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A triad of musical plays

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“13” CAST in rehearsal

Musical theater is humming and the month of August is alive with at least three significant productions: Tanghalang Pilipino’s “Walang Sugat,” the classic zarzuela; Repertory Philippines’ “The Wizard of Oz,” another classic; and Ateneo Blue Repertory’s lively, youth-oriented “13: The Musical.”

“Walang Sugat” represents the first foray into theater by film director Carlos Siguion-Reyna, and he is threatening to come up with a version darker than usual.

In the zarzuela by composer Fulgencio Tolentino and librettist Severino Reyes, Tenyong (Antonio Ferrer/Noel Rayos) goes to battle against the Spaniards following the death of his father, while his love Julia (Cris Villonco) keeps the home fires burning, being courted by the bumbling Miguel (Gino Ramirez).

Music-wise, what I cannot understand is why all the recent revivals of “Walang Sugat” (from the 1970s up) include Constancio C. de Guzman’s “Bayan Ko” when this patriotic anthem was composed in the late 1920s (and the zarzuela was premiered in 1902).

“Walang Sugat” opens at Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, Cultural Center of the Philippines on Aug. 9, and will run for three weekends.

‘The Wiz’

Repertory Philippines’ Theater for Young Audiences was founded 20 years ago by actress-director Joy Virata (“This is my baby”), and its latest offering is a restaging of “The Wizard of Oz” (book by Frank Baum, music by Jeanne Bargy and Jim Eiler).

It should not be confused with the 1939 MGM musical that made the young Judy Garland a star.

“What I like best about the play is its message of friendship, loyalty and kindness,” says Virata. “It tells children to have confidence in themselves. They help each other. They are capable of being what they want to be.”

Cara Barredo alternates with Giannina Ocampo in playing the lead character Dorothy, with Liesl Batucan as the Good Witch and Pinky Marquez alternating with Rem Zamora as the Wicked Witch.

“I always make my wicked witches funny, not scary,” says the actress-director.

“The Wizard of Oz” will run August 18-December 16 at OnStage, Greenbelt 1, Makati City.

“It has lasted all through the years because it’s universal, very universal,” Virata concludes.

Adolescent play

“13: The Musical” is the story of Evan, a Jewish boy who has just turned 13. His father is a philanderer and his mother dysfunctional. To add to his problems, he is transplanted from the big city to a hick town in Indiana. At school he meets all sorts of classmates who befriend or challenge him.

In Broadway, says Christopher “Toff” de Venecia, the play starred real 13 year-olds. “To be honest, I didn’t like it; in fact, I hated it. “And therein lay the challenge for me as director.”

He got together Ateneo Blue Repertory talents—college students—led by RJ Santillan, who emoted as if they were of puberty age, with musical direction by Reb Atadero.

“When I saw them sing it, parang more depth,” notes De Venecia. “It’s easy to remember [when you were 13]. The material was transformed, at least, for me.”

The last performance of “13: The Musical” was held August 11. All proceeds will go to flood victims.


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