Friday, September 25, 2015

Review of VOICE CARE FOR TEACHERS by Pocholo Gonzales: Purposeful and Practical

September 25, 2015

In my line of work at the hospital, I meet a lot of patients with voice problems. In the past, majority of these patients were school teachers. I have long thought that voice care should be a required course in the college curriculum of teachers.

More recently, call center agents were catching up. These people were called voice professionals -- people who depend on their voice in the performance of their jobs. Truth to tell though, anybody who works in the service industries need their voices to be effective in their work. 

When we hear the phrase "voice professionals," we think of singers and actors first. Most of the time though, singers and actors have been trained to protect their voices. They have voice teachers and voice therapists when their voices get into trouble. However, even if they were supposed to know a lot about their voices, a lot of them still do a lot of behaviors which harm their voices.

All voice professionals, from the coloratura soprano in the opera house to the salesgirl in the coffee shop, need to understand how their voice works, so that they know what to do and what not to do in order to keep their voices in tip top working condition. Such instructional material is not exactly easy to come by, and if you see one, it is probably very expensive.

Thankfully, a Filipino writer has taken it upon himself an admirable advocacy for the voice care of teachers (as well as all other voice professionals) Pocholo Gonzales calls himself "The VoiceMaster". He is a true voice professional -- for the past 20 years, he had been a voice artist, a radio broadcaster, a motivational speaker and yes, he is also a teacher himself. It had long been his dream to write a book about voice care especially for teachers, a profession for whom he has utmost respect and admiration. This year, that book has become a reality.

VOICE CARE FOR TEACHERS by Pocholo Gonzales is a slim, soft-bound handbook of 132 pages, published by Central Book Supply, Inc, 2015.  It has 10 chapters about various aspects of the human voice and teaching.

Chapter 1 was very useful for its interesting statistics about voice use. Chapter 2 is useful for its self-assessment tools about our voices. Chapter 3 is a valuable discussion about our posture, its role in our voice and how to achieve a good one. (It was in Chapter 3 that I noted the only major printing error in the book as the content on p. 29 were repeated on p. 30.) 

Chapter 4 is about the three processes in voice production - breathing, phonation and resonation In my practice, there is a fourth process in the enumeration -- articulation. It was mentioned here in the text, but not detailed as the others. I thought the breathing exercises, as well as the part about aligning the vocal tract and that about mask resonance were also very interesting and engaging to follow.

Chapter 5 was about a Vocal Workout, including warm ups and cool down exercises. Like in the previous chapter, there were photographs to illustrate the positions described in the text, making the instructions easy to follow. It includes a part about a Last-Minute Warm-up for those situations wherein an activity of great vocal strain suddenly comes up. I thought that was a very useful tip to include.

Chapter 6 is about Vocal Health, and involves a discussion of various diseases which cause voice problems, like nodules and polyps, vocal fold paralysis, paradoxical vocal fold movement, spasmodic dysphonia and aphonia. The descriptions were very layman in tone, not complicated at all. I noted that he described polyps to be comparable to blisters, but a vocal cyst with liquid content, may be the more apt comparison than a polyp, which is solid. In the discussion of spasmodic dysphonia, he uses the common term Botox, which is actually a trademark. The generic term for Botox is Botulinum Toxin. 

There were Voice Care Tips enumerated at the end of Chapter 6. I liked that he mentioned lozenges which a lot of people use but may not really be the best idea. He failed to mention an important food to avoid when you have voice problems though, and that is acidic food. Acid reflux causes a lot of cases of acute or chronic laryngitis. I am also glad he did not fail to mention that if a voice problem is lasting more than two weeks, a consultation with an ENT specialist should be done. It should be mentioned that there are actually ENTs in this country who have subspecialized in Voice.

Chapter 7 is about Teaching Strategies to improve engagement of students. I am glad he thought of describing the students of today (whom he called Gen Z, or those born in the Internet age) and their attitudes. There was an error in the first page of the chapter when he mentioned that there were 4 questions which will determine whether a student will tune in or tune out of a lecture. However, he enumerated only THREE. I wonder what that other missing question was. 

