Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Take it from Next to Normal: 'When our long night is done, there will be light!'

A full review is something I owe the Inquirer first, so, in the meantime, I'll let my tweet yesterday speak for itself: rushd out of d theatr after 'next2normal'--wept like crazy, i must've lookd hideous. what a musical. sterling work from menchu, jett et al.

At the end of Next to Normal, after nearly two-and-a-half hours of raw and riveting musical theater, the show ends with a song that's about the characters acknowledging their complicated destinies, and from there trying to move on. Some ghosts are never gone, but we go on, we still go on, as one line goes. That musical valedictory provides a soul-stirring end note to the whole proceedings, not least because, at last, all six characters in the musical are together, harmonizing on a powerful, cathartic statement of hope. The song is called Light.

That number, thankfully, is preserved in recording--in lead star Menchu Lauchengco Yulo's seven-track CD lite that's exclusively available at the front of house during every performance, packaged along with the souvenir program (at P400). The record contains two songs from Next to Normal--Light and the solo piece I Miss the Mountains; the five others are from shows Menchu had also topbilled in Manila over the years--Loving You/Children Will Listen (from Passion and Into the Woods); Something Good (from The Sound of Music); Come to Me (from Les Miserables); Buenos Aires (from Evita--a number, truthfully, whose bossa-nova rearrangement I don't get); and a resplendent Meadowlark (from The Baker's Wife)--the definitive track for me, because it's practically a master class in musical storytelling, Menchu making every word, every phrase, even the pacing, count.

But what makes Light a must-listen track in its own right is the participation of the other Next to Normal cast members. Cast recordings are rare in our part of the world, whether for original Filipino musicals or Broadway imports, but here's this CD that offers us the opportunity to hear (in order of appearance in the audio) Bea Garcia, Jett Pangan, Menchu, Jake Macapagal and Felix Rivera, with Markki Stroem blending in with them somewhere in the piece, collectively belting out their characters' new-found sense of clarity and strength: The price of love is loss, but still we pay, we love anyway... we'll live, you'll see!

Here, listen:

How does the Next to Normal-Manila cast compare to the celebrated original Broadway cast, at least in terms of Light? That's another benefit of Menchu's CD thoughtfully including this track; now we can listen to both versions and love them equally without distinction, or decide which one speaks with more truth, empathy or plain musicality to us. Here, from the Broadway cast recording, featuring Alice Ripley, J. Robert Spencer, Jennifer Damiano, Aaron Tveit, Adam Chanler-Berat and Louis Hobson:

“Next to Normal” runs until March 27, 2011 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati. For tickets, call Atlantis Productions 8927078 or 8401187, or Ticketworld 8919999.


Will said...

Nice, Sir Gibbs! Light is my favorite N2N song from the original.

Anonymous said...

The voices are remarkable but there is nothing original or new in the interpretations. That is not to say the actors are not good. It is a directorial issue. To me, you can never be good if you just cover or copy the original. Never. There are many other nuances to explore. I hope the staging is more original than this.

Anonymous said...

The production photos remind me of the Pilipinas Kay Ganda debacle. An attempt to copy. Fine, if the director wants to recreate the Broadway production for a Manila audience, by all means, but credit should be given where credit is due. The director and designers of this production do not deserve full credit for merely aping. Anything less is tantamount to plagiarism and can be illegal. Where is Filipino ingenuity here?

gibbs cadiz said...

ANONYMOUS: sometimes the license to mount the production is very strict about NOT deviating from how it should be staged. depends, really, on the production--some give directors enough leeway, some don't. i've been told that spring awakening had very stringent, by-the-book guidelines on how to mount it. next to normal-manila is the first licensed production outside of broadway, and i would think bobby garcia got the rights because he knew the director and has worked with people in/from the show. not having seen the production there (excepts for snippets from youtube and photos in the press), and not privy to the requirements of the license, i wouldn't be too loose about charges of 'aping.' when so-called original filipino musicals start NOT copying the broadway template in turn, and, like orosman at zafira, instead begin mining more ethnic, indigenous sounds, then i'd probably be more rigorous about questions of originality. finally, i'm answering you because you raised an important point. but, really, since your point and the manner by which you express it demand to be taken seriously, perhaps you'd want your opinion to have a name to it? if you think certain people in theater (or in any other field) are not up to par with their work--that's fine, no quarrel with that. but do stand by your words by attaching your name to them.

Anonymous said...


Norway (2010)
The first non-English language production opened September 3, 2010 at Det Norske Teatret in Norway, with Heidi Gjermundsen Broch as Diana, Frank Kjosås as Gabe and Charlotte Frogner as Natalie. It opened to rave reviews,which made the theatre announce a second season starting October 8, 2011. Press release tells the original Norwegian cast will be performing the second season as well.

Helsinki (2010)
The Finnish production opened December 2, 2010 in Helsinki, Finland at the Helsinki City Theater. The show is set to close on March 26, 2011.[35]

gibbs cadiz said...

thank you for the wikipedia alert. but we're talking at cross-purposes here. perhaps i should've been clearer. obviously, the manila production belongs to the english-language category. (atlantis' press announcement verbatim: 'it's the first licensed English-language production outside the United States.') the norway show is the first NON-ENGLISH prod, as your excerpt explicitly says.

Anonymous said...

I think its okay to be anonymous. As long as what you say naman is important and makes sense. Wag lang masyandong nega, konting objectivity, and be nice. He/she may have his reasons din for being anonymous. Baka naman na reject sa audition, or gustong mag direct. Whatever the reasons, he/she wants to be heard.

My two centavos worth, anonymously of course. Mahirap na. Lol.

Hello ang Broadway set, three levels, eto two, so may variation kahit papaano! Sa staging yes madaming kopya pero ang costumes hindi naman. Maybe hindi ikaw yung audience, who would pay 1,500 pesos per ticket. I don’t think that audience has a problem with that, kasi sold out sila.

So maybe it’s not Bobby Garcia’s mission in life to look for an original way to present Broadway musicals. Maybe his mission is to bring Broadway musicals to Manila, as close as possible to how it was presented on Broadway. And since we don’t have the budget to bring in the original director to stage it here, we have Bobby Garcia! Now if it’s illegal or not is really the concern of the aggrieved party. Magsumbong ka if you want. Tanong is, does it bother the people involved? As Gibbs pointed out, baka kilala at nakatrabaho na ni Bobby yung mga tao sa Broadway productions and maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t bother them as much as it bothers you.

Anonymous does have a point though, credit where credit is due. So maybe Gibbs can ask Bobby Garcia: "Bobby, your shows are very similar to the ones in Broadway. do you feel compelled to give credit in some way?"

gibbs cadiz said...

thank you for the comments. if the similarities are substantial, i agree that, at the very least, some acknowledgment of the sources--something like 'based on the original staging, etc.'--should be included in the playbill/program. i think that's being fair.

Anonymous said...

Enough about the plagiarism thing! It doesn't apply anyway since I think proper credit has been done...what is salient is that Next to Normal made me cry three times, made my friend wonder whether the actors sang live - as they such have great voices (Felix Rivera was a revelation, by the way!), and made me want to go back there to Manila. Walang ganyan dito sa Jakarta! I saw you last Sunday's matinee performance btw :-)

waltzang said...

yun na!

Anonymous said...

Ignorance is bliss.

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