Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Roller coasters and musical theater

By Lea Salonga
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Original Article can be found HERE

I LOVE a good roller-coaster ride.

Last Christmas, my family went on an outing to Disneyland, the happiest place on earth. Later in the day, once my daughter had fallen asleep, Rob and I decided to ride on California Screamin' the huge roller coaster at California Adventure.

The ride began by being shot like a cannonball towards the first rise, only to be followed by numerous twists, turns and dives. The sheer speed and force wracked our bodies every which way for the duration of the ride. Although the ride can feel like several hours, it only lasted for about a minute.

It was exhilarating to be sure, and at its conclusion we found ourselves uttering these three magical words: Let's go again!

Built to code

It was great not having to worry. The coaster was built to code, adherent to stringent building regulations, as well as constructed with painstaking attention to detail under the strictest supervision. I knew that nothing would go wrong, which then gave me the freedom to enjoy the ride to its fullest. Sure enough, California Screamin' did not in any way disappoint.

It was similar to watching musical theater.

More than just a few times, I've been sorely disappointed by mediocre to lackluster performances: flat acting, bad singing and a complete absence of skill.

Thankfully, last Sunday, that wasn't the case. I headed off to RCBC Plaza to watch the final performance of Atlantis Productions' "Next to Normal." I had previously seen this show on Broadway the day before it won three 2009 Tony Awards.

I was a wreck at the end of the Broadway performance, and anticipated the same here.

The actors in the Manila production, I've either worked with or watched over the years, so I knew that I wouldn't be thrown by a bad note or hammy acting.

Newcomer Markki Stroem had a lovely singing voice and great stage presence as Henry. Bea Garcia as Natalie was a volatile bottle of angst and it was beautiful watching her explode.

Felix Rivera was ever reliable, maintaining full vocal and emotional control as Gabe. And although I would never presume Jake Macapagal to be a rock star, that was exactly what he projected-neon lights, high pitched screams and all.

Incredible actors

The emotional center of "Next to Normal" fell in the hands of two incredible actors: Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo and Jett Pangan.

I always expect Menchu to be amazing. After witnessing her transformations into Eva Peron in "Evita" and Mrs. Lovett in "Sweeney Todd," I knew that Diana's character would be a perfect fit for Menchu's level of skill. She was in great voice, whether she used her sweet soprano or a full belt, and fit Diana like a glove.

Jett Pangan is well known as the frontman of The Dawn, a day job that has him jumping about on stage, a veritable whirling dervish performing for a mad, screaming, often sweaty crowd. As Dan however, he was always the positive presence, the calm amid the storms, the rod to everyone's wild bolts of lightning.


Although at the beginning of the show Diana made reference to her keeping all the plates spinning, it was actually Dan who did, trying to keep his entire family from crashing to the floor. At the end of the musical when he finally broke down, no longer able to hold it all together, it was heartbreaking and devastating to watch. Without a doubt, Jett is one of the finest musical leading men to grace the Philippine stage, and I look forward to many more of his appearances.

I enjoyed this production more than when I first saw it, the music more familiar than it was two years ago. I must give credit to the people behind the scenes: Bobby Garcia's masterful direction, Chari Arespacochaga's clever musical staging, the great musicians led by Ceejay Javier and finally a sound system that did not make me want to strangle the sound person in charge.

This is the best production Atlantis has presented in its many years of producing theater-not with a mammoth set, a huge cast, and racks of elaborate costumes, but with simplicity and directness, and a cast of six wonderful actors whose sole purpose was to tell a good story.

In short, this show was built to code. And everyone in that audibly sobbing audience just sat back and enjoyed it. Guys, let's go again.

Catch Atlantis Productions' NEXT TO NORMAL (THE REPEAT)
on October 15, 2011 / Sat / 2PM @ RCBC 

Contact Us:
Onay Sales (0918.536.2116)
RC Marzan (0922.888.5348)
Borgy Marzan (0922.888.5344)
email: watchplays@yahoo.com

Seat Plan can be viewed here:



No comments:

Post a Comment