Thursday, December 21, 2017

NineWorks' Christmas Carol Delivers Hope and Happiness

Nineworks Theatrical with the help of Globe Live  brought back Christmas Carol for a second run of  spreading holiday cheer. The re-imagined Carol had no semblance of a replay of the 2016 spectacular. With the intention of keeping everything fresh, everything except for the script was rehashed and the output is a more delicate presentation of "home". The staging was pretty much a well loved Christmas tree.  It was a luminous collection of ornaments that reflect our loved ones. It's that beautiful tradition  that ignites the Christmas spirit like no other. 

Nowadays, hate and hopelessness has become a norm. Hope is no longer accessible to all.  We've produced thousands of Scrooges through the years making this production's story relevant and even necessary.  The famous Christmas tale about a person bruised by life finding  hope with the help of three ghosts truly is art imitating life. What a wonderful thing it was to see   art used to create a paradigm shift.  Certainly there was more than one Scrooge who found hope and happiness the night I watched. This was production was a quick fix of fun and  it is a story (and a staging) that reminds you that the miracle is indeed within us all. 


Miguel Faustman who took on the titular role of Ebeneezer Scrooge has done this show over a hundred times. Despite this, there is a freshness in his performance. This time around there was more delicacy. The story requires a lot of dramatics but Faustman delivers a quieter bitterness that resonates. At a certain point he quite frankly shocked me with a lively tap routine. Kudos to Director Robbie Guevara and choreographer Yek Barlongay for pushing an already awesome artist beyond his comfort zone. 

Chameleon Noel Rayos delivered an unbelievable performance in multiple character sketches. He skipped in and out of different roles with so much vigor and enthusiasm. As Marley (Scrooge's best friend who returns from the dead), Rayos was dark and earthy delivering his lines with harrowing emotion. In contrast he was comical as Mr. Fezziwig. His vibrant personality certainly came out in his spirited dancing. As if that wasn't enough to convince the audience of his versatility,he came out and performed cycling tricks on stage in the final scenes of the show. Truly he was valuable member of this cast.

Laurence Mossman and Mitzi Lao  individually  were pitch perfect with the quality and tone of their voices perfectly matching the emotional content of Menken's classic songs. But together the partnership seemed  friendly at best. 

Throwback Thursday

The production can boast of colorful production sequences featuring high powered  technical dancing.  I was truly  delighted to see the actors  pull off triple threat exhibitions. Numbers like Mr. Fezziwig's Christmas ball  and Abundance and Charity were athletic  highlights that added to the show's  entertainment value. There's actually more dancing in this show. It was a commendable effort from choreographers PJ Rebullida and Yek  Borlongay. It must be said however  that the bigger than life staging of the previous run was far superior than this one. For instance the staging of The Ghost of Future was like a scene from "Thriller" rather than a sophisticated interpretation of  painful regret. It was a bit caricature-ish  rather than organically spooky. I also could no longer recognize any  real fluid movement.  Some of the  sequences  looked quite cramped with an injury waiting to happen.   It is difficult not to compare because the previous staging  spelled out grandiosity and purposeful movement. Nonetheless someone with fresh eyes will  surely not complain at all. It was still a dynamic display of actors' skills. 

The rectangular stage was  adorned with a multi layered   surrealist old London set by Ed Lacson. It acted as the magic box that kept on revealing spurts of magic from unexpected places. The windows that depicted homes also  opened dramatically revealing ghoulish creature.   The angularity of the design allowed the stage to adapt to each of drastic scene changes.  While I thought it was a wonderful set, I did miss the intimacy of the old multilevel set experience. The immersive quality that the  2016 run generously provided was somewhat diminished. 

Intelligence and Empathy

Robbie Guevara directed this show with a relentless pursuit of finding new layers to the material. His approach shows a huge amount of intelligence and empathy.  I appreciated the highlighted presence of the three ghosts as a triad in the  first act and the finale because it made Scrooge's experience realistic. Don't we all feature real faces of people we've encountered in our dreams?  

It  must have taken a lot of heart to see that the children roles of story are the key to unlocking the story's hope. This time the children were presented ever so tenderly. What people saw was not simply their cuteness level but the clear picture of  untainted hearts. While their voices were velvety soft their message was   potent. Scrooge was changed by them.  To see a child change an adult with their kindness warms the heart. At the very end,  everyone sings the words " Let the stars in the sky, remind us of man's compassion. Let us love till we die  and God bless us everyone".  The  power of that message is amplified  with the children singing  it to the audience like a mantra. It was a reminder to see life lovingly through a child's eyes. Kindness and compassion are far more important than any other concern.  

