Saturday, April 30, 2016

Recap of Our WORLD VOICE DAY Concert 2016 with VIVA VOCE

April 30, 2016

April 16 is World Voice Day (WVD). Every year, the Dept. of ENT-HNS along with the Voice and Swallowing Center in my institution join colleagues the world over to celebrate this advocacy. WVD reminds us about the importance of our voices in our daily lives. We should strive to acquire and maintain good voice habits in order to preserve this vital vehicle of self-expression, communication and occupation. Like before we had a free throat endoscopy mission and a lay forum about voice care.




As with previous years, a WVD celebration is not complete without a musical presentation. This year, we have invited a classical singing ensemble called VIVA VOCE to be our main guest. We had already invited Viva Voce before in previous WVD celebrations for mini-concerts at the lobby of St. Luke's Medical Center in Quezon City during the lunch hour. This year however, the concert will be held at the Henry Sy Sr. Auditorium of St. Luke's Medical Center in Bonifacio Global City at evening primetime.

Viva Voce had its beginnings as a summer voice camp in 2010 whose faculty was headed by Camille Lopez-Molina, who remains to be the group's musical director up to now. The members are young classical singers from schools of music from various colleges and universities around the metro, including UP, UST, PWU and St. Scholastica. Aside from concerts and recitals, Viva Voce also participates in various theater productions by Dulaang UP and PETA to name a few.


Carlo Manalac and Anna Dinnah Migallos

With Ms. Molina at the piano, the concert proper began seriously with four Italian operatic arias by Donizetti, Mozart and Puccini, done as an ensemble or solos by selected members. Roxy Aldiosa, a soprano, sang "Alto's Lament" by Marvin Hamlisch. There was also a duet by Anna Migallos and Carlo Angelo Falcis entitled "Love Unspoken" from "The Merry Widow" by Franz Lehar, which ended with a real kiss on the lips! They ended the first half with a group version of "Climb Every Mountain" (from "The Sound of Music")



Dr. Tomas Mendez and his showstopper in the middle of the First Half

Some doctors were also invited to share their singing talent in this concert. Junior ENT resident Dr. Tomas Mendez regaled the audience with a strong rendition of Puccini's showstopping aria for tenors "Nessun Dorma" (from "Turandot"). Cardiology consultant Dr. Rodney Jimenez was as smooth as ever with his rendition of "What I Did for Love" (from "The Chorus Line"). Neurology resident and "I Love OPM" shoo-in winner Dr. Fran Efendy channeled Josh Groban with "To Where You Are". (VIDEO)

Carlo Angelo Falcis and Myramae Meneses
Raymond Yadao and Glenda Liao

After the 20-minute intermission, Viva Voce changed from their formal wear in the first half into more casual wear for the second half. The first few songs of the second half were Filipino songs. The set started with "Maalaala Mo Kaya" by Constancio de Guzman sung by the ensemble. There was a duet by Glenda Liao and Raymond Yadao of "Makikiliti Kang Totoo" (from "Walang Sugat" by Severino Reyes), as well as a medley of Tagalog folk songs entitled "Halina't Magsaya."

There were also two songs which featured the silken soprano voice of Ms. Myramae Meneses. I believe she is the most well-known soprano from Viva Voce, having already played the lead role of Maria Clara in both the Dulaang UP and the Resorts World staging of "Noli Me Tangere the Opera", as well as in "Kanser @35" by Gantimpala Theater. Her first solo was traditional folk song "Leron Leron Sinta", followed by Manuel Velez's "Sa Kabukiran" (as a duet with Iona Ventocilla). 


Roby Malubay and Roxy Aldiosa
Mark Bautista and Iona Ventocilla

The group then divided according to gender to render the next two songs. First, the boys got together to sing "Drinking Song" (from "The Student Prince" by Sigmund Romberg. Then the girls took their turn to sing "Comes the Broken Flower" (from "Trial by Jury" by Arthur Sullivan). They all joined up again to sing a medley of the most familiar songs from "The Phantom of the Opera" by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The final three songs of the main set were from the very popular Claude Michel Schonberg musical "Les Miserables." Baritone Yadao first sang his version of "Stars", then tenor Falcis sang "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables," both of which just so happened to be my favorite songs from the show (-- you bet I was singing along, haha!). The grand finale of course is "One More Day" (VIDEO), after which everyone took their bows. Upon cries for more from the audience, Viva Voce obliged and sang a Filipino pop classic "Nais Ko" (VIDEO) as their encore before taking their final bows for real.


The Ensemble sing their Encore Song


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Recap and Winners List GAWAD BUHAY AWARDS for 2015: Mabini and Peter Pan Lead Awardees!

