Saturday, October 29, 2016

Review of Trumpets Playhouse' ALWAYS UPON A TIME: Learning Life Lessons

October 29, 2016

One of the first projects of Trumpets in 1993 was "Fables and Parables" by writer-director Freddie Santos. In the same vein and spirit with that pioneering show, the maiden production of Trumpets Playhouse is an all-new musical of the same genre entitled "Always Upon a Time." In fact the title of this new show came from the lyrics of the former show.

What made this new show more special was that the main people behind this production were all former Playshoppers, graduates of the Trumpets Playshop theater training sessions ongoing now for the past 23 years. The list includes Steven Conde (writer and director), Vince Lim (original music) and Joaquin Valdez (current executive director of Playshop and Playhouse). The present cast of kids and teens were all Playshoppers as well for the past three years or more. 

Brothers Daniel and Tommy brought their Father up to the attic of their house to look for story books that their recently-departed mother Vicky used to read for them. At first, Father was ill-tempered and impatient, to the extent of dismissing "happily ever after" as but a myth. But as circumstances keep them stuck in the attic for a long while, Father eventually warmed up to his sons' fantasy and biblical tales, and later actively participated by imparting important lessons from each story told.

The story-telling started simply with a straightforward telling of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." With the next story "The Lion and the Mouse," we already begin to notice the beautiful hand-crafted masks worn by the kids. By the time the next segment about "The Princess and Frog" came, we are treated to the first of a series of elaborately-executed episodes with increasingly more complex masks and puppets. "The Fisherman and his Wife" followed suit with its giant pop-up book style props. 

The Bible stories began with rapping "Adam and Eve" segment, with a very imaginative paper-chain puppet of the Serpent. The "David and Goliath" segment had an innovative way of showing the giant size of Goliath, with a most intricate, whole-body, life-size child puppet for David. The final story was the story of "Job" and his countless misfortunes, a sad story most unexpected to see in a show like this, but carried the message of faith and hope very effectively. 

These imaginative sets, puppets and masks of painstaking detail were by Make It Happen Workshop by Otto Hernandez, AC Hernandez and Paolo MaƱalac. They are the same people behind the beautiful horses of a recent Trumpets' show "The Horse and his Boy" (MY REVIEW). 

Daniel Drilon (as Daniel), with his distinctive thick mop of hair, had a very good singing voice and a strong stage presence. Little Gabo Tiongson (as Tommy) had flawless delivery of his lengthy lines was most impressive, despite the observation that his eyes seemed to be irritated by the bright stage lights. For the whole 1-1/2 hour run of the show (without intermission), these two kids held their own against the ever-reliable veteran actor Lorenz Martinez who played their Father.

Gabby Concepcion (a young miss, not the actor) showcased her sweet vocals as she briefly sang some lines as the mom Vicky. She then went on to play the spirited princess who met the frog prince, played by Guido Gatmaytan (who wore his mask and worked his frog puppet to excellent effect). Gatmaytan was one of the boys who alternated as Tyltyl in Trumpets' triumphant "The Bluebird of Happiness" (MY REVIEW) three years ago. The other was Anton Posadas, who looked all grown up now playing the hapless Fisherman who had an ever-discontented wife (played by Crystal Paras). 

Their sister Mytyl on "Bluebird," Chimmi Kohchet-Chua, showed off her talents as the slinky Serpent and as David's friend (with a short but showstopping solo). Daniel Khan (who stood out with his facial hair) played the hiphop Adam and Eena Salvador played his Eve. The rest of the cast members rotating in various roles in the show are Andee Achacoso, Teddy Velasco, Ethan Paras, Vea Salvador, Rianelle Albaladejo, Michelle Chua, Eggo Velasco, and Reubz Galenzoga.

These kids were actually carrying the weight of the whole professional production on their shoulders. Kudos to Trumpets for taking such a gamble. They had to work on this show alongside their school schedules, which I can imagine is no joke. This matinee show I watched today is their first public performance and it may not be perfect with some flubbed lines and a number of sound issues with their microphones. However, the kids were such troupers, carrying on with their scenes despite these little lapses. There is no denying the smiles, energy and verve that carried the whole show forward. I realize this show is still a work in progress, and they will definitely continue to improve with every performance.

The future of Philippine theater is indeed up there on that stage, and, as far as we can see, this future is secure. 

This is a very limited run of only five shows on two days during the Halloween semestral break. There were two shows on the first day October 29 at 3pm and 8pm. There are three more shows on the second (and last) day October 30 at 10am, 3pm and 8pm. Venue is at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater at the RCBC Plaza in Makati. Tickets at only P800 for orchestra and P600 for loge seats.

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