Celeste and the MUSICAT

DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda -
Her fans may wonder when Celeste Legaspi, unquestionably one of the few true divas of Philippine music, would revisit the world to which she once lent her consummate brand of entertainment. The truth of the matter is, however, she has never really left it. While her performances in the live-entertainment scene may have become even rarer than seeing a Tarsier in the forest, she, along with a band of friends, continues to bring original and engaging entertainment for public consumption through Musical Theater Philippines or MUSICAT.

MUSICAT is, of course, the company that has brought to the Philippine theater stage such memorable productions as Katy!; Kenkoy Loves Rosing ; Alikabok; Sino Ka Ba, Jose Rizal?; Larawan The Musical and Saranggola ni Pepe. These were borne out of collaborations with some of the finest artists in the country, including Ryan Cayabyab, Nonoy Gallardo, Noel Balmaceda, Boy Noriega, Louie Ocampo and National Artist Nick Joaquin and Rolando Tinio.

Candor having always been one of her signature strengths, Celeste not surprisingly is the first to say that, except for a couple of its productions, "Mass consumption is still something that we would like to see happen to our output."

She says further, "We still encounter some measure of resistance – from the general theater audience inclined to regard imported theater pieces as superior to homegrown material, which of course is not true; to the companies whose sponsorship you seek so that you can further develop original Philippine theater, and their resistance is also rooted in a similar colonial mentality. They have doubts that you’ll find an audience out there for your productions."

It’s a classic chicken-or-egg situation that leave people championing Philippine theater frustrated. Indeed, properly and effectively marketing an original Filipino theater production, the kind that would generate widespread awareness and interest, demands the kind of financial backing that alas most companies are hesitant to commit to.

Fortunately, Musicat has had several occasions to prove that such resistance is grossly misplaced – Katy!, Larawan and Alikabok turned out to be such occasions – strengthening the resolve Celeste, Girlie Rodis and the other less-than-high-profile personalities behind the theater company to keep the faith. "From our end, we know that we also have a lot of work before us, particularly in successfully marketing our productions," says Girlie. "We’re working toward that goal."

Thus, on Nov. 20, Musicat is mounting a two-hour concert titled Musicat Music at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). Composed of excerpts from the company’s most memorable musicals, the concert gathers some of the most formidable players in the entertainment industry, including Regine Velasquez and Ogie Alcasid, plus Nonoy Zuniga, Rachel Alejandro, Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski, Ricky Davao, Jeffrey Hidalgo and Mitch Valdes. And, yes, Celeste will be making one of her rare live performances in a duet with Mitch in a Katy! suite that includes the heart-rending Ang Mundo’y Entablado and Minsan ang Minahal ay Ako. The other performers in the concert are Roy Rolloda, Sam Concepcion, Eugene Villaluz, Carla Martinez, Kakai Bautista, Tekla Ordonez, Noel Rayos and many more.

Celeste says that Musicat Music is part of the company’s efforts to raise badly needed fund for its 2003 productions, in particular the re-staging of Alikabok and a completely new production of Katy! that will open at the CCP on October 2003. "We hope that this concert will get the ball rolling, providing seed money for our upcoming presentations," says Celeste. "Katy!, in fact, would be totally different from the original production in that it will have a complete and revamped set of costumes, and real production design-which isn’t to knock the 1998 original."

"What we put out at the time was more than good enough, considering what we only had to work on then," adds Celeste, "but we want to give Katy! the treatment we believe it deserves. After all, it has great music wit a great story about a great woman, and so we want to give at the full treatment this time. It’s going to require a lot of money, of course, which it why we’re getting things started with this concert. We hope that through Musicat Music, people will rediscover all these great materials that original Philippine theater has produced."

(Musicat Music goes onstage on Nov. 20, Wednesday, 8 p.m. at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo. Call 7231765, 7217229 or 6870656 for more details.)

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