About the three strategies discussed, I thought Strategy #1 (Optimizing Classroom Layout) and #3 (Multi-Sensory Learning) were within the topic of protecting the voice. However, I thought that Strategy #2 about Modes of Response felt like it did not really address a voice issue. It could have been edited out without really affecting the tone of the chapter.

Chapter 8 is about Teaching through Storytelling where he writes that the 21st teacher should be an Edu-Tainer. Here he lists down a short course on voice acting -- describing critical elements of a character's voice, sound effects and movement. These tips would probably make classroom discussions livelier, though teachers should discern for which topics techniques like these would be appropriate.

Chapter 9 was entitled the Psyche of the Voice, which really caught my attention. However, as I was reading the content, it turned out to be about rehearsing Crucial Confrontations in preparation for conflicts. Of all the chapters, this was the one that rather disappointed me because I was expecting something else. The topic may be interesting, but it was not really directly tied in to voice management.

Chapter 10 was about Action Planning about correcting your bad voice habits. I wish there was an accomplished sample so that users of the book will have an idea how to answer the empty tables properly. 

Overall, I thought this was a very well-written book. I really enjoyed reading Chapters 1 - 6. Mr. Gonzales writes in a very conversational way, like he was right there talking to you, giving you a personal seminar. You can imagine how effective he must be as a teacher. Even the most technical and medical topics came across to the reader very well with his simple, easy-to-understand language and manner of writing. I liked how he encouraged the reader to do the exercises and not just read about them. How I wish though that the references were listed after each chapter, and not all at the end without specifying in which chapter that particular resource was used.

I heartily recommend this book as a basic primer for voice care for all voice professionals, not only teachers. Kudos to Mr. Pocholo Gonzales for his admirable advocacy. Interested parties can order the book from the author's website at this LINK.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Recap of SPANDAU BALLET LIVE IN MANILA 2015: Rejuvenating Reunion!

September 22, 2015

Spandau Ballet was one of the famous British bands from the 1980s who are only coming to Manila for the very first time in their career. Their contemporaries Duran Duran and Tears for Fears have both come twice already with full house concerts. The excitement for this SB concert was very high among those around the 50-year old age group who grew up with their music. There was additional excitement because this was the first tour of the group in 30 years with all the original band members: Tony Hadley (lead vocals), Gary Kemp (lead guitar), Steve Norman (saxophone, guitar, percussion), Martin Kemp (bass guitar) and John Keeble (drums).  (* Tony Hadley though had a solo gig at the Solaire last year.)

The show started promptly at 8 am when front act, Per Sorensen, casually stepped out on the stage with his co-keyboardist. He still has the range, but the voice quality itself is a bit rough already, probably with age. His keyboard skills were still undeniable. He had a thirty minute set, where he sang some of his former band Fra Lippo Lippi's biggest hits, like "Angel," "Beauty and Madness," "Everytime I See You," and "Light and Shade". 

He seemed frustrated that more people were not singing along as much as he was expecting them to, like in their concerts here during their prime (both of which I actually got to watch). Maybe next time he should flash the lyrics on the screen so the audience could sing along easily. He also sang a couple of songs from the "Songs" album to open and close his set -- "Even the Tall Trees Bend" and "Crash of Light" -- which he claims he had not sung in 30 years. The set was a bit too laid back to be truly exciting, but the 80s nostalgia was definitely stoked in preparation for the main act we came here for.

After a 20-minute break, the lights dimmed down again by 9 pm. The screaming was there, but not as loud as I was expecting, The first song was "Soul Boy", which was where the title of their reunion tour ("Soul Boys of the Western World Tour") came from.  Then they immediately shifted to high gear with three consecutive big hits:  "Highly Strung," "Only When You Leave" (VIDEO) and my personal favorite "Round and Round." From the very first song, we all noticed how the voice of lead vocalist Tony Hadley did not show signs of age at all. His vocal instrument was as smooth and as effortless on the high notes as we remember it to be.