April 29, 2016

Philstage is an umbrella organization of professional performing arts companies in the Philippines. Presently the members include: 9Works Theatrical, Actor’s Actors Inc. Ballet Manila, Ballet Philippines, Full House (Resort World Manila), Gantimpala Theater Foundation, PETA, Philippine Ballet Theater, Philippine Opera Company, Repertory Philippines, Red Turnip, Stages, Tanghalang Pilipino and Trumpets. Gawad Buhay is the name of its awards of excellence.

Last night, Gawad Buhay, the Philstage industry awards exclusively for the performing arts, gave its awards for the 8th year. This was the third year in a row that I watched it. For the last two years, the awards night was held in the CCP Little Theater. This year, the ceremonies were held in Onstage at Greenbelt 1, with the show directed by Jenny Jamora.

For 2015, it was my distinct honor to have been invited to serve on the Gawad Buhay jury, an independent panel of critics, scholars, artists and theater enthusiasts who determines the winners for the awards. I was not only watching the show this year, but for the past year, I actually participated in the nomination and voting process for the quarterly citations and of course, these awards. Since the final vote was by secret balloting, I had no idea who will win. So some winners also came as a big surprise to me.


Representatives of the Philstage member companies gather onstage

Like last year, the ever-funny Topper Fabregas was the emcee of the proceedings. But this time he had Kakai Bautista (in an eye-catching body-hugging white outfit with a deep plunging neckline) to banter with as co-host. They gave out the first four awards, all of which were automatic winners for being the only nominees in their category.


Emcees for the Night: Topper and Kakai

1. Outstanding Original Musical Composition
Joed Balsamo, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP) (MY REVIEW)
"Ganito pala ang pakiramdam ng manalo pag wala kang kalaban."

2. Outstanding Original Libretto
Nicanor Tiongson, “Mabining Mandirigma (TP)

3. Outstanding Original Musical—Original or Translation/Adaptation
“Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)

4. Outstanding Production of Existing Material for a Musical
“La Cage aux Folles” (9WT) (MY REVIEW)


The cast and crew of La Cage Aux Folles receive their award.

The next presenters were Roselyn Perez and Fred Lo.

5. Outstanding Ensemble Performance for a Musical
“Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)

6. Outstanding Musical Direction
Joed Balsamo, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)

7. Outstanding Stage Direction for a Musical
Chris Millado, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)


Chris Millado, receiving one of 11 awards for "Mabining Mandirigma"
with Fred Lo and Roselyn Perez behind him

This was followed by "How Do I Prepare?" This was the first of a series short documentary videos (directed by Joaquin Valdez) showing the theater or dance production as a evolving process by collaborating artisans.

The next presenters were Nar Cabico and Phi Palmos (who was in a blonde wig, trying to channel Meryl Streep, I think) to present award for acting in a musical.

8. Female Featured Performance in a Musical
Cris Villonco, “Bituing Walang Ningning, The Musical” (Full House) (MY REVIEW)
Her Lavinia was the life of the whole show.

9. Male Featured Performance in a Musical
Antonio Ferrer, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)
His portrayal of Emilio Aguinaldo was too powerful to forget.


Antonio Arman Ferrer receives his award
with Phi Palmos and Nar Cabico behind him

10. Female Lead Performance in a Musical
Delphine Buencamino, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)
Her award was received by proud mother, Ms. Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino.

11. Male Lead Performance in a Musical
Audie Gemora, “La Cage aux Folles” (9WT)
"Two years ago, Melvin Lee won this award for "Care Divas." Last year, it was Red Concepcion for "Priscilla". Now this. If you want to win this award, you have to wear a dress!"


Audie Gemora receives his award

After another short video was shown about "Designers in their Element", John Herrera, Giannina Ocampo and Caisa Borromeo strutted out like fashion models to give out the design awards.

12. Outstanding Costume Design
James Reyes, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)

13. Outstanding Sound Design
TJ Ramos, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)

14. Outstanding Lighting Design
John Batalla, “33 Variations” (RTT) (MY REVIEW)

15. Outstanding Set Design
Toym Imao, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)


Toym Imao won for his "steampunk" designs for "Mabining Mandirigma

The NATATANGING GAWAD AWARDS were chosen by the Philstage Board Members, not the GB jury. These lifetime achievement accolades recounting the lives of veterans who led lives filled with passion for the performing arts were very inspirational parts of the show.


Tonight the first honoree is Ms. Celia Diaz Laurel. The introduction by Ms. Joy Virata told us about Ms. Laurel's prolific career on stage, starring in probably a hundred plays as lead actress throughout her career, from UP to Repertory Philippines. She was also a master of designing costumes within a limited budget using her "glue-gun and stapler". When Ms. Laurel went up the stage, her children Cocoy, Nicole and Iwi accompanied her as she sang "The Colors of My Life" before her heartfelt speech.

