Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Review of Blue Rep's "f(r)iction": A Mind-boggling Musical

 May 26, 2021

The last show I watched from Ateneo Blue Repertory was their triumphant staging of Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's "Next to Normal" which was the finale of their 28th season. This was right before the whole country was locked down because the pandemic, so the rest of its run was cancelled. The Covid-19 quarantine was a devastating event that closed down the live theater industry for the rest of the year, up to the present. Theater artists had to innovate to get their latest productions online for their viewers to enjoy. 

The first show of Blue Rep's 29th season was "Party Worth Crashing," an original musical with book by Marty R. Nevada, Ricci Recto, and Robert Gueco Tan (who was also the director), accompanied by songs by Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk. It was reportedly about "youth, coming of age, and learning lessons." This was shown on Ticket2Me for three shows within the last week of January 2021. Unfortunately, I did not get to see that show. 

Now for the final show of this season, Blue Rep is presenting their version of "Friction," an original musical with book by Bym Buhain & Miyo Sta. Maria, music and lyrics by Ejay Yatco; which was initially staged six years ago at the Black Box Theater, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde School of Design and Arts. That show was directed by Toff de Venecia, and starred Red Concepcion, Gab Pangilinan and Myke Salmon. 

Now with the title stylized as "f(r)iction," the show remains to be about a young writer Karlo (Davy Nicasio) who was desperately trying to finish his book of short stories and fairy tales. However, he had been struck by a bad case of writer's block so much that he was now already three extensions beyond his deadline. His fiancee Audrey (Julia Santiago) was a dancer, until she became pregnant with Karlo's baby which forced her to stop. 

One day, Karlo met another young writer Ben (JV Fulgencio) while drinking in a bar. Karlo clicked with Ben and with their conversations came a wellspring of inspiration for his book. The busier Karlo got with his book, the less time he had for Audrey. At around the same time, Audrey also met Ben, who said he had a history with her that he wanted back. It did not take long for Karlo to realize the bizarre love triangle they were in.

There was a fourth actor Shaun Ocrisma, who portrayed three very different characters.  
The first two were comic relief. First, he played the bitchy sarcastic gay choreographer who handled Audrey's callback audition. Second he played a waiter in a cafe where Ben met Audrey. His third character was more serious -- a therapist who tried to make sense of the crazy web that entangled the three young people. 

The musical ran for about an hour and a half. The first half was a more or less straightforward story of a young adult couple passionate about their careers who fall in love. A pregnancy and a third party came around to throw a wrench into their plans. The second half then evolved into a mind-bending mystery the protagonists could not figure out, and as the audience we are thrown into a vertiginous spinner until the real situation eventually clears up.

The musical was directed for an online presentation by Andrei Nikolai Pamintuan, who was able to execute the psychological drama in compelling fashion despite the apparent limitations of the platform. I was trying to imagine how this story could have been staged. He also did the production design, one key prop being an old  portable Olympia typewriter. Water color paintings set the locations in scene transitions, as well as brought Karlo's fairy tales to life.

The songs went from the joyful "I Love You to Bits," the romantic "Bittersweet Sky" to some painful songs of angst and grief. All three lead actors have strong singing voices. However, it was this aspect that an online viewing felt lacking. Editing of videos cannot approximate actual stage blocking and interactions. The thrilling exhilaration of hearing the songs being performed live gives them a special dimension which cell phone videos cannot convey. This is why we miss live theater. 


Ateneo Blue Repertory's 29th Season Finale: f(r)iction will run from May 26 tp June 1, 2021 on the Ticket2Me online platform. Tickets are available at at these prices: Base Price of Php 250, With Souvenir Program: Php 300 and With Souvenir Program and Online Package: Php 400. 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Book Review: Celia Diaz Laurel's MY LIVES BEHIND THE PROSCENIUM

May 9, 2021

In 2014, Ms. Celia Diaz-Laurel published an autobiographical coffee-table book about her career as a painter, entitled "The Colors of My Life". That book chronicled her growth as a visual artist from her childhood to her years in the College of Fine Arts in UP under her professors National Artists Fernando Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino. At that time, she revealed that she planned to have three books of memoirs -- as a painter, as a theater artist, and as a whole person. This year, the second book has finally seen print, with the very intriguing title "My Lives Behind the Proscenium".

I knew the fair and elegant Ms. Celia Diaz-Laurel, the wife of former Vice President Salvador Laurel, as a theater actress, but this was only by reputation. I cited her name a number of times in my reviews of classic plays she acted in which have been revived. I had never seen her perform onstage in a play since she had long since retired from the stage by the time I caught the theater bug. Fortunately, I did get to see her sing live and in person once, when she received the Natatanging Gawad lifetime achievement award in 2016 (VIDEO). 

