Sunday, August 28, 2011

Noli Me Tangere: The Musical (Tanghalang Pilipino)


We would assume that you have already encountered Rizal's social satire in a variety of media: some movies, TV specials, and the novel itself. Now, Tanghalang Pilipino adds some music and voila! You have a historical musical. With nothing onstage aside from a flight of steps and windows on the walls, the actors are able to move freely and are well equipped with the necessary props to further establish what is needed for the scene. The steps are maximized for effective blocking, while the traditional windows complement the lighting well enough for some dramatic effect. A furniture is added in each scene when necessary. This, however, becomes a disadvantage when a scene calls for bigger space, like when Ibarra ran up and down the same set of steps twice just to depict distance. This is unintentionally funny and drew some giggles from the audience.

I have seen Cris Villonco do musicals in English with different accents but without trying too hard. Hearing her sing in Filipino for the first time onstage just made me appreciate her more. Let me clarify, by the way, that this admiration is purely professional. One of the titles of my travel articles about Camarines Sur bearing her name is meant as a joke, although she really was in that flight. It is just that I do not have anything but high praises for triple threats who know how to entertain their audience, and Villonco does just that. From one long vibrato to another, she shows you what Maria Clara would be like if she were real and if she could sing. Her theatrical singing complements the pop vocals of Mark Bautista, who at times sings with too much air that you struggle to understand the lyrics, not like Villonco's crystal clear enunciation. As an actor, I would give him two or three more onstage projects before he feels totally comfortable onstage, although his portrayal of Ibarra is not bad at all, to be fair.

The audience was composed mainly of students, who appeared to like the Don Tiburcio and Doña Consolacion tandem so much that they showered the duo with plenty of applause after each musical number. On the contrary, Villonco and Bautista only received a round of applause after their final duet which ended with a kiss, that despite them having most of the musical numbers in the show. Anyway, the former pair was really portrayed and made to look outlandish, which might be true for the Doña as she is described in the novel, but not so much for her Spanish husband. Nonetheless, the pair serves its purpose, which is that of the comic relief.

If you were born in the late 80's, Subas Herrero would probably be your template for Padre Damaso. It is because of this that when Joonee Gamboa appears as the fat friar, you suddenly miss his beer belly. Still, it was a good performance that focused more on the friar's rash personality rather than his appearance as the stereotypical fray botod. Padre Salvi, on the other hand is portrayed by a much younger actor, which accentuates the sexual tension between him and Maria Clara even more so, but somehow rids him of his creepiness. We remember this character as the silent but shrewd schemer who would stab you in the back rather than slap you upfront like Padre Damaso would. This makes him more sinister, the dirty old man with influence backed by the church. Here he seems like a more formidable rival to Ibarra because of the young actor who plays him.

All in all I think this a great show and a perfect opportunity to present an otherwise boring mandatory high school novel in a different light for the new generation to enjoy. While there are no epic trademark songs that leave you in awe, the musical production is lively and the actors are good. The plot drags for a while and there are moments when you would think that there is just too much song and dance, but everything picks up its pace from the final scene of the first act and continues in the second leading to a climactic ending.

2 creature(s) gave a damn:

Anonymous said...

I have always wanted to comment about your "to stalk or not to stalk" because I found it incredibly funny. I was afraid I might have snubbed you during the flight because I have a fear of flying. Thank you for your wonderful review and I hope I could meet you someday. Many, many thanks - Cris Villonco

ihcahieh said...

@Cris Villonco - Wow, thanks for the comment! You were sleeping then so there was absolutely no snubbing going on. I hope you'd continue doing more musicals. You are just a joy to watch onstage. Thanks again! =)

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