An unprecedented special number featuring three pairs of dancers from each of the three biggest dance companies of the country -- Ballet Philippines, Ballet Manila and the Philippine Ballet Theater -- regaled us with the power and grace of contemporary ballet. This led to the the presentation of the awards in the Dance categories.


One of the Ballet Pairs in an elegant excerpt

A reunion of the "Priscilla Queen of the Jungle" cast, namely Jon Santos, Red Concepcion, Michael Williams, presented next. Jon Santos was a hilarious scene-stealing riot as always.

16. Male Featured Performance in Modern Dance
Earl John Arisola, “Sarong Banggi” (BP) (MY REVIEW)

17. Female Featured Performance in Modern Dance
Monica Gana, “Sarong Banggi” (BP)


A shy and excited Monica Gana
with Jon Santos, Red Concepcion and Michael Williams behind her.

18. Male Lead Performance in Modern Dance
Gerardo Francisco, “Ang Mahiwagang Biyulin”/from “Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang” (BM)

19. Female Lead Performance in Modern Dance
Rita Winder, “Sarong Banggi” (BP)


Sleek and statuesque Rita Winder receives her award

20. Male Featured Performance in Classical Dance
Gerardo Francisco, “Romeo and Juliet” (BM)

21. Female Featured Performance in Classical Dance
Pia Dames, “Romeo and Juliet” (BM)

22. Male Lead Performance in Classical Dance
Victor Maguad, “Peter Pan” (BP)


A genuinely surprised Victor Maguad did not expect to win this award.

23. Female Lead Performance in Classical Dance
Lobreza Pimentel, "Don Quixote" (PBT)

The second Natatanging Gawad Award was for the recently-conferred National Artist for Dance -- Ms. Alice Reyes. She was introduced by Paul Morales of Ballet Philippines.  She was given a dance tribute entitled "Tagistis ng Ulan" accompanied in song by OJ Mariano. In her speech, Ms. Reyes reminded us, that in the midst of this fast-paced world we live in today, we should always make time for artistic excellence.


National Artist and now Natatanging Gawad awardee Ms. Alice Reyes

Kim Molina presented the next set of Dance awards with her "Rak of Aegis" co-stars Pepe Herrera and Jerald Napoles (in drag) wackily "dancing" behind her. All the awards of Ballet Manila in this section were received by no less than Ms. Lisa Macuja Elizalde. The awards of Ballet Philippines were received by Paul Morales

24. Outstanding Ensemble Performance for Modern Dance
“Bloom”/ from “BM 2.0” (BM)

25. Outstanding Ensemble Performance for Classical Dance
“Peter Pan” (BP)

26. Outstanding Choreography for a Dance Production
Edna Vida-Froilan,“Peter Pan” (BP)


Denisa Reyes receives her award, 
with the goofy pair of Jerald Napoles and Pepe Herrera behind her

27. Outstanding Choreography for a Play or Musical
Denisa Reyes, “Mabining Mandirigma” (TP)

28. Outstanding Production for Children
“Peter Pan” (BP)

29. Outstanding Modern Dance Production
“Bloom”/from “BM 2.0” (BM)

30. Outstanding Classical Dance Production
“Peter Pan” (BP)


Pair from "Peter Pan" dance an excerpt from the show

Ms. Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo introduced the In Memoriam segment next. On the live accompaniment of Ejay Yatco on piano and Jef Flores on violin, the video screen reminded us of the recently departed theater artists, like tenor Nolyn Cabahug, actor Felindo Obach, playwright/director Rosauro de la Cruz, soprano Eleanor Calbes, production manager Lisa Camus and actor Junix Inocian, among others.

The next short video reminded us how last year 2015 was "The Year of the Straight Play." Following that, Liesl Batucan and Jonathan Tadioan presented two awards.


Kanakan Balintagos receives his award
with Liesl Batucan and Jonathan Tadioan behind him

31. Outstanding Original Script
Kanakan Balintagos, “Mga Buhay na Apoy” (TP) (MY REVIEW)

32. Outstanding Translation or Adaptation
Rody Vera, “Arbol de Fuego” (Peta) (MY REVIEW)

The next set of awards were presented by Loy Martinez and indie film actress Meryl Soriano (who kept on wondering aloud what she was doing in a theater awards show).

33. Female Featured Performance in a Play
Roselyn Perez, “33 Variations” (RTT)
Very happy for her, even if I was rooting for her to win for "The Normal Heart" though.

**** FLASH REPORT! The next day, the Gawad corrected itself and announced that Ms. Perez actually won for her performance in "The Normal Heart"! I am very happy with this news because I considered her "Normal Heart" performance one of the absolute best for the whole year.


Roselyn Perez receives her award
with Meryl Soriano and Lorenz Martinez behind her

34. Male Featured Performance in a Play
Teroy Guzman, “33 Variations” (RTT)
The reason why he was not there to receive his award was because he was in Europe doing a Shakespeare! What more can you say?!

