew what the encore number would be -- "Firework"! For her final song of the night, Katy came out wearing a voluminous multi-colored ballroom skirt. Using so-called "Prismatic glasses" given outside for free before the show, the laser-lights during this number exploded into to fireworks like displays. This song provided a powerfully emotional end to a most memorably colorful concert.


We reached our car by about 11:30 pm. Then the most unfortunate traffic nightmare began. For unknown reasons, we were caught within the Philippine Arena grounds for the NEXT TWO HOURS!  Most maddening of all, we were sent on a long detour going northward, supposedly going out to Bocaue, only to be made to make a U-turn back to the same spot where we were two hours ago! 

I also saw the shuttle buses still stuck in traffic and mostly empty. I wonder how late the shuttle bus riders got home? During the K-Pop concert, we rode the shuttle and were back in Trinoma before midnight. Things were definitely not that smooth tonight.

When we finally made our way to the exit going back to the NLEX, we found out that cars were being let out only in a SINGLE FILE. So that is why movement was practically a standstill. When we were already on the side of the NLEX going back to Manila past 2:30 am, there was still a long line of cars waiting to go out. This grossly mis-managed post-concert traffic issue should be addressed promptly and properly if this place will be a major events venue. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Review of Dalanghita Prod's KUNG PAANO AKO NAGING LEADING LADY the MUSICAL: Solid Superhero Spectacle!

May 7, 2015

Mely Moran is a homely hardworking 35-year old woman who gets hired to be the maid of Fuerza Filipinas. This group of elite English-speaking superheroes is composed of their sword-wielding leader Madre de Dios, along with wind-controlling Windang Woman, the healer Nene Babushka, the soldier Bazookaman, and the cat-like acrobat Popoy Pusakal. Things get complicated when their newest recruit, the power-ringed telepathic Leading Man, appears to be falling in love with Mely.

Mely's younger, sexier and lazier sister Viva, on the other hand, gets recruited by a nefarious group of supervillains on the pretense of saving Mely, whom they claim was in danger. Calling themselves the Kayumanggilas, this group was led by the megalomaniac Senor Blanco and his minions. Powered by the Chemical Q, this rival group plots to destroy Fuerza Filipinas and become the premiere superbeings of the world. Clueless and foolish Viva fit right into their evil plans of world domination.

Mely and Viva had long been at odds with each other since childhood because of their disparate personalities. However, with this latest and biggest misunderstanding, their unstable and adversarial relationship as sisters results in a conflict that would threaten the lives of all the superheroes, as well as the very safety of the whole world. 

Flores, Ocampo, Lauchengco-Yulo, Borromeo

The plot of this musical is derived from Carlo Vergara's one-act play of the same title, which was an audience favorite during the Virgin Labfest 9 held at the CCP two years ago. Vergara has expanded that original one-act play into a big musical production with two complex acts, each act lasting almost an hour and a half each. 

The first act took its time to establish the multiple characters and their relationships. Momentum would occasionally dip at certain points and it felt as if this act could need some editing and streamlining. However, when the second act came, all of that is forgotten as each scene was a showstopping highlight. The audience could be jarred as the seemingly light-hearted first act takes a turn to the very dark, even showing a very grim massacre happening somewhere in there.

However, whatever shortcomings the very complex script may have with all the characters it had to deal with, it is the talent and charisma of the actors that become the crowning conceit of the whole show. Every actor just seemed to embrace their character perfectly, possessing voices that were able to soar with the punishing arrangements. It was one of those rare productions that brought together actors more known for their English plays and those more known for Filipino plays. I found this very exciting.  

Cabico, Molina, Lim

Bituin Escalante fit her role as Mely so well, from the unsophisticated looks to humble demeanor. Her singing voice was impeccable as always, on point in pitch and emotion. Her acting was painfully poignant. Escalante's struggle with her Segway is a quite a sight to see. Her alternate in this role is another big-voiced belter, Frenchie Dy. Since these two singers would appear to have very different personalities (Escalante being more serious, and Dy more wacky), it would really be interesting to see Ms. Dy's attack on this role as well.

Kim Molina, whom I did not catch in "Rak of Aegis," surprised me with her powerful voice as Viva. It is her character who went through the most complicated development in the play, sometimes even feeling more like the central character than Mely. Molina's alternate in this role is Natasha CabreraEscalante and Molina had a powerhouse trio number with May Bayot (who played their mother), which was one of the best songs in the show. 

It seemed effortless for Markki Stroem to draw attention to himself when he is onstage as Leading Man because of his charming smile and strong stage presence. He was also given a lot of scenes with romantic thrill, which he pulled off quite well. Compared to previous plays I have seen him in like "Carrie" and "Next to Normal", his work here is a very marked improvement. His alternate in this role is Hans Eckstein, who was the original Leading Man in the Virgin Labfest one-act run. 

Escalante, Lauchengco-Yulo, Stroem

It was my first time to see Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo on the PETA stage, and it would be as the kickass Madre de Dios. I thought we would actually hear her speaking in Tagalog, but as it turned out, her role was still totally in English. She gets to display her toned body in the fight scenes, as well as her powerful voice in her featured song in the second act. It is surprising to learn that this is Ms. Menchu's first appearance in an original Filipino musical in her long and storied career as "First Lady of the Philippine Stage". (Her alternate in this role is Astarte Abraham.) 