At the end of the day, he produced a show that delivers a snowfall of love. Like the uniqueness that every snowflake owns, Christmas Carol 2.0 was special in its own beautiful way. It is a gift of a heartwarming experience. Take a chance. Find hope and happiness in a different place.  Create new traditions and enjoy this gift from Globe Live and Nineworks Theatrical.

 Its last remaining shows from Dec 21-22, 26-27 at 8pm and Dec 17 and 25 at 7pm.
 For tickets to A CHRISTMAS CAROL, contact Ticketworld at 891-9999! Happy Holidays!🎄

Friday, December 8, 2017

Can't Wait for a Miracle

Globe Live and 9 Works Theatrical will bring back the heart warming musical  "A Christmas Carol". They officially opened yesterday to a full house and based on my very active Facebook feed made quite a few   Christmas cheer believers out of them. Hopefully, they'll make a believer out of me too when I come see them tom! 

But before that let's talk about what they promise to deliver.

This is not a re-run. 

Glove Live Executive Producer couldn't be more emphatic about that. After a string of successes, he is determined to raise the bar even higher and that just means they can't do the same thing two years in a row. With the leadership of Director Robbie Guevarra, they promised to unearth new layers  to the story.  The choreography will be redone by PJ Rebullida and Yek Barlongay( for tap ) to match the new sets created by Ed Lacson.. 

Joe Caliro Globe Live Executive Producer 

Newbies, Oldies and Goodies
The cast is composed of half of the new cast and half of Carol newbies. Reprising the role is Scrooge Veteran  Miguel Faustman. Playing the young Ebeneezer Scrooge is  Laurence Mossman. 

Miguel Faustman 

Laurence Mossman

What's good about the mix is that they will get to relearn the material together so it wont be a matter of anyone having to catch up. The appreciation of the material will be  from different perspectives and it is expected that the unification of ideas will result to  richer output 

Ultimate cuties 
The children in the cast are just too cute for words. Jaime Yupangco and Elai Estrella who will take on the role of Tiny Tim were very eloquent when they were asked about the show. They confidently explained their journey. They were eager to tell the people how the story is all about finding what love is all about.  They are not the only kids in this production but I will tell you this. Having met all of them, they are all genuinely good artists already. 

Miracle Within

With a hashtag of #TheMiracleWithin, it is implied that they will allow the audience to rediscover the miracle themselves. With the production's trademark of inclusion, I fully expect to find out for myself what kind of miracle I need this Christmas Season. 

Can't wait to see it all unfold on stage! See you at the theatre?

Globe Live and 9 Works Theatrical’s A Christmas Carol will be shown at the Globe Iconic Bonifacio High Street Amphitheater, Bonifacio Global City on December 7-9, 14-16, 21-22 & 26-27 at 8:00pm, December 10 & 17 (Sundays) and December 25 Christmas Show at 7:00pm.

Ballet Philippines' "The Nutcracker", A Tribute to the Filipino

The Nutcracker is so easy to love. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's music alone transports you to a different place where happiness flows. The general story makes you feel like a kid again with all its colorful flourishes. Dolls, magic, and Christmas, what is not to love? It's that dependable escape that we can look forward to every year. However, Philippine Ballet Theatre just recently ushered in the Christmas season with their dynamic Gelsey Kirkland version. Their obvious success made me think that a second run  might feel a tad redundant for the ballet community. Fortunately, BP presented a perspective that differentiated their show in a very special way. While I don't encourage a rerun of doubles, it was nice to see two local productions sparkle in their own right.

The Nutcracker adaptations or tweaks have been done all over the world. Some have infused contemporary themes using advanced technology. Others simply put more technical aspects adapting to the amazing capacity of new dancers. Most are concentrating on the now. BP takes the other route. BP's Filipinized version of the Nutcracker takes us back to the 1920's and so eloquently makes a nuanced commentary about who we are as Filipinos WHILE preserving the charm of the ballet. I am elated that the combined versions of choreographers Edna Vida and (National Artist for Dance) Alice Reyes featured layered references to our cultural heritage in this staging. Consequential influences from our history were subtly incorporated into the staging without affecting the narrative of the story.

Class Act 

The glorious sets by the late National Artist Salvador Bernal were wonderfully ornate. The usual house was replaced with a grand ballroom with art nouveau arches with anahaw leaves, a style reportedly made famous at the turn of the century. The grand capiz windows reminded me of the preserved Spanish Filipino houses called "Bahay na Bato" in Batangas. Usage of this kind of set reeled in reality and allowed me to swim in the comforts of familiarity. In the middle is a stained glass decor. For a moment there I just appreciated the reference to our uniquely elegant architecture.

