Saturday, December 22, 2018


December 22, 2018

For the year 2018, I had seen and written about 43 theater productions: 13 musicals, 12 full-length plays, and 20 one-act plays. I missed all of the productions staged in Ateneo because of schedule conflicts and the bad traffic in that area. This was a pity because I had missed several of the year's best reviewed plays and musicals, like "Desaparecidos," "Dekada '70" and the revival of "Mula sa Buwan" because it was difficult for me to go to Ateneo. Restagings of productions I had seen and cited before were also not included anymore, like "Rak of Aegis" and "Ang Pag-uusig."

I will list here what I feel were the best among those theater shows I have seen and written about for 2018. (My 2017 list was posted HEREMy 2016 list was posted HEREMy 2015 list was posted HERE.)


(My Full Review)

Music by:  Dodjie Fernandez and Upeng Galang Fernandez 
Written by: Layeta Bucoy
Directed by: Audie Gemora

"Balag" was a bamboo formation adorned with activist sentiments set in front of the Oblation in UP Diliman in 1970 to protest against Martial Law. "Angud: A Forest Once" was an interconnected display of thousands of tree trunk remnants set on CCP grounds in 2007 to protest deforestation of mountains. Playwright Layeta Bucoy took these two pieces of outdoor installation art as her inspiration and came up with a biographical play about their creator -- artist Luis Yee, Jr. (or Junyee), and his quest for artistry against all odds. 

Other Notable Productions:

Himala the Musical (My Review)
Binondo: A Tsinoy Musical (My Review)
Eto Na! Musikal nAPO!  (My Review)
Guadalupe the Musical (My Review)
Ang Huling El Bimbo (My Review)
Supremo Redux (My Review)

Notable Performances:

Rody Vera, Astarte Abraham and Bayang Barrios (Balag at Angud), Aicelle Santos, Bituin Escalante, Noemi Gonzales, Kakki Teodoro and Jenny Villegas de Jesus (Himala), Carla Guevara-Laforteza, Sheila Valderrama-Martinez, David Ezra, Noel Rayos, Ima Castro and Ashlee Factor (Binondo), Jobim Javier, Raul Montesa and Neomi Gonzales (APO), Shiela Valderrama-Martinez, Lorenz Martinez and Cocoy Laurel (Guadalupe), Gian Magdangal, OJ Mariano and Sheila Francisco (El Bimbo), Vincent Tanada, Jomar Bautista and Cherry Bagtas (Supremo Redux)

Memorable Tech Aspects:

The inverted pyramid ceiling fixture of "Balag at Angud." The immersive stage setup of "Himala." The airport scene of "Binondo." The colorful Mexican costumes of "Guadalupe." Toyang's diner in "El Bimbo." 


(My Full Review)

Book and Lyrics by: Bill Russell
Music by: Henry Krieger
Director: Steven Conde

Daisy and Violet Hilton were a pair of twins conjoined at the hip. They were the star attractions of Sir's sideshow of freaks, which also included the Bearded Lady, the Dog Boy, the 3-Legged Man, Cannibal King among others. One day, talent scout Terry Connor and his musician friend Buddy Foster chanced upon their sideshow, and heard the twins sing. Realizing that he had hit upon a goldmine, Terry wanted to take the twins out of the sideshow and bring them to vaudeville. 

Other Notable Productions:

Waitress (My Review)
Rapunzel! Rapunzel! (My Review)
All Out of Love, the Musical (My Review)

*** Foreign Touring Production: The Lion King (My Review)

Notable Performances:

Gab Pangilinan, Kayla Rivera, Markki Stroem and Arman Ferrer (Side Show), Joanna Ampil, Bituin Escalante and Maronne Cruz (Waitress), Carla Guevara-Laforteza, Arnel Carrion and Alyssa Rosa (Rapunzel); MiG Ayesa, Rachel Alejandro, Tanya Manalang and Raymond Concepcion (All Out of Love), Felicity Kyle Napuli (The Lion King)

Memorable Tech Aspects:

The Roaring 20s costumes of "Side Show." Joe's Pie Diner set of "Waitress." The whimsical set and Socrates' cute Dragon costume in "Rapunzel." The "Circle of Life" scene of "The Lion King." 


A. One-Act:

Best: PULA
(My Full Review)

Written by: Danielle Hill
Directed by: Kyxz Feliciano and Justin Santiago

"Pula" is a play about Martial Law abuses, but this one goes for the jugular in portraying the horrible torture experienced by Lilli Hilao and Boyet Mijares. To say it is gory or explicit is an understatement. This is not a play you "enjoy." Rather, it is absorbing and disturbing, gut-wrenching and painful to watch. The staging, with the dramatic red lights and pulsating music, was very effective. However, the centerpiece of this intense play was the raw, bold and fearless multi-character performance of Sweet Hearty Puyong. One of the most heart-wrenching and realistically harrowing acting I had ever seen on a stage. 

