Wednesday, December 21, 2016

My Yearend Roundup: The BEST of PHILIPPINE THEATER 2016

December 21, 2016

For the year 2016, I had seen and written about 32 theater productions: 11 musicals, 10 full-length plays, and 14 one-act plays. That may seem to be a lot of shows I had seen. However, I have to confess that I missed a lot of productions especially those in Makati and in Ateneo because of schedule conflicts and especially the terrible traffic in those areas.

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


(My Full Review)

Music and Lyrics by: Vincent de Jesus
Directed by: Rem Zamora

This tells us about the love relationship of Alex and Cris, two individuals 15 years apart in age who decide to live together. It tells us about how their love story began and how it eventually evolved six years later. The twist of this ingenious script is that the roles of Alex and Cris can interchangeably be played by male and female actors such that the dynamics of the relationship also change significantly. Then again, it also shows that the outcome of such relationships may not really be that different after all, whatever the genders of the people involved.

The explosive climactic confrontation scene with all four actors on the stage at the same time switching roles so fluidly was a triumph in stage direction. Having the composer de Jesus himself up there playing the piano was precious. Above everything though, the biggest reason for the enduring quality of this show is the remarkable script and lyrics with their biting humor and even more biting realism. The idea of making the couple a May-December affair expands the audience appeal from Gen X to Millennials, as will the tackling of both heterosexual and homosexual issues. 

Other Notable Productions:

Katips (My Review)
Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko (My Review)
Ako si Josephine (My Review)

Notable Performances: 

Agot Isidro and Sandino Martin (Changing Partners - Regular Run); Patricia Ismael and Ricky Ibe (Changing Partners - Staged Reading); Vincent Tanada, Adelle Ibarrientos-Lim and Maya Encila (Katips); Sandino Martin, Jef Flores, Noel Comia Jr. Nonoy Froilan and Edna Vida (Awitin Mo) Ricci Chan, Raul Montesa, Joanne Co and Vic Robinson (Josephine); Gold Villar, Raffy Tejada and Che Ramos Cosio (3 Stars and a Sun)


(My Full Review)

Book by: Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Music and Lyrics by: Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe
Director: Bobby Garcia

Spring was narrated by Tommy de Vito, as it detailed the unsavory origins of the group, with criminal records and shady connections with the Mob. Summer was narrated by Bob Gaudio, as their entry into pop stardom was described. Fall was narrated by Nick Massi, recounting the band's fall from grace brought about by Tommy's reckless dealings with loan sharks and the IRS, something that eventually led to the group's disbandment. The last section Winter was narrated by Frankie Valli, telling about his strained personal relationships, as well as his emergence as a successful solo artist. 

Nyoy Volante was amazing as he delivered his lines and sang his songs in the very distinctly squeaky speaking voice and soaring falsetto singing voice of Frankie Valli. Markki Stroem stood out with his strong stage presence, full of confidence and bravado as he realistically delivered those gangster lines of his, as well as perfect comic timing in those sly humorous zingers he had. Nino Alejandro's rich voice was distinctly heard as he sang the baritone parts of the harmonies, in audible contrast with Volante's falsetto. His sense of comedy was also faultless in his delivery of his funny lines in that realistic Jersey accent. 

Other Notable Productions:

Annie (My Review)
A Christmas Carol (My Review)
Fun Home (My Review)
American Idiot (My Review)

*** Foreign Touring Production: Les Miserables (My Review)

Notable Performances: 

Nyoy Volante, Markki Stroem and Nino Alejandro (Jersey), Kristal Brimner, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo and James Paolelli (Annie), Miguel Faustmann, Ariel Reonal, Franz Imperial and Dewayde Dizon (A Christmas Carol), Andee Achacoso, Mikki Bradshaw, Cris Villonco and Lea Salonga (Fun Home); Nel Gomez, Jason Fernandez, Yanah Laurel and Ela Lisondra (American Idiot), Jef Flores (Tick Tick Boom); Christine Flores and Joy Virata (Steppin' Out), Karel Marquez and Bituin Escalante (50 Shades)


A. One-Act: 

(My Full Review)

Written by: Carlo Vergara
Directed by: Hazel Gutierrez

Gorio and Lilia had been married for a long time. Their son Jerome is already 15 years old. However lately, Gorio had been spending weeks on end out of town, such that Lilia had to practically raise Jerome on her own. One day, mysterious events forced Gorio to confess his real nature and what he had been doing all along. Even Jerome knew about it. What Gorio tells Lilia was so preposterous, she simply could not believe a word he was saying.

Count on Carlo Vergara to submit the wackiest comedy in this year's VLF batch. The writer of "Zsazsa Zaturnnah" also gave us "Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady" before. He revisits the same genre with this one, again with his trademark skills in madcap comedy. Director Gutierrez decided to use shadow play techniques to portray the supernatural aspects of the story, which added another dimension to her storytelling. 

