This is the big surprise I hinted at in an earlier post, friends.
I've gotten permission to post video excerpts of "Rama at Sita" on the Web! By special arrangement with Franco Laurel and Ayen Munji-Laurel of ML Entertainment, owners of the copyright to the musical, clips of "Rama at Sita's" major musical numbers are now available on YouTube, the first time this musical will be seen again since its last curtain call in 1999, or eight years ago.
Bless the generous souls of the Laurel couple, who are giving us all a chance to enjoy this musical treat absolutely for free. No need to buy a DVD copy (none is available anyway, whether bootleg or original); just pop over to YouTube via the track links I've provided below, and enjoy the show! (Note: Except for the clip of the opening number, embedding has been disabled to ensure copyright protection.)
Take note, there are no plans to re-stage this musical. The rights to the Cayabyab-Lumbera parts of the musical--the "Rama Hari" excerpts--have lapsed, and reacquiring them to mount "Rama at Sita" anew is an impractical option at present. Which means this may be our last chance to savor, at least on video, the "engrossing audio-visual feast" (Raul Teehankee, Manila Bulletin) that marked a particularly lavish point in the evolution of Philippine musical theater.
Thank you, Franco and Ayen, for this wonderful gift to Pinoy musical theater fans.
For those who caught the production at the UP Theater, here's a chance to relive its magic. For those who missed it, now's the time to watch, from dazzling opening number to exhilarating finale, the most-talked-about theater event of that long-ago season.
This video captures the closing performance of the musical on the evening of March 6, 1999, with Ariel Rivera as Rama, Chiqui Pineda as Sita, John Arcilla as Rama's brother Lakshmana, Robert Sena as the villain Ravana, Jaya as Ravana's sister Soorphanaka, Mr. Laurel as Rama's youngest brother Bharata, and Edward Granadosin as Rama's teacher Vishmavitra. (Click on the images below for the complete cast list.)
A sampling of the raves:
"More than just a visual spectacle. Never have we seen such a case of stage pomp and pageantry." (Mary Ann Bautista and Ricky Gallardo, Philippine Daily Inquirer)
"Certainly one of the best local musicals we've ever seen. First-rate production values, fabulous sets and costumes, lots of spectacle. Lani Misalucha is superb as Sita, with a sparkling voice really meant for theater. The revelations for us are Franco Laurel as Bharata, Rama's younger brother (he shines in his solo number, 'Kaya Ko') and Nonie Buencamino who performs with devilish energy as the villainous Ravana." (Mario Bautista, The Manila Times)
"A mesmerizing musical!" (Monique Buensalido, The Philippine Star)
"Chiqui Pineda is effectively touching in 'Rama at Sita'... May Bayot's performance as the female villain only served to affirm her reputation as an outstanding performer." (Nestor Torre, Philippine Daily Inquirer)
Curtains up on Act 1! Let the show begin!
1. Sadyang Pinagtagpo--Edward Granadosin, Chorus. In the kingdom of Ayodhaya, the guru Vishmavitra narrates Rama's decision to seek a righteous life by following his dharma (sacred duty), which will lead him to his great love, Sita.
2. Huwag Takasan--Ariel Rivera. Rama prays to the gods Vishnu (Bimbo Cerrudo) and Shiva (Girl Valencia) and agrees to seek his destiny in the city of Mithila, accompanied by his brother Lakshmana.
3. Kaya Ko--Franco Laurel. Rama's youngest brother Bharata sings of his frustration at not being allowed to join his brothers' journey outside the kingdom.
4. Halina Sa Mithila--Ariel Rivera, John Arcilla, Edward Granadosin, Michael Williams, Gelo Francisco, Zebedee Zuniga, Chorus. Rama's party arrives in Mithila in grand style, the prince astride an elephant. (Watch that amazingly life-like pachyderm!) Mithila's king Janaka invites the brothers to take part in a contest of strength, the prize of which is his daughter Sita.
5. Sana'y Siya Na Nga--Chiqui Pineda, John Arcilla, Ariel Rivera. Lakshmana is smitten with Sita, but so is Rama, who professes his love to the princess inside a temple. Rama wins the competition, and Sita accepts her destiny as Rama's bride-to-be.
The original cast album of "Rama at Sita" had Lani Misalucha singing this gorgeous ballad with Ariel Rivera and John Arcilla. Here's an audio clip:
6. Iisa Ang Tibok/Awit ng Pagsinta--Ariel Rivera, Chiqui Pineda, Edward Granadosin, Chorus. Rama and Sita are wed in glittering ceremonies.
7. Tayo Na, Nariyan Na--Ariel Rivera, Chiqui Pineda, John Arcilla, Pinky Marquez, Eugene Villaluz, Franco Laurel, Chorus. The newlyweds return to Ayodhaya, only to be confronted by an upheaval. Kaikeyi, one of the king's wives, has blackmailed the king to install her reluctant son Bharata as the new sovereign. Rama and Sita, accompanied by Lakshmana, are exiled to a far-off forest.
Coming up: Act 2 of "Rama at Sita" on video! Highlights include "Magbalik Ka Na, Mahal" plus Jaya and Robert Sena's showstopping turns. 'Wag bibitaw!
1. Franco Laurel's Multiply site has five audio clips from the original cast album of "Rama at Sita." Check out his site here.
2. Splendor in pictures!