The text of this new book had a motherly lilt to it. You felt like she was right there beside you personally relating these stories about how she became an avid disciple of the theater. She was very thorough, beginning all the way back to her first grade in the Assumption Convent. She watched her first stage performance that year, and was beckoned to follow the call of the stage ever since. Her details about this elementary school episode was very impressive, with a complete names of teachers, schoolmates, and even the specific roles they played.

CDL with husband Salvador Laurel

She went to share her continuing passion with stage shows during the war years, and her introduction to religious theater during the liberation period. Her best stories were from her UP days when she seriously delved into theater work. She related the circumstance that led to her first of many projects with famed playwright and director Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero, whom she fondly referred to "Freddie." She then segued to her theater career outside the university walls. All these stories were remarkably complete with names and roles and even controversy.

There was a fascinating chapter about her experiences in as a masteral student at the Yale School of Drama, while her husband was doing his masters at the Yale School of Law. This part was written with apparent exhilaration as she told about the various theater techniques and exercises she learned from her American mentors, and the popular acceptance she enjoyed among her classmates. These stories were integrated with the family concerns that ran side by side with her education, like house hunting and pregnancy. 

CDL with co-actor Miguel Faustmann

The final chapter was about her years with Repertory Philippines, from "Plaza Suite" (1968) to "Cemetery Club" (1992). This was probably the part of her career many of her fans remember her for. In a cute anecdote. she revealed how she was introduced to director Zeneida Amador in an awkward little incident, one which eventually led to a long-term professional partnership and personal friendship. She acknowledged all the people she met and worked with during these years in Rep, both on and behind the stage. 

Ms. Laurel was also very much a set and costume designer as much as she was an actress. While she described the challenge of designing for the stage of the Insular Life Theater, I wished she could have told more stories about the most challenging plays she had to design for and her trips to Divisoria to deal with budget and material constraints for her sets and costumes. I actually saw her latest project as costume designer -- "Guadalupe the Musical" (2018) (MY REVIEW). Even at age 90, her stylish flair in design was still very much there. 

CDL with son Cocoy Laurel

The voice of her writing was engaging and conversational, a light and breezy read. Yet, it was very informative and educational in its detail, and charming in her humorous side comments. Filipino theater fans would definitely recognize several of the famous names she dropped along the way and feel a sense of heartwarming nostalgia with her reminiscences about them. While you can probably finish the whole book in one sitting, each chapter would exhort you to slow down the pace so you can savor her vividly-told experiences a little bit longer. 

"My Lives Behind the Proscenium" was edited by two of Ms. Laurel's children, Suzie Laurel-Delgado and Cocoy Laurel. It will be formally launched via an FB Live ceremony on May 29, 2021, her 93rd birthday, at 4 pm, additional details still to be announced. However, you can already pre-order the book care of Jenn Tejada on her mobile number 0966-7698969, from Mondays to Fridays only from 1 -5 pm. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

KTX: Review of Trumpets' FIRST NAME ANEW: Sacred Stories in Songs

February 27, 2021

The original Filipino Christian gospel musical "First Name" was the brainchild of the late theater and concert director Freddie Santos (1956-2020). While Santos wrote all the lyrics, the music for each song was written by acclaimed OPM artists like Gary Valenciano, Ogie Alcasid, Ray-An Fuentes, Butch Alvarez and Bob Serrano. 

Under the stage direction of Santos himself, it was first staged at the Rizal Theater back in 1988, and was a big success with young theatergoers. It would have subsequent restagings at the Music Museum in 1992, Meralco Theater in 1993. There would be an updated version staged at the SM-Mall of Asia Center Stage in 2007.

"First Name" is acknowledged as the first English-language Gospel musical in the history of Philippine theater. It was in fact the show that eventually led to the formation of Triumphant People's Evangelistic Theater Society (or Trumpets), recognized as the first professional gospel theater group in Asia, in 1990 by founder Audie Gemora.

This year while the live theater circuit still reeled from quarantine restrictions, Trumpets resurrects "First Name" again, this time adapted for an online venue. The format was a series of ten music videos, each crafted with its own unique vision and style, linked together by expository spiels by a narrator (Tippy Dos Santos), who would explain the significance and lessons of the songs and the names of the Bible characters that inspired each song. The segments were written by Luna Grino-Inocian, and directed by Carlo Magdaluyo.

