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A year at the theater

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CONFESSION MUNA: Middle of this year, I was diagnosed with something serious that I had to take a leave of absence from teaching, and drop a few corporate consultancy projects. Everything could have ended in June. I was just glad that I learned about my condition and my treatments went really, really well. My doctors advised complete rest, but I continued going out to catch as many shows as I can. It’s like racing the sun with Philippine Theater.  Each invite could be my last chance to experience the magic of theater, see? That’s how I lived the rest of 2015. 

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To count the number of shows I’ve seen this year is to count my blessings. As the year closes, I have watched 18 Full Length Straight Plays, 17 One Act Plays, 18 Musicals, 12 Dance/Ballet shows, 7 Theater Concerts, and 3 Operas.

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That’s a total of 75 SHOWS! Check na check! 

Tapos, whenever I had the chance, I write something about the experiences. Deadma na sa grammar. Deadma na sa run-on sentences. 

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And then this!

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Well, anyway…let’s get back to business.

To say that 2015 was the start of the Renaissance of Philippine Theater is arguable. Theater has been around, but in the recent years, a growing audience has stated falling in line, bringing with them newer expectations.To say the least, our artists, producers and enthusiasts have had their shares of small, yet, game-changing contributions in the past years, which made this snowball of blessings that came along this year. 2015 had been so full of promising shows, and I’m just so glad to be part of it.

It was the year of plays (straights and one-act). It was also a year, filled with colorful and new musicals. But the best part of it all, is that this was the year when I first ventured into appreciating ballet and the opera.

This was also the year when I started to do the Jellicle Podcast. Sa dami ng mga palabas ngayon, ay naubusan na ako ng Ingles, kaya nag-Podcast ako. Now, all the our Podcasts are available on iTunes and Google Play. Also The Jellicle Blog App! Thanks to my dear friend and confidant, Ysa, and ZyMedia Services.

As I close 2015’s inventory, I extend my gratitude to the people who have believed in my work, my insights and my passion. To all the PR folks who have opened their doors to bloggers like myself, I can’t thank you enough. The producers, artists, dancers, and “all you people out there in the dark,” my gratitude for your love and your talent overflows. Your trust has helped me survive, yet another year.

Now, here are my Top 3 among all the Full Length (Straight), One Acts, Musicals, Dance/Ballets, Concerts, and Operas  that I’ve seen in 2015.

 

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BM-2.0-1Ballet Manila’s BM 2.0 put twenty years of discipline, hardwork and determination to bring pride and establish the art of Philippines ballet in a 2.5 running-hour nutshell. It was an easy like — and a delightful education for someone who still has a lot to learn. It delivered performances that went beyond my then-weird expectations. From Marius Petipa’s PAQUITA, to the heartfelt rendition of Rocas and Hohenstein for Kryzysztof Pastor‘s ROMEO AND JULIET, up to the exhilirating reprise of Osias Barroso’s ECOLE, BM 2.0 triumphed so greatly.  Worthy to mention, too, was the world premiere of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s testoterone-filled BLOOM. Ballet Manila, in celebration of their 20th anniversary, offered the best of what the company (or the country, for that matter) can offer. For once, I never thought that ballet, in its most traditional and experimental of forms, can be wild, spell-binding, unpredictable and wonderfully exhilarating. As the curtain rose for the final call, BM 2.0’s 10-minute standing ovation on its opening night was a praise much, much deserved.

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andrePhilippine Ballet Theatre’s DON QUIXOTE was a surprise when I saw it on its opening night. PBT presented a spell-bindingly visual adaptation of Cervantes’ novel, while still being faithful to the original Petipa choreography. Everything in this production is so beautiful, you’d think you’re watching a moving/dancing picture-story. PBT’s Lobreza Pimentel proved her versatility and passion, while visiting artist, Joseph Phillips, mesmerized the CCP audiences with his controlled intensity and youthful athleticism. Tied in # 2 is Ballet Manila’s ROMEO AND JULIETTo say that it is an ambitious production is an understatement. Yes they were ambitious, but you can’t take it against them.  You can only watch how well they delivered. So yes,  BM had proven, regardless of form, structure and sound, that Shakespeare’s story of these “star-crossed lovers” is timeless and ever-piercing. And did I mention that this was my first time to cry in a the ballet?

