Thursday, January 06, 2011
Surely you won't miss it this time?
I've loved Dulaang UP's Orosman at Zafira from the git-go. There are more polished, more sophisticated, more agreeably pleasant shows, but from the time I first caught it in 2008 I've always felt it was something unique--an experience unlike any other in local theater. That's because, while it's often sold as a Broadway-style or -inspired musical, it is worlds away from that familiar template. The show springs from something much closer to and deeper in us. Listening to it, drinking in its strange language and music and rituals and geography, you feel in your gut that this is ours--our beat, our rhythm, our impulse, our indigenous longing finding expression in a work that, by the integrity and intelligence of its contemporizing daring, pays its ancestral material--and the native spirit that gave it blood and sinew--the ultimate honor of a proud, loving re-imagination.
This is Balagtas as you've never seen or heard him played before, and musical theater made fiercely, unassailably Filipino. I've seen it performed badly on not a few nights; but at its best, and at its core, Dexter Santos' Orosman at Zafira is, I feel, a work that will outlive its roughnesses and be remembered as a landmark achievement. Here--because I tend to write with much greater care and weight on such occasions--I must use again what I said of it in my yearend citation in 2008:
“[It's] a blazing musical-theater experience, and, not incidentally, a calling card for how disparate elements--Baltazar’s archaic Tagalog text, Bello’s neo-ethnic world music, Santos’ hybrid choreography--could create something uniquely, arrestingly homegrown, as far away from Broadway as could be.”
Now that SM Mall of Asia, the holy of holies no less of commercialism and consumerism in the country, is hosting a new run of Orosman at Zafira (at MOA CenterStage starting Feb. 4), I am thrilled that many more people would be able to watch this show than was ever possible at the cramped and far-off Guerrero Theater in UP Diliman, where it had its genesis and two previous sold-out runs. I also worry that the bigger venue and audience space might wreak havoc on the show's dynamic, leaving first-time watchers singed by the experience. This is, from everything I've seen, a dauntingly taxing work to mount; may that commitment and artistry come through every time, both for the performers and their audience.
At the presscon held yesterday, the troupe performed four excerpts from the musical. Here are two on video:
1) The first meeting between the young royals Orosman and Zafira, the pair crisscrossing each other in the garden in a haughty, come-hither game--the magnificently built Jay Gonzaga is Orosman, Maita Ponce is Zafira (she alternated with Cris Villonco in the original 2008 production);
2) The haunting, mournful panalangin that comes late in the show, when, after two savage wars and a third one looming near, threatening their final decimation, the warring tribes pray for deliverance, lamenting the strife caused by passion--kasumpa-sumpang pag-ibig!--but, in the end, resigned to pag-ibig, pag-ibig at pag-ibig pa rin.
That voice soaring with powerful ethnic flavor, by the way, summoning images of mystical ancient evenings, is Tao Aves, the daughter of Grace Nono, as the narrator Zelima. Delphine Buencamino alternates as Zafira. Jean Judith Javier also reprises Gulnara. Gabs Santos and Red Concepcion both return as Aldervisin, Acey Aguilar and Kevin Concepcion alternate as Zelim, Neil Tolentino is Mahamud, Roeder Camanag is Orosman's impulsive older brother Abdalap and Nazer Salcedo is the usurper king Boulasem. Carol Bello is responsible for the unforgettable music.
“Orosman at Zafira” runs Feb. 4-February 26 for a total of 15 performances at the SM Mall of Asia CenterStage. For tickets, call 0917-8327946 (Darwin Mariano), 0917-8322756/0917-8427346/0922-8427346 (Carlo Francia) or e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.