Thursday, August 19, 2010

Magsimula Ka!--the new generation--opens Nov. 17

Spotlight Artists Centre, the performing arts school, proudly announces its final cast lineup for “Magsimula Ka," its very first musical, to be staged at the Music Museum on November, 17, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26, 27, and December 2, 3 and 4, 8:00 p.m., with matinees on November 20, 27 and December 4.

The auditions, which started last February, yielded a fresh bumper crop of “triple threat" artists (budding theater performers with exceptional singing, acting and dancing skills), all eager to relive the glory and nostalgia of the memorable ‘80s musical.

The talented cast includes Ciara Sotto, Myke Salomon, Poppert Bernadas, Fred Lo and Kyla Rivera, ably supported by Ana Feleo, Tricia Amper-Jimenez, Sherwin Sozon, Sheng Belmonte, Gerald Napoles, Sophiea Reyes, Cheeno Macaraig, Rafael Sudayan, Ava Santos, Kakki Teodoro, Heidi Arima, Carlos Canlas, Pamela Imperial and Migs Ramirez.

Written by Nestor Torre and Gines Tan, “Magsimula Ka” premiered at the CCP Little Theater in the early ‘80s. These were the golden years of OPM, when songwriting contests such as the Metropop Music Festival churned out an equally impressive roster of winning songs and songwriters such as Ryan Cayabyab, Gary Granada, Nonong Pedero and many more.

The musical was also the launching pad for the theater careers of then-budding actors Robert Seña, Isay Alvarez, Tricia Amper and many others, before they garnered global acclaim upon joining the original Asian cast of "Miss Saigon” in London in September 1989.

The much-awaited reprise of “Magsimula Ka” could very well be considered a passing of the torch, so to speak, as Isay, Robert and their cohorts eagerly await the grand moment when the new set of young upstarts get their turn to take the spotlight--a rite of passage that could very well serve as their ticket to stardom and equally enduring showbiz careers.

“Robert and I owe our careers to ‘Magsimula Ka,’ and this is our way of paying tribute to Nestor, Gines and all the great musical talents who inspired us back then,” says Isay. “With the same fervor, we hope to instill the same inspiration among the younger generations.”

As it embarks on the production of its very first musical, the entire Spotlight family is working double time to ensure its success. “Magsimula Ka” is directed by Robert Seña and produced by Isay Alvarez-Seña, Tricia Amper-Jimenez and Carl Balita, with Boni Juan as set designer, Georcelle Dapat as choreographer, JonJon Villareal for lights and Krina Cayabyab as vocal coach.

With its inspiring music and timely, socially-relevant commentary on Pinoy pop culture, the musical promises to be a fun and wholesome entertainment treat for the whole family.

“It bridges the gap between two different generations,” Isay says. “And it’s an eye-opener for today’s kids who don’t have any idea what growing up was like before cellphones, YouTube, iPods and all of today’s high-tech toys.”

And because of its strong appeal to its wide, inter-generational market, the show is also a lucrative venture for producers and block/show buyers as a fund-raising initiative for their target beneficiaries. Interested parties may call Spotlight Artists Centre at 899-8089 or visit for more details.

PLUS: Reposting an earlier blog with rare audio excerpts from Magsimula Ka!--

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.

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