As they usually do in concerts, the act does new material. SB did a couple, entitled "This Is the Love" and "Steal" which were both very good.  "Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)" was next. Then they went through a very long series of barely familiar songs like a medley of "Reformation" / "Mandolin" / "Confused" / "The Freeze,"  "To Cut a Long Story Short" (the band's 1980 debut single in the UK) and a percussion instrumental called "Glow." These were good songs, but the audience was antsy for the big hits.

Suddenly, Tony Hadley and Gary Kemp reappeared on a smaller stage behind the Patron section to the surprise of the audience. There they sang a couple of songs in acapella. The first was a melodious song called "Empty Spaces". Then he began to sing their big hit "Gold" which woke the audience back to life again.  Unfortunately, it was just an abbreviated version that undoubtedly kept the audience wanting.

Tony and Gary made their way back to the stage singing "Once More" (a comeback single released in 2009) Then after that, they sang a slowed-down extended version of "I'll Fly for You" (VIDEO). This was followed by a couple of early hits "Instinction" and "Communication." The audience got excited again when they sang "Lifeline." 

At this point Tony had brought some Jack Daniels with him on the stage as he introduced the members of the band. It turns out John Keeble was not able to make the trip and they had a replacement drummer for this leg of the tour. Steve Norman carelessly let go of a couple of "F" words when he introduced Tony.

The audience excitement further grew with the next song, their only Top 10 hit in the US (#4 on the Billboard Hot 100), "True." However, that would be the last song of their main set. They bade their goodbyes and left the stage after that, but the crowd clamored for more.

For their encore, they first sang a most moving version of "Through the Barricades" which fully showcased Tony's amazing vocal range, unsullied by age (and alcohol). Their grand finale was the complete version of "Gold." This was a high-energy final song which ended the show in very high-spirits. 

Honestly, while this concert was good, but it did not exactly reach the high bar set by the Duran Duran and Tears for Fears concerts before it. Despite the fact that the General Admission section was not opened at al, the MOA Arena was still not a total full house last night, as there were several empty sections in the Upper Box. 

Years before, concerts with foreign musical acts like this were huge special events fans really looked forward to. But now with all these foreign concerts coming in almost every week, is the Filipino audience already experiencing some kind of concert fatigue? Hope not. I'd still like to see these stars perform their music here for us.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Review of PETA's NOLI AT FILI DEKADA DOS MIL: Romance and Retribution

September 19, 2015

Because the "Noli Me Tangere" and the "El Filibusterismo" are the best-known books written by a Filipino author, many theater plays have been written and staged to bring these historically significant novels to life. For this particular version, playwright Nicanor Tiongson ingeniously interwove the characters and plotlines of both Noli and Fili into a modern tale of the deeply-ingrained faults of Filipino politics set in the aftermath of a deadline flood and landslide incident in the Southern Tagalog region. 

Upon his election as mayor of Maypajo, Ibarra Marasigan wanted to immediately impose a total log ban in the Sierra Madre mountains. This act ruffled the feathers of the old guard in the community who had long earned money from the logging industry. The list included Bishop Damaso Villarreal, Colonel Salvador Salvatierra and the Governor himself, Don Santiago Santos (who was also the father of Ibarra's fiancee, Clarissa). When the lecherous Col. Salvi blackmails Clarissa into marrying him, this sends the idealism of Ibarra into such a tailspin that pushed him to join the rebels in the mountains as Ka Simon in order to plot his revenge against the men who wronged him.

Lucho Ayala (Ibarra) and Kris Bernal (Clarissa)

A lot of the success of this play depended on the lead star who would play the central role as idealistic Ibarra in Act 1 and vengeful Simon in Act 2. For this run, Ibarra was played by Lucho Ayala. Handsome and charismatic, Ayala had all the females in the audience audibly giddy with excitement whenever he was onstage. His romantic scenes with Clarissa were met with screams of delight, especially their big kissing scene. He has a distinct authoritative way of delivering his very long lines, very aristocratic as his character is expected to be. He had a good command of both English and Filipino. It was an impressive performance overall.

Ayala and Bernal share a tender moment

The role of Ibarra's love Clarissa was played by Kris Bernal. Her Clarissa is had a mind of her own and knew how to fight back. She matched Ayala with her strong and natural stage presence. She attracted attention whenever she was on stage with her pretty face and svelte figure. It was a very auspicious stage debut for this actress more known for her work on TV. (Liza Dino-Seguerra alternates in this role.)