The opening number was "What's in a Name" (G. Valenciano), a song about how our names could define who we are, in a new arrangement by Jungee Mercado. The concept by Mo Zee had the dapper artist Sam Concepcion singing and dancing the bouncy percolating tune in a room with colorful murals and neon lights and backup dancers. At a break, he had a rap duet interlude featuring Samantha Libao

Aicelle Santos followed with the song "Daughter Eve" (G. Valenciano), rearranged by Choi Padilla and John Apura, video with pop-up storybook animation directed by Cathy Asanza-Dy. This was about the first woman's guilt for her disobedience and desire to be reunited with the Father. Aicelle's pained rendition of the sad lyrics brought a tear to her eye, but the song ended with hope as her pregnant belly was revealed. 

"Let Da Rain Pour Down" (R. Fuentes) was re-arranged and performed by gritty indie artist Bullet Dumas in a reggae beat and style, together with Jacques Doufort and Yuna. What made this song even more remarkable was the performance artwork of Isabella L. Gonzales (Kuh Ledesma’s daughter) who was retelling Noah's story via a painting that evolved while Dumas sang, a true visual and aural highlight directed by Paolo Valenciano.

"Psalm 23" (R. Fuentes), about King David, was arranged by Mon Faustino as an R&B ballad sung with smooth dramatic runs by Lance Busa. "More Than His Name" (R. Fuentes) about Simon Peter in the eyes of his wife, was arranged as a piano torch ballad by Rony Fortich, sung with crystal clarity by Shiela Valderrama-Martinez. Both videos were directed by Johann de la Fuente

"To Be Named a Disciple" (F. Santos and B. Alvarez), inspired by acts of the apostles, was arranged by Gio Levy in an upbeat comic style featuring Nanette Inventor as two characters -- one was a nun with fuchsia leggings under her habit, and the other was a rapper in a checkered hooded jacket, in an irreverent video directed by Carlo Orosa

"Woman with No Name" (O. Alcasid), about the woman accused of adultery, was rearranged by Jeff Arcilla to be sung by Tim Pavino in a video that featured Joni Vergara and two male dancers interpreting the disturbing torment of social media bullying. "What's His Name?" (B. Serrano), about the many names by which Jesus Christ was known, was arranged by John Apura and Choi Padilla as a driving rock number interpreted by Jett Pangan. Both videos were directed by Dan Cabrera.

The next song is the one song from this musical that became its most famous hit -- "Could You Be Messiah?" (G. Valenciano). The original singer Gary Valenciano was also the one who rearranged this new version to be sung by powerhouse vocalist Morrissette. The stark black and white video, which had Morrissette plaintively singing the prayerful song on her knees in a big empty room, was directed by Dave Lamar

The final song is the title song "First Name" (B. Serrano), about how Jesus was the first name and the last, was rearranged by Mon Faustino. In the video directed by Mo Zee, Christian Bautista was singing the song alone in a verdant field at sunrise. He would later be joined virtually by a choir of Trumpets singers (Audie Gemora, Sheila Francisco, Mio Infante, Joaquin Valdes, Bituin Escalante, Carla Martinez, Jake Macapagal, etc...) building up to a triumphant anthemic conclusion. 


"First Name Anew" will be available for streaming on KTX for only three days, from February 27 to March 1, 2021. Tickets at P500 each. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Tanghalang Ateneo: Review of PASSWORD: 03d1pu5_R3x: Fathered by Fate

February 18, 2021

For the first offering of their 42nd season with the theme of "Pagbabanyuhay: Mga Bagong Anyo ng Buhay," Tanghalang Ateneo chose to stage a modernized version of a classic Greek tragedy -- "Oedipus Rex" by Sophocles. This digital version, with the stylized title of  "PASSWORD: 03d1pu5_R3x," was adapted and directed for an online presentation by Ron Capinding, using the Filipino translation by National Artist Rolando Tinio. 

Several years ago, an old legislator named Laio had been murdered during a pilgrimage, and his murderer is still at large. The Highest Council of the nation has determined that this murder mystery has to be resolved in order for the country to survive an ongoing plague (pandemic?) that was causing an alarming death toll all over the country. The current president Edipo (Yan Yuzon) promised the nation that he would get to the bottom of this cold case, to finally bring the perpetrator to justice, and restore prosperity to the country. 

