Repertory's 'The Sound of Music'
- Marlinda Angbetic Tan () - November 25, 2006 - 12:00am
One of the upsides of staying long in Metro Manila is the possibility of catching a good theatrical presentation, an opera or a concert. I was lucky to have been given tickets by my good friend - the Cebuano theater impresario Hendri Go - to the second night of "The Sound of Music," now showing at Rep's Globe Theater at Onstage, Greenbelt 1 until December 17, 2006.

My son, Allen, and his wife, Jennifer, have fond memories of the movie version so they were curious as to whether this was first a Broadway play before it became a movie. Clue: music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II with libretto by Howard Lindsay & Russell Crouse as suggested by "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers." Of course, it was an original Broadway play before Hollywood saw the box office possibilities of the work that eventually became one of Hollywood's greatest moneymakers.

We sat down to a full house - from grandparents to little ones. Director Baby Barredo (who played Maria Rainer in Rep's 1975 &1980 productions) herself went up to the back to watch the show. We caught sight of stage actor Jim Paoleli (his daughter was playing Liesl that night), world-class violinist Romy Rogoff (onstage were wife Cherie Gil as the Baroness and daughter Bianca as Louisa von Trapp) and top-notch dermatologist Dr. Sylvia Jacinto-Jamora (mother of my good friend Jenny, a young veteran actress essaying several roles per performance).

Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo was Maria Rainer (alternating with Monique Wilson- Marta von Trapp in the 1980 production, and Liesl Batucan) with Audie Gemora as Capt. Von Trapp (alternating with my good friend Michael Williams). Mother Abbess was opera singer Camille Lopez-Molina (alternating with Pinky Marquez, sister of our Cebu Arts Council prexy Petite Marquez-Garcia). Baroness Elsa Schraeder was portrayed by oozing-with-elegance Cherie Gil (alternating with actress-singer Rina Reyes who started her theater stint playing Liesl in Met's "Sound of Music," now with her daughter as a von Trapp kid, and noted stage actress Jennie Nuyda).

Heavy names take on minor but nonetheless vital roles: Joy Virata as the von Trapp housekeeper Frau Schmidt and as Sister Margaretta, Miguel Faustmann as the wily but lovable Max Detweiler, Bonggoy Manahan as alternate Detweiler and as Franz, the von Trapp butler (alternating with Robie Zialcita).

Liesl that night was Vanessa Paoleli (alternating with Criselda Consunji and Nicole Yulo - Menchu's daughter) while Rolf Gruber was played by Aliw awardee Irra Cenina (alternating with Jaime Barcelon, Topper Fabregas and JM Rodriguez).

When curtains went up to reveal the Nonnberg Abbey with the nuns singing a capella the prelude hymn, we got goose bumps by the sheer mellifluousness of their pure classical rendition. That opening number was a harbinger of more wonderful musical numbers throughout the 2-hour show. The live orchestra accompaniment spelled a lot of difference between an amateur presentation and a professional musicale. Albeit, some fine- tuning was still needed to be done between some singers and the musicians that is the way musicales are, anywhere - even in the most established repertory theaters.

Menchu and Audie, as usual, displayed their singing expertise, as well as their undeniable chemistry that made the audience swoon during the love scenes. It is notable that they were Liesl and Rolf, the young lovers, in the 1980 Rep production. Both are now formidable personalities in Philippine legitimate theatre, just like international star Leah Salonga who played Marta in the same production.

The children, this time, are equally lovable and as astoundingly talented - all three batches of them! Baby Barredo, Rep's President & Artistic Director, predicted "Every new generation brings forth new talent. Talent is a natural resource with which the Philippines is abundantly endowed. But it has to be discovered and nurtured and given a chance to bloom. That is our job in the Repertory Philippines - and the job of all theater companies in the country - to discover it, to teach and nurture it, and to give it a chance to reach its greatest potential."

The spirited performances of beloved tunes like "Do-Re-Mi," "My Favorite Things" and "Lonely Goatherd" highlighted the children's potentials and their in-born talents in dancing, singing and acting. As usual, the little ones tended to upstage the rest, just like what would have happened in the time of Leah and Monique.

As a stage performer, I truly appreciate the discipline and demands of playing multiple roles in a single production. One must know one's cues like the back of one's hand, peel off/put on costumes fast and unobtrusively, literally change one's character in a blink, memorize "unrelated" lines/songs, change make-up/hairstyle AND remain in command at all times. That is why I commend ensemble members who have multiple roles like Jenny Jamora - postulant, party guest, Fraulein Schweiger and Baroness Elberfeld (Phew! No wonder she is an Aliw Award nominee for best actress!) and Teenee Chan - postulant, Mrs. Zeller and Herwegen Trio singer.

Kudos goes to the production staff for a smooth and quick transition of sets, mood and costumes. Take a bow, Lito Borromeo - set & lights designer, Edgar San Diego - costume designer, Adolfo Lasin - scenic artist, Ben Zacarias - set executioner, Marin Esteva - lighting designer. And Rep's veteran production maestro who is my good friend Dodo Lim - the technical director.

Be sure to catch a performance of Repertory Philippines' "Sound of Music" if only to keep you singing long after you have left the theater.

ADOLFO LASIN ALIW AWARD ALTERNATING ARTISTIC DIRECTOR CHERIE GIL LIESL MARIA RAINER REPERTORY PHILIPPINES SOUND OF MUSIC TRAPP
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