|All eyes on Elsa (played by Aicelle Santos)|
Himala the musical will be returning to the stage thirty years after its conception. The musical is an adaptation of the Ishmael Bernal film that tells the story of Elsa who is said to be blessed with divinity and ability to heal. The movie revolves around the effect of her miracles to Cupang, her poor unfortunate town. I attended their press conference and it was fascinating to witness how much interest still thrives after all these years. The energy in the room was palpable considering there were only a handful who have seen the movie and the previous stagings. It could be the novelty of it all or the respect for previous success. Nonetheless, the dynamic was captivating and I was completely satisfied being the observer. It seemed ironic to me that a roomful of people were finding out for themselves (in context and without the help of the actual play yet) if miracles were real. The actors even obliged and told their own touching stories about their lives. I remember thinking we seem like the perfect parallel to Elsa's Cupang (her community), awaiting for something convincing to hold on to. Thankfully, I did see something unravel that day. I can't quite call it a miracle yet because I have yet to see the show but there is something enticing that has me rooting for cast.
Miracle of Truth
The esteemed scriptwriter and novelist Ricky Lee was present and he shared with us the beginnings of the film. With his story clutched in his hand he pitched this project thirty years ago to so many directors only to be rejected over and over again. He finally won himself a chance when his script was given a second glance by the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines who gave him a grant to start the project. It's easy to understand why it was so difficult to pitch this story. It was depicting the Filipino in such a negative yet truthful way. With characters who embody altruism, materialism, deception and yes even stupidity, it is difficult to present the film as inspiring. The fact that it was produced and loved by its viewers was a miracle. The fact that it was translated into a musical and a concert is a blessing. But the real gift is that the newest staging comes so timely when it is necessary to remind people what the nature of the herd really is. The musical after all these years is still about truth and the downfall of humanity. Its relevance should be a good reason to watch the show. If people go beyond interest and actually come then that would be miracle #1.
Glitterless is more.
Designer-Director Ed Lacson Jr. will be directing this musical. After three years in the making he is ready to share with the public his vision of what "Himala" should be. What is nice about Ed Lacson's point of view is that he doesn't seem to think that he is part of the equation. He humbly expressed that he has very high respect for the story and the music. He does not find the need to interject anything distinctly "Ed Lacson" because the material is already gold. It seems he does not feel the pressure to make it his story or version. In fact he makes it a point to discuss his process of distilling the theatrics to allow the words and the melodies to be heard with no distractions. It's safe to say there will be no frills, fireworks and glitter. There won't be any distinct choreography. While most people's mantra is build build build on the material, he goes break break break. Break the mold and allow people to see what is in the core of Himala. He desires nothing but to simply introduce the concept of humanity through the characters of the story. He moves to engage the mind.
I have seen a couple of his sets and I am familiar with his very well rounded aesthetic sense. So far I have seen nothing but intricate gorgeous fusions of contemporary and surrealist sets. That being said, I'm super curious to know what he means when he says his overall visual approach will be minimalist. I am likewise excited to get to know how he will bring the characters to life. With a fluff-free approach all that's left is a showcase of raw talent. Consequently, the actors will put on the spotlight. His pivotal role is to ensure that there is a deep understanding of the complexities of each role.
This millennial looking lad really impressed me during the press conference because he very clearly sees this production as art and nothing commercial. His propensity towards authenticity is quite promising. Perhaps he might be the miracle worker and if he delivers in his staging that would be miracle #2
Vince de Jesus is a genius
Vince De Jesus is a musical genius. When words fail, he seamlessly creates melodies that echo what otherwise cannot be explained. His melodies are always sensitive and textured with life. Having said that, the excerpts that were performed are telling of how great this show CAN be. If all his songs are sung as beautifully then perhaps that can be a glorious miracle #3
I've mentioned what-if miracles of the formidable triad but I do know of one certified miracle that has already happened. Himala is a product of a collaboration between two very different entities. Sandbox Collective and Nineworks Theatrical have joined hands for the first time to produce the show. Avid theater goers will tell you that while the two teams are practically sister companies, they represent different brands of thought. Sandbox Collective is an edgy company who concentrates on fresh ideas presented with a contemporary feel. Nineworks Theatrical on the other hand presents the big Broadway hits dressed in theatrical glamour. Now that is what you call a miracle. With producers like that you know Himala will be something to look forward to. It's a wedding with something new, something old, something borrowed and something blue.
So far, Himala is a promising project with plenty reasons to draw people in. How about buying that ticket so we can both find out if there's hidden miracle to be found? See you at the theatre everyone.
|Ako ay tinawag ng Birhen|
|Minsan, nagpaangap kung minsan|
Floyd Tena as the Priest
|Pano nalang kung hindi totoo?|
Bituin Escalante as Elsa's Mother
|Ang himala ay nasa puso ng tao.|
Check The Sandbox Collective for more details
- Aicelle Santos as Elsa
- Kakki Teodoro as Nimya
- Neomi Gonzales as Chayong
- Sandino Martin as Pilo
- David Ezra as Orly
- Bituin Escalante as Elsa's Mother
- Floyd Tena as the Priest