That should keep many of our theater practitioners busy and (hopefully) happy, as the year heads into the holidays. With seven productions running until next month plus one reconstituted show that's going to Shanghai, China, AND one more that's booked for a return engagement in December almost right up to Christmas Eve, it only means that many more theater people are employed than usual. Halleluia!
Suggestion lang: Why not allot part of your Christmas bonus to buying tickets to any of these shows? Assuming that the play you see is a winner, the experience of watching it is a gift you'd remember for years to come. Show tickets are also excellent gifts to friends and loved ones, instead of, hmmm, lemme see: scented candles, fruitcakes, mugs or china, art calendars, fancy planners. Not that I'm knocking these things down, but I think entree to a play is a fresh alternative to the usual holiday consumerism--something intangible yet longer-lasting. Take your pick from these shows:
1. “Into The Woods,” New Voice Company, Nov. 9-Dec. 8, Music Museum. Stars Tommy Abuel, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Michael Williams, Lynn Sherman, Jamie Wilson, Juno Henares, Mads Nicolas, Joaqui Valdes, Julia Abueva, Cathy Azanza, Missy Maramara, et al.
Why you should see it: First time for Tommy Abuel and Mads Nicolas, two much-respected actors, to do a Sondheim musical. Menchu Lauchengco Yulo played the Witch in the 1992 Repertory Philippines production, and is now doing the Baker's Wife. A very NVC twist to the material--Missy Maramara will be the Narrator, ordinarily a male part. And Julia Abueva and Joaqui Valdes, two very promising young talents, are in pivotal roles as Jack and Little Red Riding Hood, respectively. A topnotch cast all around.
2. “Fiddler on the Roof,” Repertory Philippines, Nov. 9-Dec. 16, Onstage, Greenbelt 1. Stars Tyler Allan Strand, Miguel Faustmann, Joy Virata, Pinky Marquez, Baby Barredo, Joy Glorioso, Jaime Del Mundo, Niccolo Manahan, Cris Villonco, Felix Rivera, Vanessa Paolelli et al.
Why you should see it: Classic Broadway musicals are Rep's forte. This is the fourth time it's staging the famous Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick musical in Manila, and as usual, given its deep bench of well-honed talent, it doesn't even need stunt casting (i.e., name stars from TV or the movies) to complete its ensemble. Also, Baby Barredo returns onstage in the role of the matchmaker. Seeing her perform with a new generation of Rep talents (including Felix Rivera, lauded for his recent star turn in Atlantis Productions' “Avenue Q”) should be interesting.
3. “Dogeaters," Atlantis Productions, Nov. 16-Dec. 2, RCBC Theater. Stars (whew!) Joel Torre, Gina Alajar, Michael De Mesa, Jon Santos, Leo Rialp, Ana Abad Santos, Rez Cortez, Andoy Ranay, Teresa Herrera, Chari Arespacochaga, Richard Cunanan, Jenny Jamora, Nico Manalo, Paolo Rodriguez et al.
Why you should see it: Two words: Jessica Hagedorn. The Fil-Am writer has transformed her National Book Award-nominated novel about the Marcos years into a play with 16 actors playing 40 characters. The original production earned good notices in New York, and its Manila staging will be helmed by Bobby Garcia, fresh from his success with “Avenue Q.” If that's not enough to convince you, how about the prospect of show-biz royalty Gina Alajar and Michael De Mesa acting onstage together for the first time? Or Joel Torre flexing his dramatic chops live, right before your eyes?
4. “The Silent Soprano,” Dulaang UP, Nov. 21-Dec. 9, Guerrero Theater, Palma Hall, UP Diliman. Stars Natasha Cabrera, Lex Marcos, Judith Javier, Laura Cabochan, Joel Molina et al.
Why you should see it: The premise is arresting--domestic helper becomes a big star in Hong Kong singing Canto-pop, but must choose between her Svengali producer or the prospect of losing it all. Camp, satire and social commentary are all right up Dulaang UP's alley. Plus the music is by Vincent De Jesus of “Zsazsa Zaturnnah” fame (lyrics by Ricardo Saludo), to be performed mostly by student actors, under Alexander Cortez's direction (he directed three successive blockbuster plays by Floy Quintos: “Fluid,” “St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos” and “Shock Value”). If you're into new and original material, this is the show for you.
5. “El Filibusterismo,” Gantimpala Theater, (opened Nov. 4)-Nov. 24, in various venues. Stars Roeder Camanag, Perry Dizon, Lani Tapia, Leilani Ann Tejuco, Perry Escano, Ronald Concepcion, Billy Parjan, Jorge Cabullo et al.
Why you should see it: A crash course on Rizal's second novel, remade for the stage by Jomar Fleras as easily digestible material highlighting the major moments in Rizal's darker, more ruminative oeuvre. The production, part of Gantimpala's perennial Four Classics (which also includes “Ibong Adarna,” “Florante at Laura” and “Kanser-Noli Me Tangere”) is meant for students, hence the condensed plot points and emphasis on headlong action. Kids will appreciate the visual rendering of a required school text.
6. “First Name,” Trumpets, (opened Oct. 11)-Dec. 14, Center Stage, SM Mall of Asia. Stars PJ Valerio, Kevin Concepcion, Fame Flores, Nelsito Gomez Marin, Kakki Teodoro, Ring Antonio, Khalil Kaimo, Andrei Pamintuan, et al.
Why you should see it: The most family-friendly show in town, and running inside a mall, which makes inserting it into the usual weekend malling schedule, in between shopping, dining out and the movies, not much of a stretch. In any case, Bible-based family entertainment is a Trumpets trademark, so parents and kids alike will have much to like in this production brimming with a cast of energetic youngsters. The music, by such notables as Gary Valenciano, Ogie Alcasid and Ray-An Fuentes, has the gospel hit “Could You Be Messiah?” in the lineup.
7. “Insiang,” Tanghalang Pilipino, Nov. 16-24, Tanghalang Huseng Batute, CCP. Stars Ricky Davao, Sheenly Vee Gener, Mailes Kanapi, Mae Paner, Peewee O'Hara, Paolo O'Hara, Riki Benedicto, Acey Aguilar et al.
Why you should see it: Forceful, harrowing, electrifying--Mario O'Hara's gritty melodrama returns after its first run in October, with the crackerjack ensemble intact (except for Paolo Rodriguez, who played the adik so memorably; now part of “Dogeaters,” he's being replaced by Riki Benedicto). The play that won four major Aliw Awards in 2004 (including Best Actor for Ricky Davao) is not for kids and the faint of heart. It is, however, for everyone who loves theater played powerfully and exceedingly well.
There. Seven plays, seven ways to enjoy the coming weekends!
PLUS: “Avenue Q” returns Dec. 14-23 at the RCBC Theater. And Tanghalang Pilipino's “Himala,” with music by Vince De Jesus and libretto by Ricky Lee, is off to Shanghai, China, as the official Philippine representative to the 2007 Asian Contemporary Theater Festival. A preview is set on Thursday, Nov. 6, at the CCP. More about it next post.