Among the Fuerzas, Gianina Ocampo stood out in her friend-zoned role as Nena because she got to deliver one beautifully sad and self-denying ballad. Jeff Flores, who was so good in Rep's recent show "4000 Miles", registered strongly as Bazookaman. Caisa Borromeo and Chesko Rodriguez complete the roster as Windang and Popoy respectively. Kakki Teodoro managed to steal scenes as the Fuerza's Robot.

Nar Cabico had the most memorably funniest scenes and lines of the whole show as the evil Senor Blangko, who prided himself with his hifalutin yet mangled English. He delivered hilarious lines like "Like a flower, you will smell" with confident gusto and aplomb. (His alternate in this role is Domi Espejo.)

Santos, Cabico, Nuestro, Concepcion

Red Concepcion (as the g-string clad Itak-Atakand Red Nuestro (as the heavyweight boxer Marakas Markodid their best with their funny villain roles. JC Santos makes a charming canine villain Jeryc Sans Rival. Vince Lim surprised us with his unexpectedly amazing vocals in his scientist character Henyotik's one featured song number. (Mikoy Morales would alternate in this role). Their Kayumanggilas group song which opened the second act was one of the show's most applauded song and dance numbers.

The PETA stage was transformed into a most futuristic-looking set. It came complete with a rotating circular stage in the foreground. The first time we see it rotate was during that scene when Mely initially meets a towel-clad Leading Man, drawing big cheers from the audience. The costumes by Tuqxz Rutaquio ranged from the X-Men inspired Fuerza leather garb to the most "jologs" Kayumanggilas attire. The songs and musical score were signature Vincent de Jesus. The exciting lighting effects of John Batalla were so critical during the battle scenes.

Congratulations to Director Chris Martinez and the young triumvirate behind Dalanghita Productions (Ansis Sy, Claudia Fernandez and Pertee BriƱasfor this solidly entertaining show! It managed to weave an intimate family drama between sisters with a superhero battle-royale of a much bigger scope, while delivering a positive message of recognizing our inner gifts and rising up to challenges. While doing that, it bridged both sides of the Philippine theater scene into one grand production

Cast and Crew

"Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady the Musical" opens today May 7 and will run until June 7 from Friday to Sunday at 8 pm, with 3 pm matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. Venue is at the PETA Theater Center in New Manila, Quezon City. For ticket inquiries, call Ticketworld at 891-9999. Tickets are at P1500, P1200 and P800. They are offering big discounts during the opening weekend.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Review of UP Repertory Company's KARITAS AT DAMASO: Intent to Insult

May 1, 2015

The advertisements I see in Facebook about this twinbill of plays intrigued me. The invitations seem to be for a big summer party instead of for a theatrical play. They even exhort audiences to come dressed in summer musical festival attire! I am not really so sure what to expect here.

Showtime for the matinee today is 3 pm. The venue is Tandang Sora Hall, a building I had never been into when I was a student in UP Diliman years back. It is where the College of Social Work and Community Development is housed. I reached the place already a little past 3 pm, But the audiences are still lining up in the sweltering heat outside. 

When we were let in, people can sit freely anywhere they wanted. The seats were just plastic stacking chairs arranged in a big oval, in three rows.  Too bad though that the airconditioning was not adequately strong enough to cool the whole room, especially because it was a full house at the Bulwagang Tandang Sora today, despite being a holiday. 

The first play presented was ISANG MAGSASAKA by Eshei Mesina. It was about a farmer trying to pick his life back up after a violent attack on their community left several of his friends raped, maimed or dead. Completing the triumvirate of characters was his daughter who was an activist, and a male nephew who was a soldier. It was my bad that fatigue and the heat got to me during the running time of this play. The material felt like I had heard this in many a UP play or indie film I had seen before. So before long, I began to drift and feel really drowsy. In fact, I was startled when the all talk-no action play just suddenly ended. 

There was a 15 minute break after the first play was over. While they were setting up for the next play, they played loud dance music that assaulted our ears, while strobe lights relentlessly assaulted our eyes. I tried my best to tune out the music and keep my eyes closed the whole time, but 15 minutes seemed to last so long.

Before the second play KARITAS AT DAMASO by Dax Carnay started, they announced that the play was rated SPG (Special Parental Guidance) for containing controversial or lurid material. The play began with a man and a woman (clothed in tights with reflectorized accessories) began simulating sexual positions and acts on center stage, while three cross-dressers and a girl gyrated on all four corners of the stage area. When the lights came on, it was obvious from his collar that the guy is a Catholic priest (named Damaso), and the girl is a Catholic nun (named Karitas). Another nun (named Salve Regina) brought in a young girl who was raped by another priest so they can "help" her recover her virginity. 

From there, the play then went into unthinkable and outrageous acts and songs about rape, sex and Jesus which were supremely salacious and malicious, in the guise of "humor". I cannot see any reason why a script like this was even written in the first place, except perhaps to insult the Catholic Church (in particular) and all Christianity (in general). Is that why an organization for atheists and agnostics was one of their major sponsors? OK, I admit I may not be within the age demographic targeted by this play, but I dread to consider that something decadently nihilistic and wantonly hedonistic like this fits the current standard of what's "cool" or "fun". 

I learned to love the theater when I was a student in UP Diliman. This is a love that I have up to now, and I have been blogging about the theater shows I watched regularly for several years now. I thought that at my age, I am already mature enough to watch all kinds of plays. However, this one is something else. It still repelled me with its total lack of redeeming value. I actually felt physically sick after watching this piece of shock theater. I originally had a party to attend afterwards, but I went straight home instead to try and recover from extreme disgust. I fear though the bad taste it left may take days to wear off.