This musical was originally supposed to run from from March 27-29, 2019 within the University of Santo Tomas campus. However, the run was cancelled at the last minute. It was only this month that it finally pushed through at a different venue -- at the Girl Scouts of the Philippines Auditorium, located along Padre Faura, near Taft Avenue. It was my first time to watch a show there.
Ella was a salesgirl at the Sunshine Mall, where they aimed to serve customers with a sunny smile. She expecting her boyfriend of two years Alexander to propose marriage to her over dinner. However, her fervent wish never happened. To make things worse, her umbrella got stolen so she had to walk home in the pouring rain. Fortunately, Ervin passed by and stopped to offer Ella to share his umbrella with her all the way to her house. Such was the simple love story told by this OPM jukebox musical entitled "Payong."
Immanuel Uykhilam (Alex) and Alexandra Mendoza (Ella)
The play started on a high note with the vivacious "Time In" by Yeng Constantino. As expected, we hear songs which have rain and umbrellas in the lyrics, like "Sukob Na" by Aiza Seguerra, "Umaaraw, Umuulan" by Rivermaya, "Ulan" by Cueshe, and "Ambon" by Barbie Almabis. As this is a rom-com, there were love songs of course, like "Ikaw Pala" by Sugarfree and "Kilometro" by Sarah Geronimo.
The student cast is very young and admittedly still rough around the edges, but the three lead actors delved sincerely into their roles. Alexandra Mendoza was perky and enthusiastic all the way through from beginning to end as Ella. Nico Orduna was an earnest romantic as Ervin, with a fluid tenor voice that fit best with the songs he was singing. Mendoza and Orduna had chemistry between them and their singing voices sounded good together in their duets. Immanuel Uykhilam was the insensitive rascal Alexander. It was rather confusing though when he also played a cellphone holdupper in another scene.
Nico Orduno (Nico) and Alexandra Mendoza (Ella)
The rest of the supporting cast were erratic and inconsistent with their acting and singing during this actual performance, as if this was still a rehearsal. There were a few memorable turns among them: Alexandra Vazquez as Ella's outspoken BFF Duchess singing Miss Ganda's "Payong," Filipino version of Rihanna's "Umbrella," Irish Marcos as the trampy other-woman Veronica singing Sarah G's "Ikot Ikot," and Shaina Dulay as the inexplicably dense English-speaking maid Innocencia, who got to sing Aegis' "Basang Basa ang Ulan."
The production values were simple and basic, understandable being a show by amateur students. There were sound issues that plagued this production like feedbacks and malfunctioning mics. The most unfortunate in this regard were the four actors who played the "parents" of Ella and Ervin, whose mics never worked properly at all, even after the 15-minute intermission. You can never hear clearly what they were saying or singing all throughout the show. There was supposed to be an interesting twist about the parents but that never got off because of these sound issues.
The young student cast of "Payong"
Directed by Audric Abas with a book by Marlon Villoso and musical direction by Edward Paolo Talavera (who was conducting live musicians for the show), this story was told using Original Pilipino Music pop hit songs, all duly licensed by the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (FILSCAP). Save from a few upbeat songs, most of the chosen songs, being about rain and heartbreak, were on the slow burn side. While these were good songs individually, the predominant downbeat of these melancholy songs one after the other affected the mood and energy of the whole play, especially with the faulty sound system.
"PAYONG" has the following show schedules: May 21: 7PM, May 23: 3PM, 7PM, May 25: 11AM, 3PM at 7PM and May 26: 8PM. Tickets are sold at the gate at P300 for the orchestra seats, with discounts for students. The venue is at the Girl Scouts of the Philippines Auditorium on Padre Faura St. near Taft Avenue in Ermita, Manila. For tickets, contact Kristen (09672416033) or Jason (09202408459) or message the Odeon Productions' Facebook Page.