‘Ang Larawan: The Musical’ is a tour de force in the PH theater

The all-star cast, Alice Reyes Dance Philippines’ dancers, and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab, presented Contra Mundum, a star-studded concert version of Ang Larawan: The Musical, held at the Manila Metropolitan Theatre last May 6, 2023.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Manila Metropolitan Theatre, and Culturtain Musicat have offered a one-night-only Saturday performance of the three-act musical to celebrate the 50th-anniversary of the Order of the National Artists of the Philippines and National Heritage Month. It was also streamed for free on MET’s official Facebook page.

The country’s best artists from the film, music, and theatre industry united on stage to perform the greatest Filipino stage musical ever made. The stellar cast includes Celeste Legaspi, Bituin Escalante, Dulce, Aicelle Santos, Audie Gemora, Mitch Valdez, Karylle Tatlonghari, Hajji Alejandro, Kakai Bautista, Mikki Bradshaw-Volante, Kakki Teodoro, Nyoy Volante, Menchu Lauchengo-Yulo, Agot Isidro, Bodjie Pascua, Jericho Rosales, Sandino Martin, Markki Stroem, Nanette Inventor, Jojit Lorenzo, Jaime Fabregas, Nonoy Froilan, Paulo Avelino, Roeder Camañag, Ricky Davao, Rachel Alejandro, and Bea Alonzo.

The musical was based on the National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin’s stage play, A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino. It tells about two spinster sisters who are barely making ends meet despite having the ability to sell the symbolic and valuable last painting that their sick father made.

The musical play was staged several times by different theatre companies through the years, starting with its non-musical and original script presented with its English text in 1955, and it became more popular for its Tagalog musical adaptation in 1997, translated and lyrics by Rolando S. Tinio, and music by Ryan Cayabyab. The musical was even made into a film in 2017, directed by Loy Arcenas, which is an entry to the 43rd Metro Manila Film Festival that won the Best Picture award.

In Contra Mundum, the producers put a great effort to bring a top-notch stage musical, which is a pure Filipino masterpiece and a precious gem in literature, music, and arts. The concert version was brought to life with Chris Millado’s direction.

The concert had different actors who portrayed some roles in each act, showcasing different approaches to the lead characters of Candida and Paula, as well as Tony Javier and Bitoy Camacho.

Winter David’s minimalist set design and Barbie Tan-Tiongco’s wonderful lighting design complement all mise-en-scènes that were on point, making the entire show complete perfection with Joyce Garcia’s projection design. National Artist Badong Bernal, with well-known costume designers Gino Gonzales and Francis Libiran did a great job of making all the artists’ costumes fit their character’s bone structure and be realistic based on the story set in the 1940s.

Ang Larawan: The Musical is truly a must-see for everyone, especially millennials as if it is both entertaining and enlightening. Never boring, it is a spectacular musical for its wonderful music score, a high-spirited conga number led by Elsa Montes (Bea Alonzo), and inspired performances by the talented cast. It is also enlightening and informative, giving us a glimpse of Old Manila through the play’s dialogues, scenes, and songs. It shows a part of our history through a fictional tale of an impoverished family, specifically the spinster sisters, who are trying to desperately hold on to and fight for what is left behind – the painting, the house, their values – in the face of materialism, the changing times and the looming second World War.

Contra Mundum, the musical play’s concert version, is truly a tour de force in the Philippine Theatre that pays tribute to our very own art and culture. It is both a literal (the actual painting) and figurative (the Filipino artist) depiction of the Filipino artist. It is a sad commentary about starving artists who write or paint for their personal satisfaction. Their art gives them food for the soul but there is that sad realization that they also need to earn to put food on the table.

The award-winning film adaptation of the musical is now available for streaming on Netflix. It can also be streamed on iWantTFC.

Contributed by Rayne Jarabo

#AngLarawanTheMusical #ContraMundum #rubyspreciousmoments #rubyasoyph

Theater Review: Dulaang UP’s ‘ Rosang Taba’ – on conquering oppression, courage, and self-love

After two years of hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic that led to a global health crisis, Dulaang UP re-opened its doors with Floy Quintos’ The Reconciliation Dinner at the University Theater Main Hall Stage in November 2022.

After the play’s successful run, Dulaang UP presented its first offering for the 45th theatre season, an adaptation of Dean Francis Alfar’s How Rosang Taba Won a Race, a children’s story that amplifies the voices of the oppressed.

The adaptation Kung Paano Nanalo sa Karera si Rosang Taba is written by award-winning playwrights Maynard Manansala and Rody Vera and directed by José Estrella in collaboration with her mentees Issa Manalo Lopez and Mark Dalacat. Lopez is Dulaang UP’s  Artistic Director, while Dalacat is a graduating BA Theatre Arts student from the Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts.

Kung Paano Nanalo sa Karera si Rosang Taba is a story of how a woman’s courage, cleverness, and determination altered history. In the adaptation, Rosang Taba’s feat is narrated by her great-grandchildren, hoping her legacy lives on in modern times. It tells the fictional story of a slave servant on the chubby side in the home of a Spanish governor-general and his wife, Señora Andreia. It all started when Rosang Taba challenged the arrogant commander of the Spanish forces, Pietrrado, who looked down on the colonized Filipinos as “lazy, boorish, unorganized, have no courage, no morals, no civilization.”

The hilarious pandemic-induced TikTok dances, a strong stand against body shaming, Latin music beat, and musical instruments from Cordilleras made the show more interesting to fire up the audience. The race executed in the play represented the determination of the lead character to prove that Filipinos deserve freedom, love, and equality.