35. Male Lead Performance in a Play
Jef Flores, “This Is Our Youth” (RTT) (MY REVIEW)
If there was an award for Breakout Theater Star of 2015, it would go to Jef Flores, who made a very positive impression last year with his roles in "4000 Miles", "Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady", "The Normal Heart" and this one.


Jef Flores shares his award with his co-star and co-nominee Nicco Manalo

36. Female Lead Performance in a Play
Irma Adlawan, “Mga Buhay na Apoy” (TP)
In this very tight category, Ms. Adlawan won over similarly formidable actresses such as Ana Abad Santos, Cherie Gil and double-nominee Shamaine Buencamino.

It was a stage reunion for "La Cage Aux Folles" couple Michael de Mesa and Audie Gemora as they presented the last set of awards.

37. Outstanding Ensemble Performance for a Play
“The Normal Heart” (AAI/TNT) (MY REVIEW)

38. Outstanding Stage Direction for a Play
Bart Guingona, “The Normal Heart” (AAI/TNT)


Bart Guingona and the award-winning ensemble of "The Normal Heart" behind him.
(Perez, Flores, Concepcion and Fabregas)

39. Outstanding Production of Existing Material for a Play
“The Normal Heart” (AAI/TNT)

40. Outstanding Original Play—Original or Translation/Adaptation
“Arbol de Fuego” (Peta)


Lead star Cherie Gil and director Loy Arcenas receive the award for "Arbol de Fuego".


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Review of ANDREA BOCELLI CINEMA World Tour MANILA: Intensely Inspirational

April 27, 2016




I can't believe that it had already been 12 years since we saw his elegant first concert in the Philippines held in the fully-packed Araneta Coliseum. Andrea Bocelli was at the height of his popularity back then. I am a big fan of his music, having bought cassettes of all his albums back in the 1990s. His beautiful "Sogno" album (1999) was one of my favorite albums of all time. His duet with Celine Dion "The Prayer" was of immense and enduring popularity even up to now.

This time around, I am not really familiar anymore with Bocelli's new material in the past five years. However when news came out that he was returning for a concert at the MOA Arena, I wanted to recapture the magic experience of being in that first concert. Since it was already our second time, I thought front row General Admission tickets were good enough for us.

When we arrived at the Arena last night however, we were surprised to see that the people who bought Gen Ad tickets were being upgraded to occupy the last three rows of the Upper Box! This was on a first come-first served basis, so luckily we went there early to get good seats near the center section. After a video about Bocelli's foundation for the disabled, the show began at around 9 pm. The Arena was not really full yet even when conductor Carlo Bernini led the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra through the opening overture.


Andrea Bocelli

Bocelli looked much older now with much of his hair a dignified silver, but the full vocal quality and range that made him popular was still very much there. The set list of first half of the show was composed of Italian arias only. Frankly, I was only familiar with "La Dona e Mobile" (from "Rigoletto") which was the second song he sang and the most popular song in that whole set.  His guest artist in the first half was Mexican soprano Maria Katzarava whose voice was so powerful yet silky smooth as she reached those high notes. The Ateneo Chamber Singers provided the background vocals.

After the 20 minute break, the second half immediately opened with a very familiar tune -- "Maria" (from "West Side Story"). I was enlivened by this song because I felt this already signalled the main course of the show -- music from his latest album called "Cinema" featuring songs from motion picture soundtracks. 

The next tune was "Brucia la Terra" featuring guest flutist Andrea Griminelli, which Bocelli sang while beautiful images from its source movie "The Godfather" were being shown on  the video wall behind him. Griminelli stayed on stage to play a flute instrumental solo on the Ennio Morricone tune "Gabriel's Oboe" from "The Mission." This tune may be more familiar to some as "Nella Fantasia" done originally by Sarah Brightman in 1998.


Bocelli and Andrea Griminelli


Bocelli came back to sing a couple more songs from the album -- the very popular "The Music of the Night" (from "The Phantom of the Opera") and Mario Lanza's "Be My Love" (from "The Toast of New Orleans"). 

When Bocelli and Bernini left the stage for a break, Gerard Salonga came on to conduct the orchestra. Up and coming Filipina pop singer Christine Allado took the stage. She was a statuesque young lady who gave a memorable fiery performance, matching her fiery red gown. Her showstopping solo renditions of "As If We Never Said Goodbye" (from "Sunset Boulevard") and "Fly Away" (from "Moulin Rouge") were smashing highlights of the whole show. People who had not heard her sing before (like me) will definitely know her now. She practically stole the show right there and then. (Watch the VIDEO!)

