Saturday, July 4, 2015

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady (Dalanghita Productions)

Mely (Frenchie Dy) is your archetypal big sister who would go to great lengths to ensure that her family is well-supported financially, even if it meant working as a maid for a group of superheroes. Fuwerza Filipinas is not just your typical team of heroes, they are popular as well and have an image to maintain, pretty much like the matinee idols you see on television. Led by Madre de Dios (Shiela Valderrama – Martinez) and her abs, the ensemble consists of: Nena Babushka (Giannina Ocampo), the healer; Windang Woman (Caisa Borromeo), who could command the wind; Bazooka Man (Chuck Lazaro – Hipol), with an iron cannon installed on his left arm; Popoy Pusakal (Chesko Rodriguez), the little brother who has feline-like abilities; and Leading Man (Markki Stroem), whose ring gives him telekinetic capabilities, and who has a rather bad record for being infatuated with the maid. Meanwhile, a rival group of misfits, the Kayumanggilas led by Senyor Blangko (Nar Cabico), recruits Mely’s sister, Viva (Natasha Cabrera), to sabotage Fuwerza Filipinas by having her ingest Chemical Q, which gives her extraordinary powers.

Family and sisterhood are the prevalent themes present in this musical, but there are also subtle jabs towards Filipino society at large. Take for example the rivalry between Fuwerza Filipinas and Kayumanggilas and how the former is portrayed as sophisticated and chic while the latter is considered to be too pedestrian. Somehow, it makes you think. Is this a critique of Filipino showbiz, where image far outweighs every other aspect you could think of? We’d like to think yes, but we’d rather just enjoy the show, which isn't that hard to do.

In the same vein as Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah as far as style is concerned, this musical proves to be quite enjoyable, although this similarity could be the very thing to turn you off if you are a big fan of the former. Both musicals tackle the need to belong, the desire to be accepted by society. Both offer catchy song and dance numbers to capture your attention most of the time. But there are also some differences, as well as some notable observations as to why some gimmicks work for one but not for the other.

The respective soundtracks, for example, are both entertaining, but for some reason Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah’s seems more palatable and easier to relate to. Maybe it takes some getting used to, but somehow the songs here feel a bit too contrived. The use of English as a barrier between the two opposing parties works well for Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah because it establishes the foreignness of the villains, and for some reason they still managed to incorporate humor in the lyrics. Here, the English songs just feel obligatory, and it seems as though there wouldn’t be any significant change if they just sang it in Tagalog, for instance. Why are they English-speaking to begin with? Or maybe this is still part of the veiled critique on Filipino society. Disglossia, perhaps? Who knows!

As for the ensemble, there is nothing to complain about as far as acting prowess and vocal ability are concerned. Each member of the cast contributes, although some are obviously just there as fillers and have no significant subplots to deal with. Perhaps this is also the reason why the hero angle feels a little bit underutilized. Somehow your eyes are convinced that you are indeed watching superheroes, what with the convincing costume and believable nuances of the cast. However, you still feel like the plot could still have worked had they been rival business groups, or say starlets from competing TV networks. After all, the focus of the story is on the relationship between the two sisters. The superheroes are just there as instruments through which that particular conflict could be resolved.

Are you going to enjoy this musical? Yes, this has got to be one of the few I've seen that has successfully elevated Philippine theater to new heights when it comes to technical aspects. Suffice it to say that mediocrity has no place in this musical. But it still leaves a rather strange feeling towards the end, as if there is something missing, like a potential cult status that has not been reached. But yes, it is fun, that kind of fun that would be awesome as a one-time experience, unlike Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah which you would not mind seeing over and over again. Maybe this show is just too polished for its own good.

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