His Vice President Kreon (Marian Rivera-Dantes) advised Edipo to consult with the correspondent Maria Tiresias (Katski Flores) for further enlightenment. However, the reluctant Tiresias publicly accused Edipo himself of being the curse that befell the country. She further added fuel to the president's anger by saying that Edipo had long unknowingly been living in depravity with his wife Yokasta (Miren Alvarez-Fabregas). His pride and reputation hurt, this led Edipo on an obsessive quest to discover his own origin.

Yan Yuzon possessed the powerful charisma of Edipo, as he underwent an intense development from benevolent leader to disturbed tyrant to tragic figure. Miren Alvarez-Fabregas as Yokasta was cool and confident, but as terrible secrets were being revealed, her assured facade soon broke down. Movie star Marian Rivera-Dantes had an auspicious debut as theater actress as the staunchly-principled Kreon, with her calm demeanor and dignified indignance. In her one riveting scene, Katski Flores as the blind journalist Maria Tiresias (sly name pun obvious) built up the tension which carried through the rest of the play.

In smaller but critical roles, Gabe Mercado (as Lysanias) and Marlon Rivera (as Egeo) held the keys to the central mysteries. Director Ron Capinding, who played Oedipus himself in a previous staging, played the Presidential Spokesman, whose got to relate the grisly events that happened off-camera. The Chorus was composed of student actors (Dani Capinding, Nicole Chua, Miguel Datu, Trixie dela Cruz, Kath Dizon, Shaun Ocrisma, Lars Salamante) who played various side characters like the citizenry, the cabinet ministers and press corps. Their scenes of choral elocution carried a lingering haunting effect. 

When Capinding updated the classic tale to the current times, he was not at all subtle. President Edipo was a mayor from the South before he became president of the country. He continued to enjoy immense popularity and support from his fellow Southerners despite the ongoing problems. His Vice President Kreon was a woman from Nabua (Camarines Sur), whom he later accused of wanting to grab his power. To add a further knowing jab, Edipo's press conferences always started late. 

In online presentations like this, theater elements like dramaturgy (Peter George Mayshle), production design (by Marlon Rivera), lighting design (by D Cortezano), sound design (by John Ago Yam) and original score (by Zak Capinding) now had to work hand in hand with film elements like editing (by Bianca Baltazar), special visual effects (Miggy Arnonobal), color (Clara Lazaro), and sound mixing (also by John Ago Yam). Pure theater actors had to learn to act in front of a camera (giving Marian Rivera a distinct advantage). Since this particular performance is rendered permanent by this digitally-recorded version, the essential aspect of constant newness in every theater performance had essentially been neutered. 

Capinding's modern adaptation made the whole play very clear, engaging and currently relevant. The rich, deep Filipino vocabulary used may sound eloquently poetic to the ears, yet the discontent, defiance and distress they conveyed remained remarkably urgent. The English subtitles by Jopie Sanchez will be very helpful for the occasional archaic words. 

The online Zoom-type platform had its limitations, for sure. But this production proved that, with innovative ideas and passionate actors, a story originally conceived in 429 BC can be made to feel as if it was primetime news today. The suspenseful execution of the final reveal still packed a heavy wallop, whether you knew the twisted story or not. 


** The showdates for "PASSWORD: 03d1pu5_R3x" shall be February 22, 25 and 27, 2021. Tickets will be P150 for general viewing and P250 for general viewing plus a souvenir program (prices inclusive of transaction fee). Tickets can be purchased from Tanghalang Ateneo's ticketing partner Ticket2Me. 

Thursday, December 3, 2020


December 4, 2020

Here are the Hot 100 Singles of 2020 as ranked by Billboard Magazine. This year-end recap is based on Billboard Hot 100 chart performance during between the weeks from Nov. 23, 2019 through Nov. 14, 2020.. This is a list of last year's most popular songs across all genres, ranked by radio airplay audience impressions and sales data as measured and compiled by Nielsen Music, while streaming activity data provided by online music sources.

1  Blinding Lights - The Weeknd (#1 for 4 weeks, April 2020)

"Blinding Lights" has set a new record for most weeks in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 at 40 weeks, with 4 non-consecutive weeks in the #1 spot. He also holds the record for most weeks in the Top 5 at 28 weeks.

2  Circles - Post Malone (#1 for 2 weeks, November - December 2019)

"Circles" spent 39 weeks in the Top 10, a record until "Blinding Lights" edged it out. 

