Funny, but just a few hours before Friday midnight, my friends and I were just talking about the 90s TV-comedy hit ABANGAN ANG SUSUNOD NA KABANATA. We reminisced the days when the most talked-about recent issues were satirized on National Television. We separated ways, agreeing that it is seldom to find treasures such as these; something to rave about and love remembering.
Funny, but after Saturday’s Sh’Bam and BodyPump in RCBC, I accidentally passed across the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium for a smoke and saw a familiar poster, that once caught my attention years ago when I was still studying in New York. It was love at first sight, at that time. The experience then was so comically orgasmic, that I always made sure that I’ll get a taste of it, every time I went back.
The show is Forbidden Broadway. And yes, I am still desperately in love.
Conceptualized, written and originally directed by Gerard Alessandrini, Forbidden Broadway is a musical-revue that satirizes almost everything that is Broadway. Think SCARY MOVIE (2000) – a parody of all the most recent horror and thriller films of the time. Forbidden Broadway does that every season…in this case…musicallly.
What make Forbidden a treasure for every Broadway fan are its songs and the lyrics. Seldom do we come along a good song, doubled with an exact measure of lines and still drive home a hilarious point.
Forbidden Broadway never fails to do that.
Never in a million years did I expect this satiric musical-revue to make it to Manila. Unfortunately, the Philippines only has a limited exposure to Broadway musicals. For someone who will bring this work to Manila will have to bank on its audience’s background knowledge on Western Musical Theater – its history, drama and issues. Forbidden Broadway aims to have its audiences roll on the aisles, screaming and laughing, knowing that there is always a comedic side on the road to Broadway. Admittedly, it will be such a risk for the production company. Despite it’s low-budget set, Forbidden demands really “good” actors who can sing and much more imitate Broadway icons and characters; which in itself is an investment.
But Upstart Productions Inc. still took the risk, and brought it to Manila to a bursting audience.
To initially sum it up…IT WORKS!
Directed by Joel Trinidad, Forbidden Broadway (Manila) highlights the best and most common musical excerpts to wow the Filipino audiences. Selections from CATS, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, RENT, MAMMA MIA!, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, WICKED, LES MISERABLES, CHICAGO, and MONTY PHYTHON’S SPAMALOT are just of the few of selected repertoire, that made me glued to my seat throughout the show.
The songs talked about how Eponine in Les Miserable can still manage to talk to a friend (ON MY PHONE) because of the show’s four-hour run each night. We also see Liza Minelli (LIZA ONE NOTE) singing on the top of her voice and reminiscing how good she was through ad hoc monologues, which makes the pianist (yes….you’ll see the pianist on stage) yawn. The cast of the hit-musical Rent brags their awards and recognitions, crediting everything to ballyhoo (SEASONS OF HYPE). And then we see Elphaba of Wicked (WICKEDER) “fly” and turn green on stage, singing on the top of her voice and saying there’s no one that can match her high pitch and scream – which no doubt gave her the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 2004.
Much to the acclaim, I take off my hat to the four Filipino cast members of Forbidden Broadway (Manila). It wouldn’t have been a smash, had it not been for the magnificent theater talent that we have.
Liesl Bantucan (Romeo and Juliet, Little Shop of Horrors, It Had To Be You) is as funny as anyone should expect a Forbidden singer should be. Her small nuances and grave expressions gives depth to characters imitated and satirized. Caisa Borromeo (Shakespeare in Hollywood, I Love You Because, and Little Women) leveled with the New York standard of Broadway singing and drama. Her version of On My Phone (ON MY OWN) and Defying Gravity (WICKEDER) are just some of her numbers to watch out for. Oj Mariano (Isang Panaginip na Fili, Sweet Charity, and Little Mermaid) is a tall, bald, funny man on stage. His presence is something I was always looking forward to. His subtle indifference to his lines and moves were enough to make me giggle and laugh right after. Of course, the show wouldn’t be complete without Lorenz Martinez (Jesus Christ Superstar, Camelot, Miss Saigon). For me, he is the best star of the show. Not to belittle the other players, but Martinez has developed a certain degree of absurdity, common among stage comedies; but a rarity among our actors. His Tevye of Fiddler on the Roof (AMBITION) proves how he can simply make an audience laugh by mere touching his boobs.
Forbidden Broadway (Manila) is something that is not to be missed; much more if you’re a Broadway fan. See how Philippine Theater emerges from our usual shows and took a road less traveled by bringing the “funniest show in New York,” and still fill seats weekend after weekend.
Forbidden Broadway (Manila) will run on May 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, and 27, 2012 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza. For ticket inquiries, call TicketNet at (02) 891.9999 or visit Ticketworld.com.
Special thanks to Onyl Torres for the accommodation and Raul Victor Montesa for the photos.