Other Notable Productions: 

Lagablab (My Review)
Indigo Child (My Review)
Ang Bata sa Drum (My Review)
Ang Lihim na Kasaysayan....Taxi Driver (My Review)

Notable Performances: 

Mayen Estanero, Timothy Castillo and Jonathan Tadioan (Sa Kulimliman), Ira Ruzz, Sheryll Villamor Ceasico and Gilbert Bacolod (Lagablab), Skyzx Labastilla (Indigo Child), Renante Bustamante (Bait), Raven Relavo (Ang Bata sa Drum), Irma Adlawan (Loyalist), Sheenly Vee Gener and Aldo Vencilao (Ang Mga Bisita ni Jean), Adriana Agcaoili (Hapagkainan), Tomas Miranda (Happiness is a Pearl), Lou Veloso and J-Mee Katanyag (Ang Lihim na Kasaysayan....Taxi Driver)

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


Written/Translated by: Guelan Luarca
Directed by: Alexander Cortez

Antipholus of Ephesus is a known and respected citizen of his city. His loyal but foolish servant Dromio is always at his beck and call.  One day, Antipholus of Syracuse pays a visit to Ephesus, accompanied by his own foolish servant Dromio. The people of Ephesus mistake both sets of men for each other because they apparently looked exactly like each other. Even Adriana, the jealous wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, and her romantic sister Luciana also fell victim to this madcap mix-up. In fact, each Antipholus and each Dromio were themselves misled by their twin's identity. The situation would later escalate to crazy accusations of mental illness and demonic possession.

Director Alexander Cortez created a very lively and energetic, occasionally naughty, occasionally absurd, overall very entertaining show. Gino Gonzales' costume design with those geometric designs and bright colors really livened up the stage, along with Ohm David's complementary set design that seemed to be a colorful cartoon town come to life, so vibrant. Citations go to Meliton Roxas Jr. for his complex technical direction and lighting design and PJ Rebullida for his wacky choreography.

Other Notable Productions: 

Pangarap sa Isang Gabi ng Gitnang Tag-Araw (My Review)
Ang Dressing Room (My Review)
The Tempest Reimagined (My Review)

Notable Performances:

Paul Jake Paule, Gabo Tolentino and Khen del Prado (Katatawanan); Liesl Batucan, Jonathan Tadioan and Lhorvie Nuevo (Pangarap); Roeder Camanag and Andoy Ranay (Dressing Room); CB Garrucho (The Tempest)


Best: CONSTELLATIONS (My Full Review)

Written by: Nick Payne
Directed by: Rem Zamora

The synopsis is very simple, deceptively so. Marianne is an astrophysicist. Roland is a beekeeper. They meet at a party. They fall in love and live together. They deal with various problems life throws at them, from affairs to mortality. This was told in little episodes, not in chronological order. It will be up to you to figure out what their real personalities are. It will be up to you piece the whole story together. 

From the very first scene, you will instantly see how this play was going to be different from anything. The same lines were repeated over and over. However, there would be different responses to the same question. There would be different emotions and voice inflections to accompany the same words.  These differences in delivery or words used, small or insignificant as they would seem, lead to different outcomes. In this play, we actually get to see the various "what-if" scenarios and what happens afterwards. 

Other Notable Productions:

Tribes (My Review)
Suicide Incorporated (My Review)
Pillowman (My Review)

Notable Performances: 

JC Santos and Cris Villonco (Constellations), Kalil Almonte, Angela Padilla, Teroy Guzman and Dolly de Leon (Tribes), Hans Eckstein, Jeremy Domingo and Mako Alonzo (Suicide), Gabs Santos (Pillowman), Reb Atadero (Almost Maine); Pinky Amador (The Game's Afoot)


  1. OMG! Its been a year!!! I'm just realizing it!!! I remember commenting on your yearly roundup post last year end... Wow!!! Wishing u to have a fabulous year ahead too, Fred!

  2. 2016 gone so fast...Now looking forward to more reviews from you in 2017. Nice retrospect post!

  3. There's so many epic musicals and plays. I should try watching a few in 2017.

  4. I feel 32 productions in a year is a lot. It's like seeing and writing about one every month. Do you have a goal in mind for 2017, something to surpass 2016?

  5. Sad that I haven't seen any :( … I really need to spend some time and money on watching theatre performances. It is such a beautiful art … 2017, I must at least go and watch some good theatre performances. - My resolution!

  6. What 32-11-10-14? Oh man, your a fanatic. I'm like 0-0-0-0. I wonder how you manage all these. It must take a true enthusiast to be able to watch all these musical literary.

  7. I don't think there's many local films enough for me to actually write a proper roundup post. Sadly. :(

    Anyway, Happy 2017!

  8. What an interesting list! Of all the productions that you comment I have been very attracted by ANG KATATAWANAN NG KALITUHAN (although I can not find a way to correctly pronounce the title hahaha). The bad thing is that I doubt very much that I can see it one day since I live in Spain ...

  9. The musical looks so nice.. I wish I could see it for real..

  10. Reading your list makes me miss the educational musical plays I used to often watch in high school. I hope I can start watching theater plays again.

    ❀ Grace ❀


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