Salonga and Allado left the stage as Bocelli and Bernini took their places and performed "Por una cabeza" (from "Scent of a Woman").  To the delight of audience, Allado came back out again to sing "Cheek to Cheek" (from "Top Hat") with Bocelli while scenes of Fred Astaire dancing were playing in the screen behind them. The maestro even showed his funa and frisky side in his interaction with Allado. Bocelli and Allado then went on to sing one of my favorite songs from the "Sogno" album -- "Canto della Terra." This song would have me on LSS all the way to my parking slot, and even up to now as I am typing this recap.


Bocelli and Christine Allado

Bocelli then sang "Nelle tue mani (Now We Are Free)" (from "Gladiator") accompanied by an elegant video showing Bocelli (now 57 years old) riding a black stallion playing in the background. Ms. Katzarava came back on stage to sing with Bocelli their final song together "Con Te Partiro (Time to Say Goodbye)."  To satisfy the audience who was on their feet then clamoring for more, Bocelli returned to the microphone to sing "Nessun Dorma" ("Turandot") which was already the very last song of the concert. 

It was a very moving concert. Bocelli's voice had that enchanting effect on his fans. There was always that last note which never seemed to lose strength even as it lingered for a long time -- that really gets me all the time, and still does. Of course, I was disappointed not to hear "Romanza," "Vivo Per Lei" or "Sogno", more of my old favorites. We did not hear "The Prayer", which I am sure everyone was waiting for but did not get. Nevertheless, we all went home filled with much joy and spiritual upliftment which the Bocelli voice inspires.



Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Review of Dulaang UP's ANG DRESSING ROOM: Ethereal and Enriching

April 19, 2016




To close their current season, Dulaang UP chose to stage a play about the theater, a 1997 Japanese play called "The Dressing Room" by Shimizu Kunio. As DUP usually does, they would be staging in parallel both an English and a Filipino version of this play. The English version was written by Chiori Miyagawa, as adapted from the original English translation by John Gillespie. The Filipino translation is by multiple Palanca award-winning playwright Nicolas Pichay

Aside from the language, Dulaang UP also pushes the envelope further by innovating on the casting as well. The original play involved four actresses playing the four actress characters. The English version will stay faithful to this casting. In the Filipino version however, the four actress characters will all be played by MALE actors. On the day I watched, I caught the Filipino version with the gentlemen. Now that I have seen it, I fervently hope I also get a chance to watch the English version with the ladies.

"The Dressing Room" is literally where the action of this play is set. Initially, we see Actress A and Actress B dressed in Japanese-style robes, sitting in the middle of the stage in front of their respective box tables, applying white makeup on their faces. Suddenly, Actress C will enter dressed in Victorian finery, rehearsing her lines. Much later, an Actress D will come into the room to tell Actress C that she wants her role back. The whole play will be about the actresses musings about Shakespeare and especially Chekhov as they reflect on the passions and frustrations they have about their acting careers.

Theater actors and theater fans will definitely fall in love with the intense love for theater espoused by this play. When sentimental Actress A and acerbic Actress B have an acting showdown playing Lady Macbeth, the effect was electric. This was even though some essence had been lost with the translation as the difference between two Japanese adaptations should have been highlighted (but obviously could not be conveyed in Filipino). Familiarity with the history of Japanese theater will enhance appreciation since the original Japanese play assumed the Japanese audience it targeted already knew.

I woe the fact that I am not very familiar with the Anton Chekhov plays referenced extensively in this play, namely "The Seagull" ("Ang Tagak" in Filipino) and "The Three Sisters". Those who know these Chekhov plays will definitely have a deeper emotional connection with these four actresses who adore "The Seagull" with unparalleled devotion. It was a bit confusing for me to delineate between which lines were from which play. I can imagine how this integration of another play within the main play could be so powerful for those who know these lines beforehand.

Roeder Camanag was a clear standout with his subtle yet intense portrayal of Actress A. He did not have to resort to hysterics and big gestures to get his character actress. Actress A is the oldest of the four actresses so Camanag's demure and dignified performance was on point. Of the four, he was the one who came across as most genuinely Japanese.

Andoy Ranay as the flamboyant Actress B had all the funniest lines and Ranay runs to town with them. His over-the-top delivery of the hilarious lines hit the mark. He struck the audience's collective funny bone successfully in many scenes. His attack on the role is definitely more contemporary and more Filipino. 

Actress C I think was the most difficult role to play for a male actor, because with her wig and gown she was so obviously female. The actor who plays Actress C needed to really needed to show that she was a strong person yet insecure actress. Compared to the others, actor Gwyn Guanzon had a tall and hefty build, so it was obvious he was only cross-dressing as a woman. It took time for me to get the drift of his character and his acting style. 

The entrance of Actress D was such a puzzle to me since I could not understand what she was talking about at first. Here, knowledge of Nina's lines in "The Seagull" would be a marked advantage. Young actor Jon Abella played her quite awkwardly at first. Fortunately when his character undergoes a transition in the story, Abella hits his stride and became more at ease in his performance. His second entrance was so beautifully eerie.

