Friday, November 21, 2008

Musicals

I have seen three musicals for the month of November 2008: Sleeping Beauty, 100 Years of World Class Music and Hairspray. To date, it is the most number of musicals I have seen in just a month through out my lifetime, but may not be the last. Thankfully, my cultural appetite has become much healthier this time.

The three musicals I’ve seen used different methods of story telling – song, dialogue, dance and even video. Video was used in “100 years of World Class Music” staged at UP Theater to suggest places and things, and to give a contemporary flavor with the growing technology. My brother and sister-in-law were part of the backstage production, so I got a free entrance to the show that seemed to me like a reunion of UP arts veteran.

“Sleeping Beauty” was staged at SM Southmall, Las Pinas. Humor, choreography and music characterized this Tagalog version of the all time favorite fairy tale, the enchanting Sleeping Beauty. Alexis Aubrey Fernandez (AA, for short), a single adult in my ward (Deparo) is one of the stars in the musical and invited me to be her guest along with her mom. It was a real treat. After the show I learned that this original Filiino children‘s musical was written by my classmate in college, Dennis Teodosio. We haven’t seen each other for 15 years now and I’m so glad to find out that he is now a multi-awarded playwright.
The story of the play begins when the kingdom christens the beautiful Princess Annabella, played by tv young star Aiza Marquez. The good fairies, that act as her godmothers, give the princess gifts – from Margarita (played by AA), the gift of charm and beauty; Armida, the gift of music and dance to the newborn tot. Before Esperanza declares her gift, she announces the betrothal of Princess Annabella to her young nephew, Reginald (played by Noel Rayos, also in the Hairspray musical). She then gives the princess the necklace, a token from Reginald’s king father. Lucinda, the Mistress of All Evil, barges in the party, fuming mad for not having an invitation to the christening. In her anger she curses the princess to die when she touches a spinning wheel’s spindle on her eighteenth birthday. Fortunately, Espranza uses her gift to weaken Lucinda’s curse; the princess will not die when she touches the spinning wheel instead; she will fall asleep until she is awaken by the power of true love’s first kiss. Thus, the musical moves on with the princess and prince individually growing up as they search for life’s true meaning and discovering the wonders of romantic love, a battle between good versus evil ensues, and in the end, the question of “will they live happily ever after? gets an answer.

“Hairspray” is a two and a half hours of musical comedy heaven at Star Theater, CCP Complex last November 22, 2008. Despite its name, this show based on the John Waters film is not about big hair. It is a story of Tracy Turnblad, a 16-year-old heroine who is determined not to let circumstance dictate her future. Tracy is a girl with a big heart and bigger hips wants nothing more than to dance with boys regardless of their color but this is 1962 in racially segregated Baltimore. She sets out to get the boy, become a star and integrate a tv show. She reminds us, time and again, that we can all achieve our dreams regardless of size or color. In this spectacle with a message, Tracy’s quest becomes a metaphor for the struggle of racial integration in America. In addition to the delightful stage sets, costumes and music, I really enjoyed the finest performers from Ateneo student Madel Ching as Tracy Turnblad, Tim Espinosa as Link Larkin, Christine Allado as Amber Von Tussle, actor Michael De Mesa as Edna Turnblad (he is so beautiful), and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo as Velma Von Tussle. I was also surprised at the dance moves of the terrifically talented singer Nyoy Volante (Seaweed J. Stubbs), Dulce (Motormouth Maybelle), Noel Rayos (Corny Collins), Gabe Mercado (male authority) and the crazy – talented ensemble of youthful singers and dancers.

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