Tuesday, December 13, 2016

THEATERFANSMANILA: A Place Called Home, A Christmas Carol




Nineworks Theatrical’s “A Christmas Carol” running in the Globe Iconic Store caught me by surprise as I witnessed a familiar classic speak to me in a different way. Obviously Alan Menken’s emotionally driven music was one of the reasons why this version is compelling. But the staging of this production is what makes the music, the lyrics, the libretto so joyful. Much like a well-crafted Noche Buena, everything was well plated with overflowing love.

On a technical aspect, there is much to devour. Conquering the obvious obstacles created by an outdoor theatre, I was easily transported by Mio’s Infante’s glorious sets to old London. It looked grand to say the least even if the usual lush red seats were replaced by simple chairs. Lights and technical styling elevated the set to an even higher level as it evolved, constantly providing just the right touch of magic. Scene changes and actors coming in and out were always with an element of surprise as the set provided flexibility.

The choreography of PJ Rebullida and Yek Barlongay from start to finish were dynamic and really brought to life pivotal moments. Adding texture to scenes were simple movements such as angular mannequin like actions ending in multilevel tableaus that provided the silence to highlight conversations. The ensemble with jerking shoulders listening in to conversations made me anxious as a spectator increasing my involvement to the scenes. The different genres used in the choreography also contributed in giving each scene a very distinct elemental character. The two major production numbers ‘Abundance and Charity’ and ‘Feizziwig Christmas Ball’ were exciting and quite frankly very technical. It demonstrated that the talent pool were all delightful triple threats.

That being said, the actors juggling multiple exposures were wonderful. Al Gatmaitan as the young Ebenezer Scrooge was just the right mix of endearing and frustrating. Noteworthy was Ela Lisondra playing the ghost of the future. Her acting chops were a good match to her good dance technique. Rocco Buser, possibly the youngest in the cast, was just the most adorable kid I have ever seen. With a voice clear as day, he sung those high notes with confidence. Playing Tiny Tim, he brought us to tears with his utmost sincerity. Veteran Miguel Faustmann who has played Mr. Scrooge several times gave us a refreshing performance. Seasoned professional that he was, he sustained his energy well and delivered in every scene he was in. I can’t imagine anyone else being cast for this role.


Ela Lisondra as the Ghost of Christmas Future

Ela Lisondra as the Ghost of Christmas Future

I’ve mentioned a multitude of sugary compliments about this show and so it seems that I have covered almost everything. But allow me to indulge in expressing my appreciation for one last thing. I think the best reason to watch this musical apart from high grade talent, is the fact that Charles Dickens’ Christmas message comes alive. Alan Menken’s song goes, “There’s a place called home. I can almost see, with a red front door and a roaring fire and a Christmas tree. Yes a place called home full of love and family. And I’m there at the door, watching you come home to me.” This show brought me home. More importantly, it brought me Christmas. Robbie Guevara has directed this musical so well that it will speak with a universal language of music and rekindle in people’s hearts a warm spot called love. It will mean something for the young and old. It will make you appreciate everything you already have. It will make you want to share it with everyone you meet. The message is beautiful. It is what Christmas is all about, appreciation of blessings and finding the heart to love others for the fulfillment of a deeper purpose.

They say it is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air so if you want to dive into the holidays with a smile on your face I highly suggest you give theatre a try.


Friday, December 2, 2016

LATE POST Singing Familiar Tunes " Awitin mo at Isasayaw Ko"

Denise Parungao and Garry Corpus 

Awitin mo at Isasayaw ko is a production that is imitative of a popularized brand of music in the seventies. VST and  Company has produced songs that are considered by many as timeless and Ballet Philippines' show generally  makes good use of most of them.

While I did not quite appreciate the intersecting story lines and the vague references to Martial Law establishing the period, I did appreciate the colorful acting of the artists. The dancers seemed to enjoy the music and the shift of dance genre. After a series of very heavy themes, they finally all get to smile a whole lot  and let loose with the swinging music of VST. The thing is I am not a fan of ballet mixed with live singing. The singers whether they are good or not take away a lot of attention from the dancers. And the dancers take a lot of attention from the singers. You never really get a full  fill of the characters.  It always reminds me of how variety shows work, with the dancers in the background and the singers at the forefront or vice versa with one overshadowing the other. Needless to say, I was underwhelmed. I give credit to Ballet Philippines' constant effort to create new things, new audiences and new collaborations. This was just not my cup of tea.