Ohm David should be commended for his beautiful three-dimensional set design. This "dressing room" could have been just a plain drab musty room in the hands of a less artistic designer. David's dressing room is breathtaking to behold. The rest of the artistic team who deserve mention would be Meliton Roxas Jr. (for the lighting design) and Faust Peneyra (for costume design, especially the Japanese ones.) 

Director Alexander Cortez generally had excellent control over his material. If there was anything that I felt was off, it was the decision to add dancers with odd choreography (care of Dexter Santos) which I thought was distracting and added nothing significant to the story-telling. Other than that, this play was briskly told in a little over an hour (with no intermission break). The whole show had an ethereal quality, haunting, nostalgic, especially enriching for those who love the theater. 

************

The play’s English version is called “The Dressing Room: That Which Flows Away Ultimately Becomes Nostalgia". The all-female cast includes Frances Makil-Ignacio (as Actress A), Ces Quesada (as Actress B), Missy Maramara (as Actress C), with Maxine Ignacio and Marynor Madamesila (alternating as Actress D). This is such as strong cast. I hope I get the opportunity to see this too during their remaining shows this week: April 19/Tuesday/7pm, April 21/Thursday/7pm, April 23/Saturday/3pm and April 24/Sunday/10am.

The full Filipino title is "Ang Dressing Room: Kung Saan Lubusang Pangungulila Ang Dulot Ng Agos Ng Panahon." The all-male cast includes Roeder Camanag (as Actress A), Andoy Ranay (as Actress B), Gwyn Guanzon (as Actress C) with Ian Ignacio and Jon Abella (alternating as Actress D). The remaining shows this week are: April 20/Wednesday/7pm, April 22/Friday/7pm, April 23/Saturday/10am and April 24/Sunday/3pm.

The venue of the play is at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, 2nd floor, Palma Hall, U.P. Diliman. For tickets, call Samanta Hannah Clarin or Camille Guevara at 926-1349, 433-7840, 981-8500 local 2449. 


Monday, April 11, 2016

Review of Egg Theater Co.'s PILLOWMAN: Heavy and Hardcore

April 11, 2016




I have been reading theater buffs and actors rave about this play called "Pillowman". Filipinos got a taste of how good it was back in 2014 when Sandbox Theater Collective staged a reading in PETA. I was out of town that Halloween week so I failed to catch that performance. This year, Egg Theater Company actually stages the full show for the first time in Filipino language.

I first heard of the Egg Theater Company last year when it had its maiden outing called "Maniacal" to excellent reviews. Unfortunately, I had not been fortunate to watch any of its limited runs. This new company is composed to theater artists Kristine Balmes, Renante Bustamante, Martha Comia, George de Jesus III, Mara Marasigan, Paolo O'Hara and Alvin Trono. Its vision is to produce contemporary adaptations of various straight plays translated into the Filipino language.

The play is about Katurian, a young writer who had written some stories about gruesome murders involving children. Tupolski and Ariel, policemen investigating a couple of real-life child murders noted details disturbingly like how Katurian described them in his stories. They pick up Katurian for questioning, but he was not confessing to anything. Katurian's cognitively-impaired brother Michal was brought in to pressure Katurian even more. 



Katurian Awaits His Interrogation

The theater space in the Pineapple Lab is a confined rectangular room. There was a small white stage in the middle of the room, with two rows of chairs all around for the audience. We see the actors and all the action up close. The walls will also be used to show eerie artwork about Katurian's sick stories, including the titular Pillowman. (Joee Mejias was responsible for the these projected drawings, as well as the haunting musical score.)

This was not an easy play to watch. The very topic of child killings alone is already dark and disturbing in itself. Listening to those macabre stories with innocent-sounding titles like "The Little Apple Men" or "The Tale of the Town on the River" were just sickening! This was compounded further by more grim topics of mental retardation and police brutality. The room was claustrophobic. The action was very physically intense and violent. You feel like you are inside that interrogation room yourself witnessing torture and murder. These were the stuff of which many nightmares are made. 



The Pillowman on the Wall

The actors performed like a seamless ensemble. Everyone was invested very seriously in his respective roles, so that they seemed to be the actual characters, not actors. Gabs Santos knew he had the whole play on his shoulders as Katurian and he gives a solid electrifying central performance. Renante Bustamante (as "good cop" Tupolski) and Acey Aguilar (as "bad cop" Ariel) complemented each other perfectly as the sarcastic and sadistic investigators. Paul Jake Paule believably had the childlike innocence of deranged man-child Michal right there in his big round eyes. His line delivery was chillingly realistic.

