IT HAS been five years since that much-talked-about opening at Ayala Museum, with a cocktail party that lasted till midnight, drawing a crowd of the best and the brightest of Philippine theater to celebrate one of the best-kept secrets among the cognoscenti: the work of New York- based scenographer and artist, Eduardo Sicangco.
Mentored by National Artist Salvador Bernal and Gino Gonzales, perhaps the most in-demand theater designer today, Sicangco’s 35-year body of work in New York theater was, for the first time, laid out in glittering display as the museum’s Director’s Choice for the year.
Still very much a son of Bacolod at heart, Sicangco brings his work to his beloved city as his way of “giving back” in a gallery show titled “Showgirls,” showcasing a selection of his designs of showgirls’ costumes through the years.
His work draws influences from designers, performers and stage shows such as Bob Mackie, Erté, Alexander McQueen, Ziegfeld Follies, Follies Bergère, the Lido in Paris, Gypsy Rose Lee, Dita von Teese (who once asked Sicangco to design for her).
Jim Luigs, in his foreword to Sicangco’s show, writes: “But perhaps his original influence—based on his own testimony–was the work of the legendary theatrical designer Florence Klotz. For it was she who created the iconic showgirls for the original production of Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Follies.’ To hear Sicangco tell it, he happened to be in New York—at the age of 17—and he happened to find himself in possession of a ticket to ‘Follies.’ That legendary production opened with ghostly showgirls haunting a deserted stage. The choreographer had to look for six-foot tall dancers, and “Flossie” Klotz knew exactly what to do with them: she raised them on platform shoes and crowned them with three-foot headdresses. One could only imagine the size of Eduardo’s eyes when that array of nine-foot goddesses paraded past him.”
Sicangco’s showgirls are meticulously hand-drawn, with every bead, feather and curl perfectly shaped and shaded. Anyone who has seen his drawings laid next to the actual costume will note the exactness of detail and texture between the designer’s imagination and realization, from illustration to theatrical illusion. In Sicangco, the saying “It’s in the details” is not lost.
Halo for Headdress
Luigs further writes: “Eduardo understands that dichotomy, and he knows how to exploit both personae: the girl and the goddess. But then again, Eduardo is himself a rare combination: a theater artist and a showman.
Movement, gesture, color and light are literally in his blood. The opera, operetta, the American musical, and ballet are central to his identity (and to the talents and resumés of his multi-talented family as well).
But not every showman can transform Fantasy into kinetic sculpture. And not every costume designer can call the angels down from heaven. And then persuade them to exchange their halos for feathered headdresses.”
It is no exaggeration to say that seeing Sicangco’s drawings is an experience in itself.
“Showgirls” is the inaugural show of the family-owned House of Frida gallery in Bacolod situated on the second floor of the family’s Bob’s Café, one of Bacolod’s must-go-eat places.
At first, it may seem like an odd combination of New York theatrical glitz in a cozy family atmosphere. But here we catch a glimpse of the real Eduardo Sicangco, heart in both places, and Sicangco is right at home.
“Showgirls” runs July 17-31 at the House of Frida Gallery, 21st Lacson St., Bacolod City.