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peterpanBallet Philippine’s EDNA VIDA FROILAN’s PETER PAN was the second time I cried in the ballet. That was when BP Artistic Director Paul Alexander Morales asked the children inside the CCP Main Theater, “sino dito ang first time sa CCP?” before the curtains opened.  I recalled my first time in CCP. It was also in a ballet. Don Quixote, back in the 90s. I silently cried — remembering the time when I started developing my first love for theater. It was at that same theater house – orchestra center. Peter Pan, according to a literary critic, exemplifies the nature of fairness and; as what Capt. Hook would flamboyantly term: “good form.” In the early 80s, when Vida-Froilan took task of creating a ballet on Barrie’s timeless story, I say the literary terms have evolved so conveniently and with right intentions. As Froilan matches Barrie’s narrative with breathtaking choreography, she has brought to the Philippine stage both absolute fairness (balance) and good form (do I still need to elaborate?) and still tell the story that has marvelled children throughout generations.Vida-Froilan’s PETER PAN tells the story about a boy who doesn’t want to grow up. Perhaps, it was a timely tribute for the Christmas season, and the choreographer’s legacy, but for me, it was about my desire not to let go of my early joys and first love. To crow and not to grow: that is the statement!

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Honorable Mentions: (click the titles to view my individual reviews)
CCP’s NEO FILIPINO 2015
Ballet Philippine’s BODY+POSITIVE
Ballet Manila’s TATLONG KWENTO NI LOLA BASYANG
Pan-Asia Project’s THE MAHABHARATA (THE B-WAR)

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10922444_1546390715626590_8071330291298779237_nNazer Salcedo’s SEASONS OF DESIRE made use of the usual plot structure one expects from Operas. It was so contrived, melodramatic, theatrical and at some point, overly exaggerated, you’d almost think it was the late-great-campy-Joey Gosengfiao who directed it. This opera faithfully followed the rising drama we are all so familiar with, and its telenovelic conflicts were anything but rare. Like other Operas, SEASONS played with the conventional structure of the genre. I somehow felt that Director Nazer Salcedo deliberately satirized Opera and its structure, but magically glorifying it along the way. Unlike other productions, SEASONS didn’t try to be great. It simply wanted to tell a story and entertain. Through its simplicity, it consequently hit the mark. Like the addicting telenovelas of our Primetime Bida and Dramarama sa Hapon, SEASONS proved itself as captivating, tear-jerking, entertaining and close to home. This is a new language for Opera, the kind of Opera that we need!

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trialbyjuryFloy Quinto’s TRIAL BY JURY followed suit in its hilarity and exaggerated sensibilities. It is a fun and thrilling watch. Quintos managed to stage Gilbert & Sullivan’s one act comic-opera at the RCBC auditorium to an-almost telenovelic rendering. Its plot is ludicrous, but its characters behaved as if the events were perfectly reasonable. This narrative technique satirizes the justice system as it aimed at hypocrisy among those in authority, as well as the base motives of supposedly respectable people and institutions. And did I mention how charming and sexually regal Nazer Salcedo here was?

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Philippine Opera Company’s MAD ABOUT MOZART is an unconventional musical/opera revue of the works of the eccentric, yet talented composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Though a relatively minimal production, this presented a crispier look at Mozart’s work through a seductive, pipping hot rendition of Mozart’s classics.

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triplethreatVincent de Jesus’ TRIPLE THREATS. Demented. Delightful. Deranged. These title adjectives perfectly describe that night of tribute for composer/lyricist, Vincent de Jesus. Finally, the CCP has opened its stage to little night of de Jesus’ music. To say that it was entirely delightful is arguable. See, de Jesus is also known for his wrist-slashing songs. He could be our own Adele — the depressed, dismal and daunted composer for our achy-breaky hearts. And on that night, we celebrated de Jesus’ talent, and cried to his gloomy songs. In almost 3 hours and a half, we  journeyed with him from his early years as a composer for the stage, to his big break in television and film. It was a little night of big stars and huge emotions that you will always remember.

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MG_0928-1024x681Concertus Manila’s COOKIN’ NANTA – was 1.5 hours of pasted smiles, happy cheers and thunderous applauses. COOKIN’ may have had dismissed the essence of spoken words on stage, but hey, its message still reached out to Filipino audience through a symphony of onomatopoeic synchrony, timeless humor and amazing stunts!

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Philippine Opera Company’s ANG BAGONG HARANA –  glued me on an orchestra seat and blinded me to the tiniest note as I listened to what the POC has to offer. Every tone that filled the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium was an instant #Throwback. It opened with a suite of Filipino Children songs – just but right to start from a child’s eye. It ends with the most heartfelt finale I’ve seen in years. I’ve cried so many times. Everything on stage was a reminder that we have a culture that we can look back to, and carry with us as we go forward. The Philippine Opera Company has once again proved that our culture is something that we can be proud of, and it is only through our conscious effort can we push forth its glory once more.