3  The Box - Roddy Ricch (#1 for 11 weeks, January - March 2020)

4  Don't Start Now - Dua Lipa

5  Rockstar - DaBaby Featuring Roddy Ricch (#1 for 7 weeks, June - July 2020)

6  Adore You - Harry Styles

7  Life Is Good - Future Featuring Drake

8  Memories - Maroon 5

9  The Bones - Maren Morris

10  Someone You Loved - Lewis Capaldi

11  Say So - Doja Cat (#1 for 1 week, May 2020)

12  I Hope - Gabby Barrett Featuring Charlie Puth

13  Whats Poppin - Jack Harlow Featuring DaBaby, Tory Lanez & Lil Wayne

14  Dance Monkey - Tones And I

15  Savage - Megan Thee Stallion (#1 for 1 week, May 2020)

16  Roxanne - Arizona Zervas

17  Intentions - Justin Bieber Featuring Quavo

18  Everything I Wanted - Billie Eilish

19  Roses - SAINt JHN

20  Watermelon Sugar - Harry Styles

21  Before You Go - Lewis Capaldi

22  Falling - Trevor Daniel

23  10,000 Hours - Dan + Shay & Justin Bieber

24  WAP - Cardi B Featuring Megan Thee Stallion  (#1 for 4 weeks, August - September 2020)

25  Ballin' - Mustard & Roddy Ricch

26  Hot Girl Bummer - blackbear

27  Blueberry Faygo - Lil Mosey

28  Heartless - The Weeknd (#1 for 1 week, December 2019)

29  BOP - DaBaby

30  Lose You To Love Me - Selena Gomez

31  Good As Hell - Lizzo

32  Toosie Slide - Drake (#1 for 1 week, April 2020)

33  Break My Heart - Dua Lipa

34  Chasin' You - Morgan Wallen

35  Savage Love (Laxed - Siren Beat) - Jawsh 685 x Jason Derulo (#1 for 1 week, October 2020)

36  No Guidance - Chris Brown Featuring Drake

37  My Oh My - Camila Cabello Featuring DaBaby

38  Dynamite - BTS  (#1 for 3 weeks, September 2020)

39  Go Crazy - Chris Brown & Young Thug

40  High Fashion - Roddy Ricch Featuring Mustard

41  Laugh Now Cry Later - Drake Featuring Lil Durk

42  Woah - Lil Baby

43  Death Bed - Powfu Featuring beabadoobee

44  Senorita - Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello

45  HIGHEST IN THE ROOM - Travis Scott

46  Bad Guy - Billie Eilish

47  Mood - 24kGoldn Featuring iann dior (#1 for 1 week, October 2020)

48  Rain On Me - Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande (#1 for 1 week, June 2020)

49  For The Night - Pop Smoke Featuring Lil Baby & DaBaby

50  RITMO (Bad Boys For Life) - Black Eyed Peas X J Balvin

51  Heart On Ice - Rod Wave

52  Nobody But You - Blake Shelton Duet With Gwen Stefani

53  Trampoline - SHAED

54  Come & Go - Juice WRLD x Marshmello

55  Truth Hurts - Lizzo

56  If The World Was Ending - JP Saxe Featuring Julia Michaels

57  We Paid - Lil Baby & 42 Dugg

58  Yummy - Justin Bieber

59  One Man Band - Old Dominion

60  Got What I Got - Jason Aldean

61  Sunday Best - Surfaces

62  Godzilla - Eminem Featuring Juice WRLD

63  Bandit - Juice WRLD & YoungBoy Never Broke Again

64  Party Girl - StaySolidRocky

65  Die From A Broken Heart - Maddie & Tae

66  Popstar - DJ Khaled Featuring Drake

67  All I Want For Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey (#1 for 3 weeks, December 2019 - Januarty 2020)

On the chart dated December 21, 2019, "All I Want For Christmas Is You" topped the Hot 100, only after 35 cumulative weeks and 25 years from its original release -- setting the record for the slowest climb to the top spot and the longest trip to the number one position. When it spent a third week atop the Hot 100 chart dated January 4, 2020, Carey became the first artist in history to rule the chart in four separate decades: 1990s, 2000s, 2010s & 2020s chart.

