January 1, 2015
Last year, I had seen and written about 36 theater productions: 12 musicals, 16 straight full-length plays, 8 one-act plays.
Still, that is only a fraction of everything the very active local theater scene has offered for the general public in the past year. I had not been able to see "Dani Girl", "Grease" and other productions running in Makati in the second half of the year because of the problematic traffic situation. I was out of town when "Imaginarium" was shown.
I will recount here what I feel were the best among those theater shows I have seen and written about for 2014.
I. FILIPINO MUSICALS:
Best: RAK OF AEGIS (My Full Review)
This musical play, based on the lyrics of Aegis songs, is set in Barangay Venezia, a poor community wallowing in flood waters for several months now. Aileen Dimaraan loves to sing, and wishes her singing will bring her fortune when she gets noticed by Ellen Degeneres. When her Youtube music video goes viral though, her dreams for fame and fortune are caught between familial, personal and even societal conflicts.
Aicelle Santos beautifully essays the charming but flawed role of Aileen. Her singing is undeniably strong, as we have heard before. Those punishing wailing high notes of the Aegis girls were actually given more class and pathos when Aicelle sings their songs.
Ang Nawalang Kapatid (My Review)
Ang Huling Lagda ni Apolinario Mabini (My Review)
Filipinas 1941 (My Review)
Aicelle Santos and Julienne Mendoza (Rak), Roeder Camanag and Poppert Bernadas (Mabini), Teetin Villanueva (Ang Nawalang Kapatid), MIcko Laurente (Kleptomaniacs, Prinsipe Munti)
II. NON-FILIPINO MUSICALS:
Best: SHREK THE MUSICAL (My Full Review)
The swamp home of the grumpy green ogre Shrek was overrun by fairy tale characters who were exiled there by Lord Farquaad of Duloc. Shrek with his new friend Donkey accepts the challenge set by Farquaad to save the Princess Fiona from her imprisonment in a tower guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. However, Fiona has a dark secret of her own that needs true love's first kiss to solve. Who will set her free from her nightly curse? Will it be Farquaad? Or can it be Shrek?
Franz Imperial was actually very good as Shrek! His singing voice was full and very solid. He had Shrek's Scottish accent down. He had excellent buddy chemistry with the Donkey and romantic chemistry with Fiona, such that he did not feel like a short-notice replacement at all. Imperial was able to project the inner goodness of the gruff ogre from under all of that green rubbery make-up. This pinch-hitter hit a home run! As Princess Fiona, Shiela Valderrama performed like I had never seen her perform before. Her songs showed off her comic flair on top of her flawless strong vocals.
Ghost the Musical (My Review)
Priscilla Queen of the Desert (My Review)
*** Foreign Touring Production: Wicked (My Review)
Franz Imperial and Shiela Valderrama-Martinez (Shrek), Cris Villonco and Ima Castro (Ghost), Red Concepcion, Michael Williams and Raymond Concepcion (Priscilla), Nikki Gil and Joaquin Valdez (The Last 5 Years)
III. FILIPINO PLAYS:
Best: ANG NAGHIHINGALO (My Full Review)
Intoy suddenly suffers a stroke and needs P300,000 for brain surgery to drain the hemorrhage. Being an ice cream seller who was just recently laid off from work, he did not have the money for this. Intoy's wife Felisa seeks the help of Intoy's three elder siblings, Guido, Doreen and Ate Linda. As Intoy lies critically in the ICU, his three siblings end up squabbling over past family issues instead of coming up with the cash.
At first, this play did not seem so promising because of the rather common and morose initial premise. However, as the play progressed, especially with the entry of Bong Cabrera as loud-mouthed Guido, the play's hilarious over-the-top nature revealed itself. The entry of Dolly de Leon as Linda, the flamboyant loan shark eldest sister, further upped the comedy scale even more.
Betang (My Review)
The Missing Peace (My Review)
Sherry Lara and Chino Veguillas (Betang), Dolly De Leon and Bong Cabrera (Ang Naghihingalo), Sarah Salazar (Bago Ilibing), Gio Gahol (Freshman)
B. Full-Length: Original Filipino Material or Filipino Adaptation:
Best: PAHIMAKAS SA ISANG AHENTE (My Full Review)
The play is about Willy Loman, a travelling salesman and also family man happily married to Linda, with two grown sons, Biff and Happy. As he gets older though, his boss takes him out of the company payroll and makes his earnings per commission-basis. With this demotion at work, his own sanity begins to unravel. Willy's stubborn pride makes him resist help from his family and friends. Ghosts from his past, like his elder brother Ben and the mysterious woman from Boston, insidiously creep into Willy's present dementia, throwing his family into a major turmoil.
"Pahimakas sa Isang Ahente" is no doubt a formidable play. It runs for about three and a half hours long. The main characters all have lengthy soliloquies, made more difficult by being in delivered Filipino. Some lines can be awkward to say in Filipino because they possessed a distinct American flavor in the words. The innate complexity of this play automatically makes the actors who take on this big challenge a notch above other actors.
Rite of Passage (My Review)
Ang Misis Kong Promdi (My Review)
Hakbang sa Hakbang (My Review)
Nanding Josef, Yul Servo and Gina Pareno (Pahimakas), Frances Makil-Ignacio and Ron Capinding (Rite of Passage), Guelan Luarca and Dolly de Leon (Middle Finger), Delphine Buencamino (Hakbang sa Hakbang), Tarek el Tayech and Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino (Ang Misis Kong Promdi), Ana Abad Santos and JC Santos (Fluid)
IV. NON-FILIPINO PLAYS:
Best: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (My Full Review)
This play is set in a small Oklahoma town on one warm summer. Violet Weston reunites with her three willful daughters, Barbara, Ivy and Karen, when there was an unexpected death in the family. Fireworks fly when family secrets are revealed as mother and daughters clash, dragging the rest of the family along in their downward spiral.
The role of Violet, the dysfunctional wife and mother made worse by her dependency on drugs given for her oral cancer, was played by Sheila Francisco. Ms. Francisco had us all mesmerized by the sadistic web she is spinning. She owned that pivotal second act set around the lunch table completely.
Rabbit Hole (My Review)
Wait Until Dark (My Review)
Cock (My Review)
Sheila Francisco (August), Liesl Batucan (Wait Until Dark, August), Agot Isidro (Rabbit Hole), Cherie Gil (Full Throttle), Topper Fabregas and Jenny Jamora (Cock), Carla Laforteza-Guevara (Noises Off)
Looking forward to more vibrant productions of the various local theater companies and more scintillating performances from multi-talented Filipino theater artists this year 2015!