Monday, September 15, 2008

One's sleek, the other's on steroids

Last-minute notes, because in less than 72 hours I'm off on a foreign trip, the preparations for which have tied me up in knots and prevented me from promptly reviewing Stages' West Side Story and Dulaang UP's Isang Panaginip na Fili. I've seen both shows twice to catch the main and alternate casts. Some quick and rough thoughts while I'm about to go on a week-long blog break:

West Side Story. Sleek show--dazzling in parts, handsomely mounted, generally sharp and entertaining. Joanna Ampil and Rowena Villar anchor the production with commanding performances. Karylle does well as Maria (she exceeded my expectations, kudos to her), Christian Bautista less so (tentative singing, stiff acting, if still an appealing presence). Jake Macapagal smolders as Bernardo, Pam G seems subdued as the alternate Anita, Gian Magdangal is done in by his hit-and-miss accent as Riff. The Technicolor scenery channels the movie version--great lighting by John Batalla and sets by Mio Infante, but not Eric Pineda's costumes, which are showy to a fault; yeah, we get it, colorful threads for the Latino Sharks, but in iridescent jewel tones? The reorchestrated, reordered score also comes from the movie (America now sung by male and female Sharks, Tony and Maria duet on Somewhere, Officer Krupke is transposed to Act 1). Jerome Robbins' choreography is faithfully recreated, down to the cheesy Somewhere ballet--proof that Robbins' work isn't above getting dated. Energetic and talented corps of dancers, individually good but collectively lacking cohesion. Vocals, not movement, is this show's strong suit, and in numbers like Tonight and A Boy Like That/I Have a Love this West Side Story delivers on the glowing, shivery ardor. A praiseworthy directorial debut by Menchu Launchengco-Yulo.

Isang Panaginip na Fili. Saw a preview of this new Dulaang UP musical on Thursday night; it was a mess--actor and music didn't sync, mikes conked out, performances were spotty, the material seemed diffuse, center-less. What a difference three days can make. Saw it again yesterday afternoon, and the show had improved by leaps and bounds, now tighter, clearer and more compelling. CJ Javier's intricate score of broken chords and angular melodies gains illuminating power when sung and fleshed out by actors with big, well-trained voices--Onyl Torres, Franco Laurel, Greg De Leon, Meynard Penaloza, Stella Canete, Shaddai Solidum (the last two sharing an exquisitely mournful Act 2 duet). Torres, his pipes fully equal to the score's restless notes, lobs a home run of a performance despite flubbing some of his lines. Those with more natural vocals--Eric Dela Cruz, Joel Molina, JM De Guzman--compensate with intense performances. This is a Fili on steroids --rich, baroque, lurid and overstuffed but never dull, except for a wayward romantic duet that remains vapid even on second viewing. Still patchy in places (and the Guerrero Theater's lousy acoustics don't help), but whatever librettist-director Floy Quintos did to goose up the show, it's been a deft rescue job. Last Thursday I was rolling my eyes, yesterday I was tearing up. Sheesh, theater.


Nic's Mommy said...

Hey there, Gibbs... actually, it's Rowena VILAR (single L).

Glad you liked West Side... it still continues to evolve, and Menchu is still working at it. Quite frustrating, Philippine theatre... you're really ready to open when it's closing night.

TheBachelorGirl said...


Enjoy your trip!

Dennis N. Marasigan said...

Hi Gibbs,

I watched Isang Panaginip na Fili last Sunday morning and enjoyed it tremendously. I kept wondering how many of the talented young performers will be able to stay long enough in theater to share their talents to more people; it will be a pity if they,like many before them, drop out to seek better paying jobs. Will see the other cast this weekend.

By the way, are we still going to read your promised Golden Child review?

Enjoy your trip! (to where?)


Anonymous said...

i was actually surprised with west side. i thought menchu would find it difficult to handle the technical aspects of the play (it is not an easy play to do mind you). pero may mga magagandang images siyang napakita. She really coordinated the efforts of her artistic team. not an easy thing to accomplish.

sushi said...

Rowena Vilar R-O-C-K-E-D! she totally stole the show.

gibbs cadiz said...

"you're really ready to open when it's closing night." you're right, LEA, and it can be really frustrating. hope you're having a grand time in china! :)

ey LORNA, thanks, but no trip. :(

hi DENNIS, i'm having the same thoughts every time i see some really talented young actors. i hope a few of them do go on to professional theater careers; sayang naman otherwise. :)

hi ANONYMOUS, i hope menchu reads your comment; she'd appreciate it. :)

amen, SUSHI! :)

Anonymous said...

Tickets for the OCTOBER 4 (Sat), 8PM show available at 09175366832 or 09227544571. Dont be left behind!!!

Manila TeenTheater Geek said...

Here's my blog of West Side Story.

Your blog inspires kids like me to write about their love of theater. :D

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