Other Notable Productions:

Babae Nga Naka-Itum (My Review)
Amoy Pulbos ang mga Alabok sa Ilalim ng Riles ng Tren (My Review)
Ang Mga Propesyunal (My Review
Labor Room (My Review)

Notable Performances:

Sweet Hearty Puyong (Pula), Cindy Liper (Babae Nga Naka-Itum), Gerald Magallanes and Pearl Belen (Lukrezia), Kenneth Sadsad and Vean Olmedo (Tula ni Vito at Lira), OJ Bacor and Ado Villanueva (I Didith Show / PSF Theater Fest), Adelle Ibarrientos-Lim and Rachel Mae Penaflor (I Didith Show / RAIN2), Sheryll Ceasico and Skyzx Labastilla (Labor Room), Arnold Reyes and Acey Aguilar (Tulad ng Dati), Bembol Roco and Sherry Lara (Ensayo), Bong Cabrera and Marjorie Lorico (Amoy Pulbos), Dolly de Leon (River Lethe), Ricci Chan and Guelan Luarca (Edgar Allan Hemingway)

Memorable Tech Aspects:

The hovel under the railroad of "Amoy Pulbos." The eerie doll costume of "Lukrezia." The haunted paintings on the wall of "The Gallery." 

B. Full-Length: Original Filipino Material or Filipino Adaptation:

(My Full Review)

Written by: Floy Quintos
Directed by: Dexter M. Santos

Maestra Adela Dolores, a famous operatic diva from more than 30 years ago, has long retired from performing, and was now spending her time teaching her craft to students in her home. She kept a close circle of friends around her, namely the nurturing Helen, the liberated Mitch and the over-protective Mayen. The four ladies regularly met in Maestra's house where they listened to music and discussed politics. One day, her student Antoinette's boyfriend Bobby, a political activist, had the idea of using Maestra's kundiman to revitalize nationalism in the youth via social media.

Other Notable Productions:

Ang Dalagita'y 'Sang Bagay na Di-Buo (My Review)
Manila Notes (My Review)
'Night Mother (My Review)

Notable Performances:

Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino, Stella Canete-Mendoza, Missy Maramara, Frances Makil-Ignacio, Kalil Almonte and Teroy Guzman (Kundiman Party), Missy Maramara and Skyzx Labastilla (Dalagita), Meann Espinosa, Mayen Estanero and Elle Velasco (Manila Notes), Sherry Lara and Eugene Domingo ('Night Mother), Nico Varona and Hariette Damole (Anim na Tauhang Naghahanap ng May-Akda), Aldo Vencilao and Manok Nellas (Nang Dalawin ng Pag-ibig si Juan Tamad)

Memorable Tech Aspects:

Maestra's living room and staircase in "Kundiman Party." The museum lounge in "Manila Notes." The living room and working kitchen in "'Night, Mother." The strikingly dramatic anahaw-inspired centerpiece of "Nang Dalawin ng Pag-ibig si Juan Tamad." 


(My Full Review)

Written by: Lauren Gunderson
Directed by: Joy Virata

While working in the Harvard Observatory, Henrietta Leavitt began to notice a pattern in the pulsations of Cepheid stars, and eventually concluded that there is a relationship between the brightness of the star and the length of time they take to blink, when she then correlated to the distance of this star. While Leavitt's discovery was published in journals, she was not allowed to do her own independent studies. However, eventually, her vital discoveries were eventually acknowledged as the basis of more well-known work by later astronomers like Edwin Hubble.

Other Notable Productions:

Lungs (My Review)
A Doll's House Part II (My Review)
M. Butterfly (My Review)

Notable Performances:

Cathy Azanza-Dy, Sheila Francisco, Naths Everett and Caisa Borromeo (Silent Sky), Jake Cuenca and Sab Jose (Lungs), Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo and Sheila Francisco (A Doll's House Part II), RS Francisco (M. Butterfly), Frances Makil-Ignacio, Ces Quesada, Missy Maramara and Hariette Damole (The Dressing Room), Lorenz Martinez, Jeremy Domingo and Issa Litton (A Comedy of Tenors), Joy Virata and Jay Glorioso (Arsenic and Old Lace)

Memorable Tech Aspects:

Henrietta's work station in "Silent Sky." The illuminated cube of "Lungs." The ornate and glittering chinoisie in "M. Butterfly." The living room in "Arsenic and Old Lace."

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