3rd quarter report card on the performing arts: Musicals reign | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

It’s amazing how Atlantis Productions can mount one contemporary musical after the other, some of them demanding, like the recent “Next to Normal” (which will be restaged October 7).

There was the Elton John-Tim Rice pop-rock “Aida” (at the RCBC Plaza Theater, directed by Chari Arespacochaga), a takeoff on the operatic opus by Guissepi Verdi. This work was propelled by the stage presence of Myke Salomon, the singing of Ima Castro, and the (surprising) comic flair of Rachel Alejandro.

It was easier, though, to relate to Atlantis’ “In the Heights” (also at RCBC’s Carlos P. Romulo Theater, engagingly directed by Bobby Garcia) because of the culture (with snippets of the Spanish language) it depicted: Latinos (Cubans, Dominicans and Puerto Ricans) living in a tenement-like community (El Barrio) in New York, and dreaming of a better life.

The music was rap as well as Latino-inspired, and the dancing—wild and frenetic—threatened to run away with the show. The cast headed by multitalented Nyoy Volante was terrific.

“Dos Bravissimos” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines featured two of the world’s best choir—the University of Santo Tomas Singers under Fidel G. Calalang Jr., and the tongue-twisting AcademiskiPevsZbor Tone Tomistic under SebastjanVrhavnik from Slovenia, Eastern Europe—in a rare concert.

Performing separately, the choirs beguiled the wildly cheering audience with sacred hymns and folk songs and, later, playing to the gallery with zestful choreography, as in the “El Bodeguero” cha-cha number. A crowd favorite was the ethnic “Gabaq-an” (1935) by Ruben Federizon.

The repertoire of the Europeans was a bit heavy at times. But at the end, the two choirs joined forces to render ballads which, of course, brought the house down.

Oh, no, Rizal again

The hype over José Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary spilled over into musical theater, with Tanghalang Pilipino reviving its warhorse “Noli Me Tangere,” and Dulaang UP mounting its “Rizal X,” with a bewildering array of talents in various media.

Director Audie Gemora interpreted the literate libretto of National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera in a brisk, fast-paced fashion. And Ryan Cayabyab’s soaring, semi-operatic music is one of his best scores, making great demands on the singing actors, with Gian Magdangal and Cris Villonco rising to the occasion.

“Rizal X” (at the Wilfredo Ma. Guerrero Theater, UP Diliman) was an in-your-face, exuberant show which juxtaposed scenes from Rizal’s time with vignettes depicting contemporary social problems. It was conceived, choreographed and directed by Dexter M. Santos. The music by Elvin Manzano was a merry mélange of pop-rock-rap, with a few lyrical songs thrown in for good measure.

The explosively talented 19-member cast went to town with their clowning, singing, dancing and acting. Regarded by PhilStage as a “mere” campus-based organization, Dulaang UP once again showed it can give the professional companies a run for their money.

Also sensational were the singing and dancing in 9Works Theatrical’s musical “Sweet Charity” (at the Rizal Plaza Theater, Makati City, directed by Robbie Guevara), which turned out to be a singing, acting and dancing triumph for star Nikki Gil. And Kris Lawrence, in an auspicious stage debut, was perfectly cast as the neurotic suitor.

Bayanihan spectacle

Concern for the environment was evident in the latest production of the Bayanihan National Folk Dance Company (“Philippinescape Through the Eyes of Dance,” at the CCP). The big screen showed sylvan scenes of streams, fauna, forests and then—shockingly—tractors destroying trees.

The choreography was not as stunning as in previous shows, but what really stirred the audience was the finale: a dancer-eagle borne on the shoulders of another dancer, flapping his wings (an apparition from “Swan Lake!”), lording it over the pounding rhythms of the drums, with the full ensemble emerging, bearing row upon row of multicolored buntal hats.

Spectacle, thy name is Bayanihan.

After the smash hit “Care Divas,” Peta (Philippine Educational Theater Association) has come up with another winner, the rap-hip-hop dance musical “William,” by playwright Ron Capinding and composer Jeff Hernandez, directed by Maribel Legarda and with choreography by Batche Tan.

The plot dealt with students learning the universality of Shakespeare’s deathless lines, and how these can be applied to their problems.

The cast had a grand time (again) singing, mugging, dancing and acting. The dance numbers were executed with flair and fresh-faced Inno Martin (Dulaang UP and ABS-CBN’s “Star Magic”), the lead star, was mobbed by screaming fans after every show.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.