Wednesday, May 25, 2005

to the stage

It’s good to be worlds away from moronic Hollywood crap once in a while. Last weekend I was back to my old love, the theater.

Friday night, I sprinted to the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ (CCP) Little Theater to watch the ballet recital of my nine-year-old niece, Shekanyah Grace. I played the doting uncle to a proudly beaming little niece in a stiff tutu.

Entitled Vive la Danse, the two-night show featured French children’s songs and folk tunes, to which girls (and two boys) danced excitedly. The performance was faulty, what with a riot of shaky arabesques and uncertain pliés. But amateurish recitals are not watched for the performers’ virtuosity. You go there to cheer for a relative or a friend, which was exactly what some members of the audience did, rather overenthusiastically. They hysterically shouted “Bravo” or “That’s my daughter!” or “My daughter is there!” or “We love you Opalyn!” everytime their daughters went onstage. One guy, in an attempt to be funny, even shouted “My daughter’s not there!”

I almost screeched “Who the fuck cares? Go grab your freaking daughters and get the hell out of this theater!” Maybe there should have been a lecture on theater etiquette before the show. If Bobby Garcia were there, he would’ve thrown a tantrum.

I see some promise in Shekanyah’s performance. Although she still dances rather carelessly at times and she still has some pockets of baby fat, she already has the grace and the limberness of a ballerina. She was, in fact, one of the two students who got Distinction when their ballet class was evaluated by an Australian ballet school a few months ago. That means she’ll be flying to Sydney sometime soon for a ballet scholarship. I’m so proud of her.

What bothered me, though, was the speech of their head ballet teacher. Before the recital started, she came out in a micro-mini, showing off her long legs in distractingly white stockings, and sat on a black bench onstage. Reading from a black folder, she said she had asked the Lord to give her her own ballet company because she wouldn’t want her “girls” to be swallowed up by mainstream ballet groups that would make them wear sexy costumes, dance sensual dances, and star in “Dracula, the Ballet.” Then, she led a prayer so that she and her “girls” would be in the right artistic path, or something like that.

If all ballerinas had this mindset, I guess we’d end up with nothing but the ballet version of “The Passion of the Christ.” And then the line between art and religious propaganda would forever be blurred.

Saturday night, I was in RCBC Theater in Makati for Actor’s Actor Inc.’s Once on This Island. After seeing the first scene, I knew that it was going to be a great show. Some familiar theater stalwarts were in the cast and they hinted at a promise of a great performance.

There was Menchu Lauchengo-Yulo (who gave a sensitive portrayal of Ellen in the Manila run of Miss Saigon and who was such a hilarious witch in Trumpets’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), Michael De Mesa (a fine film actor who played Collins with depth in Rent, although his singing leaves much to be desired), Bituin Escalante (her Mimi in Rent was one of the most memorable; who wouldn’t be enthralled with her huge voice?), Bodjie Pascua (any theater person who doesn’t know this veteran thespian must seriously think of changing careers now) Jett Pangan, May Bayot, and other familiar talents with unbelievably soulful voices.

Surprisingly, Jeffrey Hidalgo was part of the cast (unless it was just some guy who looked like him; I didn’t get to buy a souvenir program so I have no way of checking). It wasn’t hard to notice him among the talented cast members. He stuck out like a wad of booger on a glass tabletop. His accent was distracting and he was too boringly plain to essay the role of a handsome and appealing French mulatto. His character came out flat, drab, and uninspiring. His pop singing style, albeit not lacking in control (in fairness to him, he has improved a lot since his That’s Entertainment days), was ill-suited for the character, making one think what on earth Ti Moune found so lovable about him. Whatever German Moreno taught him in his now-defunct inane teen show did not prepare him for the legitimate stage.

(Little bit of trivia: he was in the same ROTC battalion as I was back in college. I remember we used to snicker derisively whenever he would ask permission from our commander to go home early. We thought, since it was a Saturday, he still had to prepare for some Vegas-style, Bellastar-type production number in Saturday Entertainment. The price you have to pay for being one of Kuya Germs’ boys, or gels.)

But Jeffrey was a minor distraction. The fire of the rest of the cast was enough to salvage the show. All throughout the musical, they swung from character to character; did some SM work; became human props; and supported each other on a minimalist stage draped with native bamboo Venetian blinds. The energy never waned, which riveted the audience. The singing was restrained and controlled. Despite the wild dancing and thrashing onstage, their voices, amazingly, still sounded clear, tireless, and powerful.

Still humming the last line of the last number (…that’s why we tell the story…), I came home refreshed that night. I think I would make veering away from idiotic Hollywood rubbish a habit from now on.

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At 12:11 AM, Blogger transience said...

yes, the telly is the asshat's theater. i'm glad you got away.

At 11:38 AM, Blogger slim whale said...

am glad too! jumping up and down.

At 6:04 PM, Blogger rmacapobre said...

french ballet?? im impressed ..

At 6:33 PM, Blogger slim whale said...

yeah, spent the whole night translating the lyrics to my nephew who was sitting beside me. hehe

At 11:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just surfed in. Thanks for watching “Once on This Island” and I’m really glad you enjoyed it. We have a restaging Aug 5-14 still at the RCBC Plaza. We have reduced ticket prices starting at 300 pesos and can offer group discounts. If you need more information, you can contact me, Hendri at 0917 815 5794 or email

At 10:47 AM, Blogger slim whale said...

thanks. i'll see if i could watch it again.


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