68  One Of Them Girls - Lee Brice

69  Hard To Forget - Sam Hunt

70  One Margarita - Luke Bryan

71  Panini - Lil Nas X

72  Hot - Young Thug Featuring Gunna

73  I Hope You're Happy Now - Carly Pearce & Lee Brice

74  Emotionally Scarred - Lil Baby

75  Suicidal - YNW Melly & Juice WRLD

76  The Bigger Picture - Lil Baby

77  Only Human - Jonas Brothers

78  The Woo - Pop Smoke Featuring 50 Cent & Roddy Ricch

79  Sum 2 Prove - Lil Baby

80  Stuck With U - Ariana Grande & Justin Bieber (#1 for 1 week, May 2020)

81  Mood Swings - Pop Smoke Featuring Lil Tjay

82 You Should Be Sad - Halsey

83  Dior - Pop Smoke

84  Supalonely - BENEE Featuring Gus Dapperton

85  Even Though I'm Leaving - Luke Combs

86  The Scotts - THE SCOTTS, Travis Scott & Kid Cudi (#1 for 1 week, May 2020)

87  Juicy - Doja Cat & Tyga

88  Be Like That - Kane Brown With Swae Lee & Khalid

89  Homesick - Kane Brown

90  Rags2Riches - Rod Wave Featuring ATR Son Son

91  Bluebird - Miranda Lambert

92  Wishing Well - Juice WRLD

93  Does To Me - Luke Combs Featuring Eric Church

94  P*$$y Fairy (OTW) - Jhene Aiko

95  ily - surf mesa Featuring Emilee

96  More Than My Hometown - Morgan Wallen

97  Lovin' On You - Luke Combs

98  Said Sum - Moneybagg Yo

99  Slide - H.E.R. Featuring YG

100  Walk Em Down - NLE Choppa Featuring Roddy Ricch

** Number 1 songs that did NOT make it into this year-end list:

Trollz - 6ix9ine and Nicki Minaj  (#1 for 1 week, June 2020)

Cardigan - Taylor Swift (#1 for 1 week, August 2020)

Franchise - Travis Scott featuring Young Thug and M.I.A. (#1 for 1 week, October 2020)

Positions - Ariana Grande (#1 for 1 week, November 2020)

Sunday, October 11, 2020


October 12, 2020

BTS is currently the most popular South Korean boy band in the US, and probably the whole world. Their debut single album "2 Cool 4 Skool" was released in 2013 in Korea, and from that year onward, they had been steadily building up their loyal fan base called the ARMY with members from all over the world. 

I first heard of them only when they hit it big on the US charts in 2018 with two #1 albums on the Billboard 200: their third studio album "Love Yourself: Tear" and their compilation album "Love Yourself: Answer." That same year, their singles "Fake Love" and "Idol" reached #10 and #11 respectively on the Billboard Hot 100.

BTS is composed of 7 members, but I did not really know each one by name before. I had watched their recent Tiny Desk concert on YouTube last September 2020, and noted that each one carried a microphone of a different color which also corresponded to the colors of their earpieces, so that was how I identified them. They are RM (blue), Jin (pink), Suga (black), J-Hope (red), Jimin (gold), V (green), and Jungkook (purple). 

I had no idea that BTS was having an online concert until an FB friend who watched the first day last Saturday October 10 encouraged me to go check out the second day of the concert Sunday afternoon. She sent me instructions on how to book a ticket (good for two devices) to the concert from the Weverse app, which I tried but could not figure out. Fortunately, my daughter, who was a big Kpop fan, was able to score a ticket for us at the last minute. 

The whole concert began with a video of the boys all donning their red hoods in a desert with a crag of rock jutting out from the sand. This would transition onto a live stage where they opened the show with a performance of their 2020 song "On" (a #4 song on the Hot 100) with a platoon of masked backup dancers. Then, they performed two of their earliest hits from 2013, "N.O" and "We Are Bulletproof Pt.2." 

There was a video interlude with closeups of the boys, while the stage was set up for the first solo number called "Intro : Persona" featuring RM (or Kim Namjoon) who was the recognized leader and spokesman of BTS. He delivered his strong rap number from behind a lectern, as if delivering a political campaign speech. That hanging mic he used that burst into flame when he threw it into the air was a cool gimmick.

The other guys later joined him to sing "Boy In Luv" (2014, not to be confused with the 2019 hit "Boy WITH Luv") with a building in flames behind them. After the song, all the members individually addressed their fans in Korean language. At first, there were no English subtitles, so I could not understand what they were saying. Fortunately, the later speeches would eventually have these much-needed subtitles. After their introductory messages, they performed "Dionysus" (2019), with the building ruins behind them lit in green.

After another video of the boys posing and modeling, it was Suga's turn to show off his rap skills in his solo spot "Interlude : Shadow." Suga had a quick costume change from white to black ensemble as his hooded dancers surrounded him. Then the other guys got back together with him in a smooth transition to perform another 2020 single "Black Swan" with an underwater kelp forest-like backdrop, which concluded in a balletic solo dance by Jimin.

