Something new, different and spectacular descended upon Manila audiences in May with “The Monkey King Wreaking Havoc upon Heaven,” a Beijing opera performance of the Quindao Peking Opera Company. This was a presentation of the Chinese Embassy and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and staged at the Tanghalang Aurelio V. Tolentino of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
With elaborate costumes (there was a makeup demo before the show), a curtain-background of palaces, mountains, trees, fruits and peach blossoms, it was all about the rivalry between the Monkey King and the Dragon King, the duels and fights between the monkey subjects and troops of the Heavenly Palace, fairy maidens and magic golden pills.
The singing (in Mandarin, of course) was kept to a minimum and the incomprehensible (to the non-Chinese) synopsis was swept aside by the incredible stunts of the performers: precision choreography, timing, gymnastics, double somersaults, throwing and catching of swords, sustained juggling and whirling circles in the air.
It was a highly disciplined corps, masters of their craft. Applause during the performance was frequent and at the end, a standing ovation. After the show, the artists were treated like rock stars, with the inevitable selfies and photo-ops.
‘Binondo’ the musical
On the local front, we have “Binondo, A Tsinoy Musical,” a play by Ricky Lee (with Gershom Chua and Eljay Deldoc), with music by Von de Guzman and direction by Joel Lamangan. Choreography is by Douglas Nierras and lights design by Joey Nombres.
“It’s about a question of identity,” said producer Rebecca Chuaunsu during the press launch at the Oriental Palace in Quezon City. “Am I Chinese? Filipino? We tried to bridge the gap between the two cultures.”
Set in the early 1970s just before martial law, “Binondo, A Tsinoy Musical” is about a ménage à trois, a love triangle. Lily (Sheila Valderrama/Carla Guevara), “a hopeless romantic,” falls in love with Ah Tiong (Arman Ferrer David Ezra), a scholar made cynical by the atrocities in Mao’s Cultural Revolution. But their love is threatened by another suitor of Lily, Carlos (Floyd Ten/Noel Rayos). The musical play is still running at The Theater at Solaire until July 8. –CONTRIBUTED