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Honorable Mentions: (click the title to view my individual reviews)
Resort World Manila’s SOUTH PACIFIC – THE CONCERT
Jesse Lucas and Maningning Miclat’s GINUGUNITA KITA

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DSC0388f-1024x680Red Turnip Theater’s TIME STANDS STILL could not be an easy watch, but with its careful direction it delicately disentangled the complexities of its characters. Director Rem Zamora established a feel of passive comfort and appreciative convention to polarize the central character’s ongoing dilemmas. He connected a steady flow between episodes through visual projections (designed beautifully by GA Fallarme), constructing a sensible interconnectedness among scenes of varying issues. As Margulies’ complex material unraveled under the stage lights, Zamora managed to present its clear arguments on romance, contentment, purpose and being.

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PETA’s ARBOL DE FUEGO – PETA’s triumphant adaptation of Anton Chekov’s THE CHERRY ORCHARD was a must-see. Rody Vera’s ARBOL DE FUEGO engaged the audiences with a familiar delight of a milieu that was quite detached, yet still close to home. With a brave cast and stunning performances, PETA once again offered the magic and blessing that can only be Theater!

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  1. Tanghalang Pilipino’s JUEGO DE PELIGRO. This local adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ Les Liasons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) stuned the Filipino audiences with the power of language, performance and narrative. Shamaine Centera-Buencamino shone as the scheming old-country socialite, while Arnold Reyes brandished this production with his seductive charm and irresistible presence. Director Tuxqs Rutaquio offered a picturesque experience as we revisit our personal histories through Elmer Gatchalian’s compelling translation.

 

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Honorable Mentions (click the titles to view my individual reviews):
Trumpett’s THE HORSE AND HIS BOY
Actor Actor’s VENUS IN FUR
PETA’s NOLI AT FILI DEKADA DOS MIL
Rep Phil’s RUN FOR YOUR WIFE
Red Turnip’s 33 VARIATIONS
Actor Actor’s THE NORMAL HEART
Bit by Bit Company’s GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

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DSC0606-680x1024SI MARIA ISABELLA AT ANG GURYON NG MGA TALA. Eljay Deldoc’s entry for this year’s Virgin Labfest stuck the chords so perfectly as it offered the delight that only live theater can give. It is story about blind passion and unrequited love. Now you’re listening. It explores how life can still prove its worth, despite the continuing failures, and VLF audiences didn’t leave the theater house without tears. This mini-production had proved itself bigger than its form, as it gave the VLF audiences a collage of visual delights through a heartfelt narrative and powerful perfomances. Watch out for next year’s VLF Revisited, and don’t miss the chance to join MARIA ISABELLA as she journeys again.

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HINTAYAN NG LANGIT was an easy like in Virgin Labfest. It was a romantic-comedy about two people who had wounded each other in the past, had nursed their wounds for years, only to find each other in an unlikely, yet inevitable, rendezvous. It is witty, straightforward, hilarious and (most of the time) bittersweet. It’s the ultimate #Hugot for me this year. And did I mention that it comes with wonderful and endearing performances by its two main cast? Real-life power couple Edna Vida and Nonoy Froilan graced the CCP stage after many years of being just behind the scene as Lisang and Manolo. Spoken-word-artist and playwright, Juan Miguel Severo’s bittersweet remembrance of a love never forgotten is something worth listening to. Director Raffy Tejada orchestrated Severo’s story through a minimal, unlikely set – which will make you understand how it is to be dead and still be so alive. HINTAYAN will also be part of next year’s VLF Revisited. Don’t, don’t miss it. PS. Bring extra tissues.

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normal_photo_1_28229Artist Playground’s THE RIDDLE OF THE SPHINX is a play about two strangers exploring the diverse viewpoints regarding the intricacies of a human being, the relationship dynamics of a man and a woman and the fundamentals of cultural imprinting through a game that they played while waiting for the buses that will take them to their destinations. The Riddle of the Sphinx is a play beautifully written but probably, was never given the proper limelight that it deserves. Written by Eugenio Deriada in English and translated to Filipino by Jim Bergado, this small production went beyond smart expectations.Director Roeder Camanag beautifully choreographs myth, legends and the story of man through stage movements and wonderful synchrony. Actors Ace Urieta and Sheila Espina marveled the audience in the newly opened LITTLE ROOM UPSTAIRS with their gripping performances and undeniable presence as The Young Man and The Young Woman.  I will never forget this one.

