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Bumper crop of 4th-quarter productions

Russian Yuri Shadrin electrified the audience at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) with a performance of Lizst’s “Piano Concerto No. 1” during a concert with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) led by the dynamic, Spanish-speaking Japanese conductor Yoshikazu Fukumura. The success was repeated in the next PPO concert with Chinese cellist Ray Wang as soloist. In response to the “bravos” he played the dreamy Saint-Saens’ “The Swan” as an encore.

Lisa Macuja’s Ballet Manila came up with an unexpected hit with “Ibong Adarna,” choreography by Gerardo Francisco, Jr.; and it will be restaged next year. In quick succession came BM’s “Swan Lake,” that all-time romantic bestseller (along with “Giselle”), with exquisite dancing by leads Joan Sia and Rudy de Dios.

‘A Game of Trolls’

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The Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta) continued to celebrate its 50th anniversary with “A Game of Trolls,” an activist version of “A Christmas Carol,” in which the ghosts of martial law victims haunt a nasty troll. It then segued into a “Festival of Windows,” a weeklong performances, lectures, workshops and discussions. “It’s time for reflection, for listening to our partners,” Peta president CB Garrucho said.

Gantimpala Theater Foundation and Grand Leisure Corp. presented a sprawling, searing musical version of “Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag” (Kia Theater, Quezon City), directed by Joel Lamangan. Operatic tenor Arman Ferrer as Julio Madiaga, with his gym-sculpted body, was not what novelist Edgardo Reyes and director Lino Brocka would have had in mind, that is, as an undernourished provinciano. But once he started singing, you forgot all about the miscasting.

Repertory Philippines, also celebrating its golden year, mounted “Beauty and the Beast,” based on the classic French novel and not Disney, with a wow stage design by Joey Mendoza; then closed the year with a rousing production of that ’70s cult classic, “Hair.”

Freedom, defiance

The season’s theme of Tanghalang Filipino, resident drama company of CCP, is “Freedom Writers, Freedom Fighters.” And it opened up with “Aurelio Sedisyoso,” a rambunctious, over-the-top “rock sarsuwela” by Nicanor G. Tiongson and Joed Balsamo as directed by Chris Millado. This was followed by “Ang Pag-uusig,” an intense adaptation of Arthur Miller’s frightening “The Crucible” as translated by Ateneo professor Jerry Respeto. Directed by Dennis Marasigan, there were overtones to what is happening today in the Philippines.

On the other hand, the season’s theme of the University of the Philippines’ Dulaang UP is “Honoring Defiance,” with back-to-back presentations of Nick Joaquin’s “Fathers and Sons” (“Mga Ama, Mga Anak”) in both English and Filipino translations at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater. One play eagerly anticipated is Floy Quintos’ “The Kundiman Party” next year.

Roeder Camañag’s Artist Playground showcased two early works by dramatist Rody Vera, directed by Paul Jake Paule, with a risqué Japanese background: “Happiness Is a Pearl” and “Fly me To The Moon.” The company ended the year with a nostalgic revue of OPM hits, “I Remember a Boy,” with musical direction by composer Jesse Lucas.

Resorts World Manila recovered from tragedy and came out with a heartwarming fantasy musical, Ian Fleming’s “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” with its endearing characters led by Gian Magdangal and Yanah Laurel, comic villains, and positive values like teamwork and love of the family.

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Another children’s musical with bite and advocacy is Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group’s “Matilda,” showing at the Meralco Theater, Pasig City, until Dec. 10.

The performing arts are alive and well.–CONTRIBUTED

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TAGS: “Ibong Adarna, A Game of Trolls, Artist Playground, Ballet Manila, Beauty and the Beast, CCP, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Dulaang UP, freedom writers freedom fighters, Gantimpala Theater Foundation, Maynila Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag, Peta, Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO), Repertory Philippines, tanghalang filipino, Yoshikazu Fukumura
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