Just like in any Nutcracker production, Act 1 started with a party. In this case, it was time for Noche Buena (Filipino Christmas Eve feast). The hosts of the party Dona Aurora and Don Rafael summoned the Filipino favorite "lechon" to prepare for the guests' arrival. When the families arrived, the children were seen making "mano" to the elders. The dalagitas (young women) entered in clumps making sure that they do not cross paths with the binatas (young lads). There is implied "ligawan" that elicits chuckles from the young teens. The parents' dance was replaced by the Rigodon de Honor which is a traditional dance brought to the Philippines by the Spaniards. Usually reserved for the elite it is a dance that signals the beginning of a celebrated occasion. Don Alfonso (Drosselmeyer) arrived and in Filipino fashion was received like a "ninong" bearing gifts. What happens next is consistent with the Nutcracker we are all familiar with.

In Act 2 when Clara is brought to the Kingdom of the Dolls she comes down from a magical "Kalesa" which to this day exists in the Philippines. The "Waltz of the Flower" piece was replaced with the "Dance of the Viennese Dolls". It may or may not be intentional but it resembled the epic Filipino tradition of the Santa Cruzan where the maidens parade with their male escorts. The lanterns the boys held replaced the floral arcs or the umbrella (used for sunduan, a similar tradition). The lead dancer is the Reyna Emperatriz, the most beautiful of them all.

I loved all of these meticulously presented overtones because it celebrated the beauty of our culture, a product of various influences. Nothing that was highlighted can truly be called organically Pinoy but this presentation imitates life. We made it our own in a fascinating way. Productions such as these immortalize lived experiences and contributes to strengthening our identity as a people. The intelligent integration of our cultural heritage in a well known ballet classic practically demands that we take notice of who we were and who we still are. I used the word commentary earlier because it is also a reminder to abide by the values our ancestors instilled in us. The respect for elders, the respect for genders and most of all the respect for community. It keeps the conversation going much like an unsolicited advise from the Titas of Manila. The Filipino connection is what makes this ballet a class act.


Edna Vida's Act 1 and Alice Reyes' Act 2 were like bread and butter, a very good fit. Usually it's the girls who are the stars of Nutcracker but in this production it was equal footing. The Nutcracker Doll and the Rat King both had ample time to show off their skill. The fireflies that replaced the Snowflakes scene demanded the boys to musically stay in the air while the dancers held their balance in arabesque repeatedly. The Spanish Dolls piece also made use of the boys for athletic partnering of the Senorita. As expected the Russian Dolls was an explosive display of ballon and flexibility. Six strong boys contributed their own ballet trick to the delight of the audience. It's nice to see a good balance of roles because it implies that they have a strong fleet.

While I appreciated the Viennese Waltz dancers, I severely missed the traditional Waltz of the Flowers. I missed the expected blossoming formations as well as the Dew Drop Fairy on spotlight. The waltz was pretty but was a bit complicated for my taste. Candice Adea's moments were dimmed by too much people on the stage doing dramatic lifts, jetes etc.

I also missed the highlight of the Snow Flakes where the stage is filled with at least 24 girls all assembled in rows chugging in all directions in arabesque position. This version also did the chugs but with just fourteen girls (or less) doing the step.

Simply Sublime 

Zabrina Santiago as Clara was simply adorable. She was delicate in her movements and innovative in her expression. I would have wanted her to have more exclusive moments but as is she was a wonderful Clara.


Particularly memorable for me was Jessa Tangalin as the leader of the Russian Dolls. People should watch out for this girl. I last saw her in a contemporary piece where she blew my mind with her chameleon-like quality. This time around as a character dancer she  showed up with an eat-my-dust attitude. I could feel her power from my seat. She held her own showcasing trick after trick with the same (or maybe even more) aerial bravura as the boys.


Denise Parungao's liquid movements made her an elegant Sugar Plum fairy. Clearly in her element she shared with the audience a calming energy. Her pas de deux transitions were for the lack of a better word "delicious".

 To end, Ballet Philippines' "The Nutcracker" is a beautiful production with lots of pleasurable elements. The well loved classic was sprinkled with the salt of Filipino flavor making it  a great tasting Noche Buena. Bravo Ballet Philippines. Let's not let a satisfying feast go to waste. See you at the theatre? 

Ballet Philippines ends their run this Sunday December 10, 2017 

You can still catch Ballet Philippines in "The Nutcracker" from December 8 - 10.
Call BP at 551-1003 or visit