Thursday, January 28, 2010

Auditions for Magsimula Ka!--plus rare audio excerpts

Spotlight Artists Centre, a performing arts school run by Robert Sena and Isay Alvarez, has announced that it is mounting a new version of the original Filipino musical Magsimula Ka! in November 2010.

Auditions for roles in the musical will be held on Feb. 21, 2010, 1-5 p.m., at Spotlight Artists Centre, Dona Consolacion Bldg., 122 Jupiter St., Makati City. Call Yssa at tel. 8998089 for inquiries.

From Isay's invitation on her Multiply:

“come and sing your favorite song from a pinoy musical...i hope you can sing and dance too because there's plenty of that in this musical.”

Magsimula Ka!, a musical collaboration by Gines Tan and Nestor Torre, was the longest-running Filipino musical in the early '80s. It was first staged by Gantimpala Theater (then still known as Bulwagang Gantimpala) at CCP's Huseng Batute, and its hit “carrier single,” sung by Leo Valdez, became one of the defining songs of the era. When auditions for the original London production of Miss Saigon swung by Manila, the bulk of successful auditionees came from two musical-theater boot camps, if you will: Repertory Philippines (Lea Salonga, Monique Wilson, Michael Williams, Junix Inocian, etc.) and Magsimula Ka! (Isay lists down Bobby Martino, Jonjon Briones, Bicong Del Rosario, Rico Villavert, herself and Robert Sena).


“MAGSI is a story about four friends who have just graduated from college. they were all excited to embark on their respective dreams! one wants to be a social worker (monina), a singer (mandy), writer (mario) and composer (miguel). miguel who comes from a wealthy family really wanted to become a musician but his father wanted him to take over the management of their business. he joined a songwriting contest and his entry was MAGSIMULA KA! syempre may love story si monina and miguel at syempre maraming heartwarming moments ang mga friends and family of miguel. adding spice to the musical is the love story of the household helpers namely: jograd and monang, the best friend of monina (delia) who disappeared because of an accident, and a number of beautifully written songs of gines tan and arranged by ryan cayabyab. the story is very refreshing with all the positive moral values imparted in the musical.

“MAGSI really started my career as performing artist. a number of us went to london to do miss saigon (bobby martino, jon briones, bicong del rosario, rico villavert,me and robert). Jograd dela torre, beverly salviejo, albert avellana, jun sudayan, jovi quilala, albert jimenez, gigi posadas, tricia amper jimenez are some of the names who also "started" in MAGSI! a number of established singers graced the show as guest artists: dulce, rico j, loiuie reyes, pat castillo, carlo orosa, marco sison, angelique lazo, eugene villaluz, ray an fuentes and many more!”

As far as I know, no soundtrack of Magsimula Ka! is commercially available on CD--another instance of a valuable homegrown production becoming forgotten because of the lack of resources for proper documentation and preservation. The young generation can't be faulted for not knowing much about our musical theater heritage simply because they have no access to it, either through easily available cast recordings or archival video.

Thank goodness for friends, then, who gave me a CD copy of the soundtrack transferred from original cassette tape recordings. Because of their origins, the music formed two long audio tracks corresponding to Act 1 and Act 2. I had to resort to some crude editing on Nero to come up with what I think are the individual tracks (the CD copy didn't come with song titles).

Let me share with you three of the most compelling tracks in Act 1 alone:

1. The intro/prologue, where the main melodic motifs of the musical are presented as entries in a songwriting contest and sung by five guest artists: Leo Valdez, Louie Reyes, Eugene Villaluz, Cynthia Patag and Pat Castillo--incidentally, among the biggest names in OPM during that time.

2. A beautiful duet by Isay Alvarez and Tricia Amper (I think), who plays a young crippled woman embittered by her disability. Their song explores the question of hope and faith and making the most of what is left behind.

3. The finale of Act 1, which features a shorter choral version of Magsimula Ka, the song. Even with the diminished condition of the audio track, the powerful chorus is still evident.

Magsimula Ka! is a brassy, sassy, old-fashioned--I say that as a compliment--musical that demands big voices and the kind of “triple threat” (singing-dancing-acting) actors that are rather scarce nowadays. May Isay and company find a great new crop of young performers to bring this musical back to blazing life. Enjoy the clips.

PLUS: Reposting--Isay revisits the anthem some 20-plus years later.


Bernard Salazar said...

Thank you for posting part of the original track of Magsi. It was a pleasant surprise to stumble upon your blog. Listening to Isay and Tricia brought a lot of memories of those glory days of Magsimula ka in the 80s. I can't remember exactly how many times I saw the play (I stopped counting at 10). Anyway, more power to the new batch of Magsimula ka. I hope they would eventually do a U.S. tour.

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