Jack Yabut was a sinister presence as Col. Salvatierra. This character is this play's equivalent of the creepy Padre Salvi of the novel. I would say Yabut was the most realistic actor in the cast. It was as if you are watching a real corrupt military officer in all his disgusting foulness right there on the stage, not an actor. His mere presence sends a chill up and down the collective spine of the audience.

Jack Yabut (Salvi) and Richard Manabat (Damaso)

Neomi Gonzales was so strong as Ka Sally in Act 2, a rebel who did not see eye to eye with Ka Simon. Her big scene where she revealed to Simon (and to all of us) her real identity was a most passionate moment. It was the single most memorable scene for me in the whole play. As proof of her acting versatility, Gonzales was a totally different personality in Act 1 as the flamboyant Tita Victorina, with her kitschy designer clothes and those garishly tattooed eyebrows. 

Gie Onida (Tiago) and Neomi Gonzales (Victorina)

It was very fascinating to see the familiar characters of Noli and Fili come alive in different incarnations in this play. Kapitan Tiago (Gie Onida) is now the corrupt Governor of the province, owing favors to logging companies who donated big to his campaign. Damaso (Richard Manabat) was now the Bishop, a man forced into priesthood because his love Pia was forced to marry a rich man. Elias (Marco Viana) was Ibarra's childhood friend who was forced to become a rebel by dire circumstances. Basilio (Ian Segarra) and Juli (Jo-Ann Pamintuan) ran a barrio cooperative. Isagani (Gio Gahol) was a journalist who published his community newspaper, unlucky with his love for Paulita Gomez (Nicole Manlulo). I liked the way the character of Padre Florentino (Renante Bustamante) was woven in as a pro-active priest Fr. Ino.

Nicole Manlulo (Paulita) and Gio Gahol (Isagani)

Veteran director Soxie Topacio staged a very smooth show. The dramatic sequences were touching. The action sequences were thrilling. The stage was designed by Gino Gonzales to be surrounded by the trees that Ibarra wanted to protect. The lighting design by Jonjon Villareal and the musical design by Dodjie Fernandez were both effective in adding to the dramatic moments. The thunder and strong rain outside that afternoon could be heard inside the auditorium, but the sound system inside was very good as every word uttered was still very clearly heard. The finale song composed by Noel Cabangon was fitting and moving. The young students in the audience were all engaged in the play based on their reactions.

The Curtain Call and a glimpse of the Stage Design

First staged to critical and commercial acclaim in 2008, PETA resurrects this timely gem now when corruption in the government are hot issues in the news. The script had been updated to include more current issues and topics and language. The play is directed by veteran Soxie Topacio to appeal to the youth of today. Young upcoming TV actors have been cast in major roles to add further commercial appeal. Timing the release during months preceding a national presidential election is perfect. As Rizal's novels sparked a revolution in the late 19th century, this hard hitting play should also spark its own awakening among the young people of today to strive for revolutionary changes in the society now. 

Exterior of the Springs Productions Studios

"Noli at Fili Dekada Dos Mil" will run for one more week, Sept. 20, then daily 22-27, 2015 (10 am and 3 pm, at the Springs Productions Studios (51 10th St. Rollings Hills Village, New Manila, Quezon City). Visit or call 891 9999 for tickets. Bulk buyers may contact PETA at 725 6244 or 0905 353 6602. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Review of Dulaang UP's # R < / 3 J: "Current-ifying" a Classic

September 12, 2015

Despite being a tragedy, Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" has endured through the years since its initial publication in 1597 with its story of a pair of young lovers whose romance was doomed from the start. This story has been told and retold and retold once again, adapted into various situations and various cultures in many films and plays of varied styles. 

For its 40th theater season, Dulaang UP once again challenges conventions to stage a radical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet in the context of present-day Filipino youth culture, politics and showbusiness. The very title itself, composed of seemingly random symbols and letters, may not be properly read by the older generation.  I still do not know how to properly pronounce it. Apparently the </3 between R and J means "heartbreak".