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Honorable Mentions:
Maynard Manasala’s DALAWANG GABI
Herlyn Gail Alegre’s HULING HULI
Eljay Deldoc’s ANG GOLDFISH NI PROF. DIMAANDAL
Kevin Tabora’s MAPAGBIRONG HAPLOS

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mabiningmandirigmaTangahalang Pilipino’s MABINING MANDIRIGMA. First things first: I still don’t get why TP used a female actor to portray the title role. There should still be something in there; the gender-crossing, I mean. Like Mary Martin doing Peter Pan in Broadway, or Divine as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. If someone here knows why, please let me know. But having said that, this musical is a love-it-or-hate-it. As for me – I loved it. As TP risked all chances to produce a steam punk musical about the Sublime Paralytic, it offered us a new look at our history without dismissing interesting facts and depressing realities. MABINING MANDIRIGMA was a new musical that surprised us as it took pride in its creativity and form. Needless to say, that I got a glimpse of Broadway this-and-that (Les Miz, Wicked, Peter Pan, etc.), but I couldn’t care less. Tangahalang Pilipino took such risk, and the experience was all worth while. I heard that TP’s doing a re-run of MABINI next year. Don’t miss it. Watch it. Sing with it. And then, learn.

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11882391_1009646982400566_1929456515882382809_o9 Works Theatrical’s LA CAGE AUX FOLLES comes with themes that go beyond our revolution for identity. With it is a story that argues equality in almost everything; even in parenthood. It still lives, because in its characters, we see ourselves, our mothers, fathers and friends. We laugh at the jokes and nuances, because, most of the time, we laugh at ourselves. 9 Works Theatrical sustained its original magic under the direction of Robbie Guevarra and the incredible talent of it’s two main leads. Audie Gemora experiments, deconstructs, yet wondrously delivers. His “I Am What I Am” becomes a painful aria of a rejected parent, a pained man, yet still maintained the same blooming pride that we know. This re-interpretation makes the experience more appealing, and undoubtedly closer to home. Michael de Mesa controlled his heavy scenes with just a raise of an eyebrow, a flick of a pinkie or a slight sway in a waltz. Here, de Mesa gave off one of the most difficult roles as a man torn between his son and his partner.

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Dalanghita Production’s KUNG PAANO AKO NAGING LEADING LADY THE MUSICAL opened to sad, but truthful reviews. In spite these, Dalanghita still moved forth and continued, even offering another re-run on the same year. I have to admit, I have my own reservations about this musical. One reasonable point for argument was the writer’s choice to put the Kayumanggilas in a bad light. Its post-colonial stance was quite hurting, however, truthful. You can read my review here if you want to knowKPANLL more. But as Dalanghita grew its audiences, the show eventually shone with the help of its amazing cast. Ms. Bituin Escalante, Ms. Frenchie Dy, Kim Molina, Menchu Lauchenco-Yulo and Hans Eckstein led an ensemble of equally amazing talents. And did I mention how Vincent de Jesus’ wonderful repertoire enveloped us in varying emotions. KPANLL The Musical may have had problems in its adaptation — over-translating its original simple themes, but it was the kind of musical that called to big Filipino crowds. Since PETA’s CAREDIVAS and RAK OF AEGIS, we had another musical that called to a great many followers and audiences. That in itself is a feat, this year.

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Honorable Mentions: (click the titles to view my individual reviews)
Atlantis’ BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY
Concertus Manila’s SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
PETA’s re-run of MGA KWENTO NI LOLA BASYANG
RW’s re-run of BITUING WALANG NINGNING THE MUSICAL

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So there you have it, dear Jellicle Readers and Listeners. It was a year of, mostly, good and promising shows. Philippine Theater is moving forth and it is ready to conquer more in 2016.

Cheers to another year of fresh shows, new delights, more audiences and greater transformations!

Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s continue to be “beautifully confident with a heart!”

Mabuhay ang Philippine Performing Arts!
Mehel ke keyeng lehet!

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Special thanks to the following photographers for the wonderful performance photos:
Mr. Erickson dela Cruz
Ms. Erica Feliz Marquez-Jacinto
Mr. Jaypee Maristaza
Ms. Trixie Dauz
Mr. Arnie Alesna
Mr. Axl Guinto

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Tags : featureyear-end
Orly S. Agawin

The author Orly S. Agawin

Orly has been writing for The Jellicle Blog since 2008. He is a training and development consultant by day and an art enthusiast by night. He lives in Parañaque with his mom.

3 Comments

  1. Your blog is looking so good!
    Ang Bagong Harana made me cry. I was embarassed at first, because I pride myself in being always composed, but then I realized I shouldn’t be in the face of something that tugs at all the beautiful heartstrings of what makes a Filipino a true Filipino.
    More power with your blog. May 2016 be so much more grander for you, Jellicle Blog, and the Arts & Culture in the Philippines!

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