Kudos to Mr. George de Jesus III, who was responsible for directing this show, as well as translating Martin McDonagh's controversial material into vivid Filipino. I am not sure about the original English text, but this Filipino text had some sense of humor in it, which was welcome considering the gravity of the dire topics. The play is long, with a running time of 2 hours and 40 minutes, but the way de Jesus told the story with the effective ensemble acting kept the audience riveted to every word, diabolical as they were. This is hardcore stuff, not for the faint of heart.


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"The Pillowman" had shows last April 8 -10, and will play for one more weekend from April 22-24 at 8 pm. The venue is at Pineapple Lab, located on 6071 R. Palma Street, Poblacion, Makati, near Powerplant Mall in Rockwell.  For ticket inquiries, contact 09178440520 or check out the FB page of Egg Theater Company. 



Sunday, April 10, 2016

Review of Repertory Phils' STEPPING OUT: Therapeutic Tap-Dancing

April 10, 2016




"Stepping Out The Musical' was developed by Richard Harris based on his own 1984 straight play of the same title, with music is by Denis King and lyrics by Mary Stewart-David. It had a respectable run in the UK 1996 to 1998. 

Mavis ran a tap-dancing class every Thursday night, with her pianist Mrs. Fraser. Her students are a motley group of women (plus one guy) who were there to escape the humdrum routine of their daily lives, not really to become great dancers. She has to get them ready for a charity show where they were invited to perform. While Mavis is sensitive to her students' needs, she herself was wrestling problems about her bum of a boyfriend. 

Dorothy is an old maid who spends her days taking care of her invalid mother. Lynne is a nurse taking care of old ladies in a home. Maxine is a motormouth gossip who never loses an opportunity to make a sale. Rose is a flashy "fat and forty" housewife who had styling problems with her hair. Sylvia is an overweight girl with two left feet when dancing. Vera is a fussy British lady with a frank attitude. Andy is an aloof shrinking-violet with an absentee husband. The lone guy Geoffrey is a widower trying to recapture memories of his late wife who loved to dance.

The show is a talky melodrama which delves into the lives of these lonely women (and man). Everything is actually quite garden-variety mundane though, nothing too remarkable. You can get definitely the episodic feel of "The Love Boat" or "Knots Landing" in the cheesy soap-opera dialogue. None of the songs really stick with you after the show, even if some of them sounded good while they were being sung. For me, the best of the 15 songs in the show is "Loving Him," sung by the martyr-wife trio of Vera, Mavis and Andy towards the end of Act 2. But I cannot hum it anymore when I came out of the theater.

The main factor that made these lines and songs succeed in this production was really the performance of the talented Filipino cast.

It was such a joy to see Ms. Joy Virata do comedy again. No matter how annoying her character Vera got, Ms. Joy can pull it off in such a way that you'd smile every time she's on stage. I can never forget that scene when she entered the stage bedecked like a second-place trophy -- precious! 

The role of Mrs. Fraser could have been a walk-on role for a lesser actress. but Ms. Sheila Francisco stole her scenes with her acerbic sarcasm and her idolatry of Irving Berlin. Silver-haired Ms. EJ Villacorta returns to the Rep stage as Maxine after a prolonged absence. She still has very strong stage-presence and singing pipes, which was most evident in her solo number "Just the Same."

There is simply no way to ignore Ms. Bituin Escalante when she is onstage. Standing out is effortless for her, so she is a natural choice as the bombastic Rose. Her spectacular solo spot in Act 1 "Don't Ask Me" is one of the most-applauded numbers of the whole show. 

There is also no way not to notice Raymond Concepcion in the role of the only thorn among the roses, Geoffrey. He has that nerdy gentleman air down pat as required of his role of a shipping insurance guy, and his sensitive side shows when he interacts with the ladies. Mr. Concepcion is very versatile as an actor and singer. The last lead role I saw him tackle was that of transgender Bernadette in "Priscilla Queen of the Desert," alternating with no less than Jon Santos!

The faces in the lead roles were new to me. Angela Pineda (as Mavis) was very realistic as a frustrated dance instructor, both physically (with her grace and posture) and attitudinally (you feel her love for dance). Christine Flores captured the pained anguish of loneliness within her character Andy. Her delicate soprano fit so well with the psychologically-fragile and physically-scarred character she was playing. 

The other ladies in the class were played by Natalie Everett (as Dorothy), Cara Barredo (as Lynne) and Ms. (yes, she's female) David Shawn Delgado (as Sylvia).

"Stepping Out the Musical" is directed by Jaime del Mundo. Musical direction is by Ejay Yatco who led the live orchestra at the pit. The 80s chic leotard costumes were by Mindy Perez-Rubio. The set consisting of the rundown dance hall, the neighborhood cafe and bar was designed by Miguel Faustmann. The lighting design by John Batalla was effective as ever. The tap choreography by Rose Borromeo is fun to watch, especially that grand finale.