Everybody knows the story of Romeo and Juliet, so each production strives to stand out by the uniqueness of its interpretation. This DUP staging calls itself a "multimedia hallucination" so that would give you an idea of how this show will probably go. That they explicitly warn that this play is for mature audiences only suggests that their show will be bold and daring.

The setting is still called Verona, but in the Philippines. The Montagues become the Montes family. The Capulets become the Capule family. The two families are bitter political rivals. The names of Romeo and Juliet are reduced to their initials, R and J. The big difference here is that their Juliet is not a shy 13-year old shrinking violet. Instead, 16-year old J is a showbiz star, a brash spirited teen idol. This difference in the basic character of J would later figure in the radically-changed ending. 

From the very first scene, your attention is immediately grabbed by the unique vision in white of Romeo and Juliet floating and frolicking in midair, as they were borne by dancers who contort their bodies into different positions in order to achieve the proper effect. From such a triumphantly surreal beginning, the whole Act 1 would prove to be a very exciting, very creative telling of familiar stories. This flexible ensemble of dancers would again be imaginatively utilized in a series of scenes depicting R and J's secret rendezvouses as cubicles and cars. 

One of the best scenes for me was that that wild party scene where R and J first met. It was so well-staged with so many dancers on the stage with so much energy and debauchery. The excellent lighting and soundtrack in that scene transformed the whole theater into one big nightclub. It was truly trippy and electric. 

I had never seen the stage of Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater so big and so bare, with minimalistic props coming in and out as they were needed. Everything flowed so efficiently. The projection screen is used in ways I had never seen before with so many original visuals. So much popular youth culture has been injected into this play in the visuals, the lingo, the technology, the music, the dancing. So many facets of the original play which I did not notice or pay attention to before were given prominence here, like Romeo's first love Rosaline or Mercutio's homosexuality. 

Roco Sanchez and Francesca Go, the lead actors playing R and J, are relatively new with a short list of prior theater credits, but their acting performances were so brave, vital and memorable here. They possess amazing dancing skills to boot from classical balletic moves to interpretative jazz moves to funky hip-hop moves.  The onstage chemistry between these two young actors was undeniable, giving the audience a sense of romantic thrill in their scenes together. When R said J was "resplendent", Go truly was. Sanchez exuded the vibe of a young Yul Servo. 

Among the young supporting cast, the standout was Stephen Vinas in the bad boy role as J's cousin Tybalt. His stage presence was as remarkable as his six-pack abs, as he literally stood out from the madding crowd onstage.  Rowald Aviles and Jonathan Abella, playing the guys on R's side, Ben (for Benvolio) and Markky (for Mercutio), unfortunately could not match the intensity projected by Vinas on that stage. Better casting choices could have made that big brawl scene even more breathtaking than it was. 

The senior actors playing the rival politician fathers, Ricky Ibe (as Congressman Montes) and Mitoy Sta. Ana (as Mayor Capule), portray their roles in their slimy best.  However, Ibe actually captured more attention in his second (uncredited in the playbill) role as the Boy Abunda-like emcee of TV talk show "Diretsahan". The caricature was hilarious, especially as he mimicked how Abunda would interrupt the guest as they were talking. By quick costume and wig changes, Marynor Madamesila would portray both Mrs. Montes and Mrs. Capule. She would have her big scene in Act 2 as the Psychiatrist lecturing J about the hormonal basis of love.

After the intermission though, the whole texture of the play will change. For all the visual and emotional vibrancy of Act 1, Act 2 was the complete opposite. We know this Act 2 would be a downer the way events go, but I did not expect it to be this down. R's long sobbing soliloquy may have been a big dramatic moment for Sanchez, but I felt it lost something when the video showed of his suicide did not coincide with how it was portrayed onstage. I do not know if I like the twist in the ending about J. The long final scene was in complete silence, lit only by cellphone flashlights . Too bad during the show I watched, the dramatic power of that scene was interrupted by a girl's sneeze piercing the silence, causing the audience to burst into giggles. 

The final image we see on the big screen was a real-time video of the audience. This, and the unconventional absence of a curtain call, were head-scratching puzzles for the audience as they reluctantly and very quietly, I guess thoughtfully, filed out of the theater. This was the most uneasy ending of a theater show I have experienced. 