With a major set change, the three rappers Suga, RM and J-Hope came out donning satin boxing robes to perform the highly energetic hiphop number "UGH!" After this, the other four guys, Jin, Jimin, V and Jungkook, rendered a dramatic "00:00 (Zero O’Clock)" number, wearing white outfits, with a giant digital clock display and winter scenery behind them.  

There was another video montage of the boys, which concluded with Jungkook in a room full of clocks. This segued into his solo number "My Time" which had him dressed in fiery red dancing under a spotlight, first alone, then with four dancers in black. The next was Jimin's solo number "Filter" in a white room with TV monitors and mannequins where he danced ala Michael Jackson. Jin had his turn next with the song "Moon" where he began singing on a replica of the moon with huge red flower growing on it. The next number of this set was "Inner Child" by V, in an elaborate set with a giant suspended carousel, with a little boy riding on one of the horses with him.

There was another video montage of images of the boys, after which J-Hope performed the final solo number "Outro : EGO" with a red classic convertible and four ATVs on stage. This was followed by the first song I was actually familiar with in this whole show -- their #8 US hit "Boy With Luv" which they sang carrying transparent umbrellas. After this song, the guys were already expressing their initial thanks and goodbyes, but like it was in a regular concert, of course there would be more to come. 

The next three high energy numbers -- "DNA" (2017), "Dope" (2015) and their very first single "No More Dream" (2013) -- were performed with elaborated computer-generated sets like a floating stage, a moving elevator or bursts of fireworks to make things more visually interesting. Then, the boys stood in front of massive video walls which showed a multitude of ARMY (mostly female) cheering them on their webcams while watching the concert live. With that background, they performed "Spring Day" (2017), "Idol" (2018) and their recent Hot 100 #1 hit song "Dynamite" (2020).   

Each one of the boys addressed their fans again individually to thank them for their support and express their hopes to be able to perform live once again with them. The live audience was really the missing factor in this concert, as their fangirl energy could not really transmit very well through their Zoom screens, even if they were frantically waving their light sticks and balloons. Their loud screams and fan chants are very much part of this and any Kpop concert and they were much missed in this online concert experience. 

The boys sang their 23rd and final number "We Are Bulletproof : the Eternal" before walking back to the initial stage with desert. They bid their final farewells standing on the same massive rocky crag set piece where the whole concert began 2 hours and a half ago. 

This is the first time I had seen BTS in a full-length concert, and I have to say, these guys really give their singing and dancing their all in terms of energy and dedication. It was clear why their fans love them well beyond their androgynous looks alone.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Recap and Winners List GAWAD BUHAY AWARDS for 2019: "LAM-ANG," "EVERY BRILLIANT THING" and "PASSION" Lead Awardees

October 8, 2020

Because of the pandemic this year, the presentation of the Gawad Buhay awards this year were pushed back six months, from its usual date in April to today. The awarding ceremony was a combination of pre-recorded segments with Phi Palmos and Meann Espinosa with smooth transitions to live speeches from the excited winners.

The emcees opened the show wearing colorful bunny suits, keeping in tune with the times, but they would later change to regular clothes for the rest of the show. Philstage President Audie Gemora delivered the opening remarks. 

The first set of awards were for the technical categories:

Outstanding Original Score

Fitz Bitana, Jen Darlene Torres and Eljay Castro Deldoc, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Vince Lim, Jeff Hernandez and Michelle Ngu, “Charot!” (Philippine Educational Theater Association)

Eljay Castro-Deldoc

Outstanding Choreography

JM Cabling, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

PJ Rebullida, “The Quest for the Adarna” (Repertory Philippines)

Outstanding Sound Design

Arvy Dimaculangan, “Every Brilliant Thing” (The Sandbox Collective)

Jethro Joaquin, “The Dresser” (Repertory Philippines)

Glendfford Malimban, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

TJ Ramos, “Coriolano” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

TJ Ramos, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Outstanding Musical Direction (tie)

Daniel Bartolome, “Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

TJ Ramos, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Ejay Yatco, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

TJ Ramos

Outstanding Lighting Design

John Batalla, “Every Brilliant Thing” (The Sandbox Collective)

Dennis Marasigan, “Coriolano” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Meliton Roxas Jr., “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Barbie Tan-Tiongco, “The Dresser” (Repertory Philippines)

Shakira Villa-Symes, “Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

Outstanding Costume Design

Bonsai Cielo, “Coriolano” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Bonsai Cielo, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Daniel Gregorio, “Katsuri” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Tata Tuviera, “The Dresser” (Repertory Philippines)

Outstanding Set Design

Ed Lacson Jr., “The Dresser” (Repertory Philippines)

Joey Mendoza, “The Quest for the Adarna” (Repertory Philippines)

Faust Peneyra, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

Kayla Teodoro, “Dancing Lessons” (Twin Bill Theater)

Marco Viaña, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Julie Borromeo

The first Natatanging Gawad award of the night was given to Ms. Julie Borromeo for the field of Dance. She received tributes from all her children and students, as well as performance of one of the contemporary ballets she choreographed to the tune of "Maging Hanggang sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan".  

