WHEN A PLAY EVOLVES INTO A MUSICAL
by Pablo A. Tariman
The media got a special preview of Bulwagang Gantimpala’s “Kanser@35 The Musical” yesterday at the AFP Theater with generally positive notices for its music written by Jed Balsamo.
For one, the music is easy to the ear with spoken parts thrown in and with the chorus (mostly members of Viva Voce) blending with the soloists (the main characters) with nary an effort.
With the heroic voice of Pilosopong Tasyo (superbly sang and acted by Bodjie Pascua) giving proper introduction to the musical, you are gently ushered into a new work adopted from Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere by playwright Jomar Flores.
Vocally speaking, Pascua and the Tinyente Guevara of Roby Malubay dominated the first part with the Crisostomo Ibarra of Jacob Benedicto coming in with less dramatic vocal impact fit for the lead role.
Visually, Benedicto is a towering figure but the voice did not quite blend with the rest of the cast especially in the ensemble singing with Padre Salvi of Carlo Manalac, the Padre Damaso of Carlo Angelo Falcis and specially with the excellent Maria Clara of Myramae Meneses.
But probably warmed up after the first act, Benedicto shone in the last part with his character’s parting duet with Maria Clara (Meneses) and with some passionate acting finally getting into his singing.
The Crispin and Basilio tandem of Albert Daniel Silos and Angelo Gabriel Ilustre had poignant moments and the kids could sing and how.
The Dona Victorina of Queen Mia and the Consolacion of Meldea Flor Chua portrayed caricature equivalents of their roles and it was good for perking up the scenes
The solo part of Meneses in the picnic scene is probably the musical’s best moment and after you heard it, you realize the big promise of this musical.
Abroad, a new musical is tested with initial performances in minor venues and later revised based on its initial feedback. When it runs in the bigger venues, the minor hitches are done with and the new work gets a far more receptive audiences.
With its good staging and a portable production design, the musical can indeed be transported to various venues with its good production elements intact.
As what one watched was just a preview, one could not elaborate on how well the other characters projected. As it is a musical, one was naturally initially inclined to judge on the basis of vocal qualities of the cast.
To be sure, a play like Bulwagang Gantimpala’s production of “Kanser” is pretty much easy to digest with all the characters already known to adult audiences who have working knowledge of the contents of Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere.”
After 35 years in the local theater circuit and with marketing focused in schools, the new musical should draw its own new audiences with a fresh look into the Rizal novel.
As its straight play version was written for chamber theater (with CCP Bulwagang Huse Batute as its original venue), “Kanser@35 The Musical” has moved to a bigger venue with a cast reduced to soloists (for its main characters) and the ensemble as members of the chorus.
The AFP Theater inside Camp Aguinaldo was a fairly good venue for the musical which ran for two hours.
But as it begins its run starting today (August 28) at the AFP Theater, young audiences should not overlook the significance of the title of the musical.
“Kanser” refers to the recurring social illness during Rizal’s time and indeed, that same social malady is even more inherent and malignant in the present dispensation.
The crocodile that figures in the picnic scene might as well symbolize public servants lured by instant wealth by the notorious Janet Napoles; it is also a fitting symbol of corruption in high places and the beginning of the revolution that ends the musical should make us think on how to save this republic from recurring social cancer.
Director Frannie Zamora managed to give the musical its rightful focus and the music did not detract from the timeless message of the Rizal novel.
What Rizal observed in his novel is still pretty much true in contemporary politics when he wrote thus: “I can concede that the government has no knowledge of the people, but I believe the people know less of the government. There are useless officials, evil, if you like, but there are also good ones, and these are not able to accomplish anything because they encounter an inert mass, the population that takes little part in matters that concern them.”
(“Kanser@35, The Musical” will be performed at the AFP Theater in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City starting today Aug. 28 to 29 (9 a.m., 12 noon and 3 p.m.); at Star Theater in Star City, Pasay City, on Sept. 4 (9 a.m., 12 noon an 3 p.m.); and Cinema 3 SM Southmall, Las Piñas City, on Sept. 11 to 12 (11 a.m. and 2 p.m.).Call 9985622/8720261 or text 0921-2513733; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.facebook.com/gantimpala.)