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The show runs April 1-24, 2016 at Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1 Mall, Makati City. Schedules are Friday and Saturday evenings at 8PM, and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3:30PM. Call 843-3570. Tickets also available through Ticketworld at 891-9999 or ticketworld.com.ph.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Recap and Videos of IL DIVO Amor y Pasion Tour 2016 Manila: Dancing Divos!

April 7, 2016




My wife and I first watched Il Divo back in 2007 when this new pop-opera glamour boy band had their first Manila concert at the PICC (MY REVIEW). That concert was attended by no less than then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  Two years ago, they had another one day concert at the Newport Theater at Resorts World Manila. That one had no less than Ms. Lea Salonga as special guest star. I was not able to watch that one.

This year, the publicity for their new concert was not too aggressive. I did not know about it right away. I did not really think of watching it at first since I had seen them before. However, my aunt wanted to go see them and treated me to go with her. Why would I say No to an offer like that? 

When I bought the tickets at SM Tickets last February, the venue was at the MOA Arena. The cheapest seats were Lower Box, as the Upper Box and GA were not offered. However, by the last week of March, there was some unverified news that the venue had been moved to Meralco Theater. A phone call from Ticketworld just two days ago confirmed this major move. The cheapest lower box seats were now the side balcony seats at the back of the auditorium.

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Since it was a Wednesday night, the concert did not begin on time. By 8 pm, people were still arriving or eating the expensive dinner being served in the lobby. The audience of this concert was decidedly more high-society, well-dressed and well-coiffed. Most of them were ladies and matrons on a girls-night-out, which is Il Divo's target demographic. 

The ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra (under the baton of Gerard Salonga) began to play the Overture when the house lights dimmed and the video wall began to show images of Il Divo. The quartet came out to the applause of their fans to a tune of familiar opening song -- "Bésame Mucho". I was more excited with the next song because it was a Spanish version of the Gloria Estefan hit "Don't Wanna Lose You," sang with Carlos at the piano. I had not heard this version before, and it was very good.




After this, the guys explained that their new "Amor Y Pasion" show will be departure from their previous concerts because there will be a lot of songs in Spanish and they will actually be dancing. You already get the vibe that this show will be less formal and the guys were goofing off  a lot, cracking jokes. They then sang a series of Spanish songs: "Contigo En La Distancia," "Abrázame," "Quién Será" (their version of "Sway") and "Historia De Un Amor." They ended this set with a big hit of theirs "Caruso."

Throughout the show, each of Il Divo got to sing a solo spot. First up was Swiss tenor Urs Buhler. Honestly his was the most indistinct voice of the group for me since he mostly sang harmonies. It was good that we finally hear him sing on his own. He chose  to sing "Das Land Des Lachelns," an aria made famous by Fritz Wunderlich, a noted German tenor who died at the age of 36. 

The following numbers were all familiar English songs; "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" (with the grand background of the presidential palace), "To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before," (with sexy dancing partners) and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" (VIDEO).



Spanish baritone Carlos Marin stepped up for this solo spot. His intro was very laid back and funny, confessing that he was the only unmarried guy in the group. Carlos chose to sing Frank Sinatra's "New York New York" with such charm and verve. After his song, the other three came back onstage to sing another Sinatra classic "My Way" to close the first half in spectacular fashion. A 20 minute intermission followed.

Part Two opened with another series of Spanish songs, "Quizás, Quizás, Quizás," "Por Una Cabeza," "Volver" (a tango song). This set ended with their version of Bryan Adams' #1 song "Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman", impressively with Urs and Sebastien on guitars. The guys then goofed around some more talking about their tour experience in Latin America and delivering cheesy pick-up lines, very cheesy. LOL! They then sang one of their rare original songs, "Isabel."

With the Eiffel Tower lit in red, white and blue in the background, French pop tenor Sebastien Izambard sang songs from La Môme Edith Piaf, notably "If You Love Me, Really Love Me." He gave such a passionate and strong performance I did not expect from him because he seemed to be quiet and shy than the other three.




The next set of songs was a series of abridged versions of their earliest hits, "Every Time I Look at You," "Mama," "Passera" (my personal favorite Il Divo song), ending with a powerful rendition of "Somewhere" from "West Side Story." I am sure this nostalgia portion was the part many fans enjoyed the most.

For his solo spot, the wacky American tenor David Miller chose to impress the audience with his version of "Nessun Dorma." Boy, did he nail it! He blew us away with his soaring and triumphant rendition. Some people even spontaneously gave him a well-deserved standing ovation. (VIDEO)

The show proper ended with their upbeat version of "Regresa A Mi," the Il Divo version of Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart." After clamors for an encore, Il Divo returned on stage with white blazers to sing "Himno de la Alegría" and finally, "Time to Say Goodbye."