The next set of awards were for the writers:

Outstanding Translation or Adaptation

Guelan Luarca, “Coriolano” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Luna Grino-Inocian

Outstanding Original Book of a Musical

Luna Griño-Inocian, “The Quest for the Adarna” (Repertory Philippines)

Outstanding Production for Children

“The Quest for the Adarna” (Repertory Philippines)

The second Natatanging Gawad award of the night was given to Freddie Santos for Theatre. His tribute began Gary Valenciano performing the song "Would You Be Messiah" which he wrote for Santos's musical "First Name." This was followed a lengthy narration about Santos' long career in performing and directing theater as well as concerts.

Freddie Santos

The next set of awards were for performances.

Male Featured Performance in a Play

Jaime del Mundo, “The Dresser” (Repertory Philippines)

Fernando Josef, “Katsuri” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Brian Sy, “Coriolano” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Jonathan Tadioan, “Coriolano” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Female Featured Performance in a Play

Antonette Go, “Katsuri” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Sherry Lara, “Coriolano” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Tami Monsod, “The Dresser” (Repertory Philippines)

Lhorvie Nuevo, “Katsuri” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Kakki Teodoro

Female Lead Performance in a Play

Teresa Herrera, “Every Brilliant Thing” (The Sandbox Collective)

Jill Peña, “Dancing Lessons” (Twin Bill Theater)

Kakki Teodoro, “Every Brilliant Thing” (The Sandbox Collective)

Male Lead Performance in a Play

Audie Gemora, “The Dresser” (Repertory Philippines)

Teroy Guzman, “The Dresser” (Repertory Philippines)

Jonathan Tadioan, “Katsuri” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Marco Viaña, “Coriolano” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Marco Viaña, “Katsuri” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Marco Viana

Male Featured Performance in a Musical

Paw Castillo, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Daniel Drilon, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

Lorenz Martinez, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

Juliene Mendoza, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

Raul Montesa, “Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

Female Featured Performance in a Musical

Jasmine Fitzgerald, “Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

Anna Luna, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Justine Narciso, “The Quest for the Adarna” (Repertory Philippines)

Tex Ordoñez-de Leon, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Shiela Valderrama-Martinez, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

Vien King

Male Lead Performance in a Musical

Vien King, “Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

JC Santos, “Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Female Lead Performance in a Musical

Rebecca Coates, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

Felicity Kyle Napuli, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

Shiela Valderrama-Martinez, “Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

Shiela Valderrama-Martinez

Outstanding Ensemble Performance for a Play

“Katsuri” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Outstanding Ensemble Performance for a Musical

“Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

“Lam-ang” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

“Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

The next segment was an In Memoriam slideshow accompanied by the song "Matatapos Din" (from "Mula sa Buwan") sung by Gab Pangilinan. The notable theater personalities included in the list were Heherson Alvarez, Carlos Celdran, Gilda Cordero-Fernando, Peque Gallaga, Tony Mabesa, Manny Pambid and Menggie Cobarrubias.

The final set of awards were as follows:

Outstanding Stage Direction for a Play

Jenny Jamora, “Every Brilliant Thing” (The Sandbox Collective)

Francis Matheu, “Dancing Lessons” (Twin Bill Theater)

Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, “Katsuri” (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Jenny Jamora

Outstanding Stage Direction for a Musical

Toff de Venecia, “Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

Robbie Guevara, “Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

Outstanding Production of Existing Material for a Play

“Dancing Lessons” (Twin Bill Theater)

“Every Brilliant Thing” (The Sandbox Collective)

Karla Gutierrez 

Outstanding Production of Existing Material for a Musical

“Dani Girl” (The Sandbox Collective)

“Passion” (Philippine Opera Company)

The final remarks were given by Philstage Vice President Congressman Toff de Venecia. There was an emotional final song "Darating Din ang Araw" rendered by a group of theater singers led by Sweet Plantado and Poppert Bernadas. This first-of-its-kind online awards show was very well-executed by Black Box in cooperation with PETA and Philstage.