Just when you thought they could not do anything more to Romeo and Juliet, here is "#R </3 J" to shake you up. Dexter M. Santos skillfully directs and leads the choreography team to bring this novel adaptation by Guelan Varela-Luarca to vivid life. The technical designers -- Krina Cayabyab (Music), John Batalla (Lights), Ohm David (Set), Winter David (Video), Darwin Desoacido (Costumes) -- have collaborated to create the perfect theatrical hallucination for us to immerse ourselves in. 


"#R </3 J" will have three last shows today September 13, 2015 at 10am, 3pm and 8 pm. There will be another show on Sept. 14 at 8 pm to accommodate those who bought tickets for the Sept. 8 show cancelled because of power outage and inclement weather. Venue is at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, 2nd Floor Palma Hall in UP Diliman. 

For ticket inquiries, you may contact Samanta Clarin (09277406124) or Camille Guevara (09178239531). You may also contact the DULAANG UP Office at 9261349; 4337840 or 9818500 loc 2449.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Review of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN: Wet, Wholesome Whoopee!

September 11, 2015

When the foreign touring production of "Singin' in the Rain" opened at the Theater at Solaire last August 20, I was not convinced I wanted to see it. I loved the classic 1952 film starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds this show was based on. However, I was not so sure I would really enjoy it that much as a live show. 

So many factors were working against it. The material felt dated, a real throwback. The tickets are very expensive, P6,000+ for the front rows. The weather is so unpredictable with the sudden strong thunderstorms causing flash floods. The traffic situation this month in the city was uncommonly horrendous.

However, things changed this very weekend that the show was closing its run. First, they announced a very generous 50% discount off the ticket prices!  Secondly, the weather this Friday late afternoon was very good, with no storms predicted for the rest of the evening. Thirdly, for some inexplicable reason, there were no monster traffic jam anywhere along the route to Manila. That convinced me, I was going to watch this show.

Since I was not sure of the weather and traffic, I did not buy the tickets in advance unlike other shows before. When we reached the box office, we saw there were still two seats left in the fourth row, albeit they were on the extreme right of the stage. We chose to buy those two to be near their so-called "splash zone". The "splash zone" were the first three rows where the people seated could get splashed on by water from the stage (they were given plastic raincoats to wear). That should be fun to witness up close. 

The story is directly adapted from that of the movie. It was the exciting time in Hollywood when silent films were transitioning to talking pictures. Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont were the stars of Monument Films. Unfortunately, while Lina was beautiful on camera, she possess a voice that a microphone does not love. Don's best friend and pianist Cosmo Brown comes up with a bright idea to get someone else to be the voice of Lina. A talented stage actress named Kathy Selden was hired to be the speaking and singing voice of the crass and abrasive Lina for the film. However, Don, who had by then fallen in love with the spirited Kathy, had other plans in mind.

For me, the best performer of the show was Bethany Dickson as Kathy SeldenMs. Dickson was so eye-catching, tall and lovely. You would be riveted to her above all the other girls in the chorus. Her voice was velvety in both speech and singing, showcased in songs like "You Are My Lucky Star" and "Would You?". Her Kathy was perky and proud, yet she exuded a kind heart. Those scenes where Kathy was dubbing over Lina's talking and singing while the movie scene was playing onscreen were absolutely magical.

On the other hand, Tanya Lee Hudson was simply on point as the tragically comical character of Lina Lamont. She came across as adorable and lovable in her scenes, both onstage and onscreen, despite her mean spirit of her character. She was even given a solo spot song number called "What's Wrong With Me?" that was off-key and screechy from first to last note, it must have been so vocally punishing to perform (as it was punishing for us to hear). She stole the thunder out from everyone else that night, and she received the loudest applause during the curtain call.

Steven Van Wyk was a very energetic performer as Cosmo Brown. He has a natural funny face and comic flair. He has a solo song number in Act 1 "Make Em Laugh" which was challenging with all the choreographed comedic stunts he had to do with the ensemble. Of course, he had to contend with being compared to the original number Donald O'Connor in the movie. Too bad he did not get to do the "walking up and flipping off the walls" part of the song, but he did the "crashing through the wall" part at the end.