The theater space is an in-the-round type, where the audiences experience every detail of the story presented and participate with the actors. The mise-en-scene, however, is minimalist but valued to support all scenes in the play.

The play has inspired viewers to continue loving themselves despite their weight, and on conquering oppression, courage, and self-love.

Kiki Baento, an artist-teacher of the Philippine Educational Theatre Association (PETA), played the titular role of Rosang Taba alongside Jojo Cayabyab, who plays Gobernador Heneral. Joining Baento and Cayabyab are equally talented film and theatre actors Skyzx Labastilla, Peewee O’ Hara, Victor Sy, Aldo Vencilao, Quinea Babas, Ynna Rafa, Dyas Adarlo, Mari Palaganas, Owel Pepito, and Pau Vengano.

The show’s proceeds went for the rehabilitation and renovation of the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater—the home of over 150 Dulaang UP plays in the last four decades. The theater has been instrumental in the growth and success of many critically acclaimed theatre artists and scholars, including two National Artists for Theatre, Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio and Dulaang UP’s founding Artistic Director, Antonio “Tony” Mabesa.

Kung Paano Nanalo sa Karera si Rosang Taba was staged recently at the UP Theater Main Hall Stage, University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City.

Contributed by Rayne Jarabo

#RosangTaba #DulaangUP #rubyspreciousmoments #rubyasoyph

Musical Theatre Review: ‘The Sound of Music’ brings its magic back on stage in the PH

Like all great musicals, The Sound of Music has exuded a certain magic that makes it special — you can credit the amazing direction, the beautiful milieu, the incredible music, and the story itself. It became so successful due to the amount of love present in it: the love of music, of freedom, of family, and the love between a man and a woman (which – as Reverend Mother wisely reminds us – is holy, too).

Having watched the film repeatedly on the small screen, it was an experience to witness it inside a sophisticated theater in Circuit Makati, at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater. The venue was a good choice for Broadway Asia and GMG Productions to stage this worth-watching Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s masterpiece, which had its last staging in 2020 at The Theatre at Solaire.

The Sound of Music, based on the memoir of Maria Augusta Trapp set in Austria, follows an ebullient postulant who serves as governess to the seven children of the imperious Captain von Trapp, bringing music and joy to the household. However, the forces of Nazism take hold of Austria, and Maria and the von Trapp family must make a moral decision.

The recent international tour was worth the visit. The stellar cast included Jill-Christine Wiley as Maria and Trevor Martin as Captain Georg von Trapp, who are both talented and shared their emotions with the audience often. They make the perfect team and possess the very best diction I have heard on a professional stage in a long time.

Trevor Martin was an emotional powerhouse as he did an excellent job portraying the stern, complex, but loving Captain von Trapp. Jill-Christine Wiley’s rendition of Maria felt young and lovely. She sang with clarity the title song “The Sound of Music” and other popular tunes, such as “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” and “The Lonely Goatherd.”

I found the moment touching when the Captain turned over his whistle to Maria when he realized he no longer treats his children and household like a naval battleship. Wiley played her role with justice in her opening scenes and became a loving governess during the story.

This production was star-studded, including the talented Filipino singer-actress Karylle Tatlonghari as Baroness Elsa Schraeder. She portrayed her  character with natural elegance, convincing sophistication, and maturity.

Cassi Mikat, who played Mother Abbess, astoundingly delivered “Climb Every Mountain” with passion and made it one of the best hair-raising moments of the show.

Markki Stroem, on the other hand, who portrayed the telegram delivery boy, Rolf Gruber, did captivate the audience with his charms and well-built connection to Lauren O’Brien as Liesl. His rendition of the show tune “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” was enjoyable to watch and listen to. A little bit cheeky to describe, Joshua La Force made Max Detweiler a compelling character with that hilarious personality, obviously distinguished in his performance of “How Love Can Survive” with Tatlonghari. The Von Trapp kids, however, were undeniably witty and quirky and became the center of attention for the scenes they were in.

It was a compelling moment when the large Nazi flags dropped from the ceiling and were used as the backdrop of the Festival concert. There’s nothing more symbolic than seeing a proud Austrian, Captain Von Trapp, sings “Edelweiss” (Austria’s national flower – used as an image of symbolism and loyalty to his country) before he bids farewell to his homeland and runs away with his family to the mountains, instead of reporting to Bremerhaven to assume command in the Army of the Third Reich. This scene is a chilling moment. It was also fascinating at the end of the production, with the Von Trapp children, as they escaped the Nazis after the Anschluss. They were taking a long and arduous journey to reach safety. As the family ascended into the hills of the mountains, my breath was taken away (Finale Ultimo).

The mise-en-scene of the show was extravagant with its minimalist set design and lovely lighting. My favorite set design was the last part of the show when the nuns opened the gate where the Von Trapp family escaped — it was realistic and aesthetic!

The musical appeared different from the film in which Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer starred. “My Favorite Things” was sung in the abbey by Maria and Mother Abbess. In place of that song in the thunderstorm scene, Maria and the kids sang “The Lonely Goatherd” instead. “Edelweiss” was only sung once by the Captain at the concert. Uncle Max and Baroness Schraeder also performed two songs. Not like in the film, they were singing characters, too.

This musical was a perfect show from start to finish and imparted a good lesson to kids and adults alike —  a feeling of an incredible sense of joy and love.

Contributed by Rayne Jarabo

 #TheSoundofMusic #review #rubyspreciousmoments #rubyasoyph