If there was any major disappointment in the whole show for me, it would have to be the casting and performance of Duane Alexander in the lead role of Don Lockwood. Unlike Gene Kelly, Alexander did not feel right for the role as he did not exactly have the looks or charisma of a big movie star about him. His big centerpiece was the "Singin' In The Rain" number which ended Act 1 which featured the 12,000 liters of water raining down on the stage. Apart from the parts where he was splashing water on the audience, the number was not as exciting as I was expected. He was a good dancer, but there was no pizzazz.

The production really ran like clockwork, not a single sound glitch despite the challenges of dealing with water on stage. The elaborate set pieces, colorful costumes, hair and makeup, and scintillating tap dance routines really transported us back to the roaring twenties and the glamor of old Hollywood. The live musical accompaniment sounded flawless and excellent. The movie projections were clear and made so hilariously. The members of the cast were at so much risk of accidental injury or catching colds and laryngitis in this show getting wet every night while singing and dancing, so I admire their talent, dedication and stamina. 

While I am all for Filipino stage talent, watching a foreign production once in a while is also very interesting, especially for their first-rate and very efficient technical aspects. (Watching the stage hands thoroughly dry the stage floor after the big rain scene during the 20 minute intermission was a show in itself). 

Their promotional ads were right, this was indeed a show where you will leave with a smile on your face. It was such a happy, very delightful show to watch live.


You still have today and tomorrow to catch the last three shows of "Singin' in the Rain". It has a 3pm and 8pm show today, and a final 3pm show tomorrow. Take advantage of the very generous 50% off on all tickets, so ticket prices now only range from P3000 for VIP to P750 in the uppermost balcony. Check out the Ticketworld website to buy your tickets.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Review of Artist's Playground TAG-ANI: Aging with Amour

September 5, 2015

One morning, an old lady named Andang was doing her crocheting on a bench in the park in front of a star apple tree. An elderly man named Johnny was passing by and was taken by Andang's charms. He sits down beside her on her bench and began to woo her with the most elaborate poetic lines. Will Andang fall for his flowery tongue? Or will the realities of life impose limits on their budding relationship?

"Tag-Ani" tells a story we rarely hear about, a love scene between two senior citizens. This one-act play was written by recent Natatanging Gawad lifetime achievement award recipient Amelia Lapena Bonifacio as part of her trilogy "Taluhan (Tatlong Dula ng Pag-ibig)", which was first performed in 1975. 

Ermie Concepcion played Andang. Her character is basically the straight man of the play, reacting to the action and situation initiated by the amorous Johnny. Ms. Concepcion plays it simply, no hysterics nor big gestures. She just delivered those sweet little rejoinders and quips with the just the right amount of incredulity, sarcasm or delight.

The bulk of the play's challenge falls on the shoulder of veteran actor Ces Aldaba as the loverboy Johnny. He had the look and charm of a suitor from yesteryear, posturing like a James Dean or Elvis Presley, though his paunch already gets in the way. However it is his tongue that is his prime talent. showering Andang with effusive praise. To do this, Aldaba had to deliver kilometric lines in complicated Filipino poesy in order to win her love.

The simplicity of this play lends itself very well to the intimate confines of 1701 The Little Room Upstairs, venue of Artist's Playground for its experimental productions. This is their second production after the success of "The Riddle of the Sphinx" back in July this year. Their first play was about a couple in their 20s, while this one takes on lovers from the opposite end of the age spectrum. Rarely do we see elderly characters take center stage as the lead characters. 

Artist's Playground is the only company out there now who can bring us these little-known yet precious nostalgic gems out from their storage chest for us to appreciate. Director Roeder Camanag and his crew deserve kudos for their admirable advocacy.


"Tag-Ani" is on its extended run since it opened last August 22, 2015. There are only two performances left on its last day, September 6, 2015. The Little Room Upstairs can be found in Rm. 1701 of Landsdale Tower along Mother Ignacia Ave. in Quezon City. For tickets, call or text 0977-3062924.