Storytelling through dance

DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda -

No rain or high water will stop prima ballerina Lisa Macuja from outdoing herself. A dance icon in the Philippines (even elementary school textbooks carry a picture of her among examples of modern-day achievers!), Lisa will celebrate 25 years as a professional ballerina in 2009. Yet, she shows no signs of slowing down or resting on her laurels. On the contrary, she is continuously coming up with fresh and exciting ideas for her company, Ballet Manila, and its mission of bringing ballet closer to the hearts of the Filipino masses.

This holiday, Lisa has decided to give her audience a truly Filipino Christmas ballet. Instead of the traditional classic, The Nutcracker, Ballet Manila will stage an all-original, all-Filipino, all-star collaboration of our very own children’s tales — Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang

“The idea hit me last year while browsing for children’s books at a school fair,” Lisa recounts. “Anvil Publishing had come out with a new collection of Lola Basyang stories as retold by Christine Bellen and I ended up buying every title I could find for my kids. Then the idea hit me — why not interpret them in dance?” What followed was 10 frenzied and intense month of brainstorming sessions and creative collaboration with some of the most brilliant professionals in the performing arts: Ryan Cayabyab, Joey Ayala and Mon Faustino for music; Tony Fabella, Osias Barroso and Lisa herself for choreography, and theater maven Roxanne Lapus for stage direction. Veteran actress Luz Fernandez makes a guest appearance as the irrepressible Lola Basyang, a role she had popularized in both radio and television.

Lisa explains that the three stories were carefully selected for mass appeal and balanced content: Ang Prinsipe ng Mga Ibon, a heartwarming romance; Ang Kapatid ng Tatlong Marya, a fantasy adventure; and the hilarious comedy, Ang Mahiwagang Biyulin. She adds that being an artist himself, her husband, Fred Elizalde is equally excited about the project and had allowed them to use of all the special effects available in the theater.

Knowing Lisa’s adherence to perfectionism and her ardent love for country and the arts, expect no less than a ballet spectacle every Filipino of any age, gender or social status can be proud of. It is truly a tribute to our identity and traditional values as a people. Tatlong Kuwento ni Lola Basyang opens at the Aliw Theater on Dec. 5, with shows running every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until Dec. 14.

Cory the musical

What do outstanding performers Isay Alvarez, Robert Seña, Bobby Martino, Jonjon Briones, Pinky Marquez, Jograd de la Torre, Bituin Escalante, Angelique Lazo, Gigi Posadas and Bimbo Cerrudo have in common? They were newcomers cast in productions directed and written by Nestor Torre. Three of them are again in Torre’s latest project, Cory, with music composed by Lourdes “Bing” Pimentel.

Torre is known for his unconventional style of casting fresh talents in lead roles. Alvarez, Seña, Martino and Briones, who made it to the London production of Miss Saigon, started out as young leads in Magsimula Ka with more than 150 performances. Marquez, played a supporting role in Katy, then played the lead role of the Virgin Mary in Magnificat, with more than 160 performances. Escalante first got noticed in Sino Ka Ba, Jose Rizal. Comedian de la Torre was also in Magsimula Ka, while Lazo was in Awit ni Kadugnung.

Now Alvarez, Seña and Marquez play major roles in Cory which covers the former president’s life from childhood to her inauguration as the 11th president of the Philippines. Others in important roles are Tommy Abuel, Rito Asilo, Andy Bais, Edmund Sicam and Lou Veloso.

Alvarez has the most challenging role of all as Cory; Seña is former President Ferdinand Marcos; Marquez is Imelda Marcos. In the tradition of Torre’s previous shows, he has picked relative newcomers to fill in many important roles. Foremost is Sherwin Sozon in the critical role of the slain martyr Ninoy Aquino. Sozon has always loved music, and took training in classical music. He did an opera written by National Artist Lucrecia Kasilag, Why Flowers Bloom in May. He also appeared in Tsinoy — Kaisa Ka! and Ang Dalawa Niyang Libing.

Now, comes the biggest role of his life. For the past two months, Sozon has been undergoing intensive research and rehearsals to get the nuances of his very important role. 

The rest of the cast have also gone through grueling rehearsal hours, Joseph Cris Domingo, Jasper Joseph Tirad Antoja, Patricia Simone Dauz, 21, Celine Fabie, 24, and Bench Bautista. Hopefully, like their predecessors, these “newbies” will also become excellent performers, worthy additions to the world of entertainment.

Co-presented by Buhay Isang Awit Foundation & The San Miguel Corp., Sen. Manuel Villar, PLDT-Smart Foundation, Mayor Alfredo Lim and ABS-CBN, the musical goes onstage tomorrow, Nov. 29 at 8 p.m.; Nov.30, 3 and 8 p.m.; Dec. 1, 8 p.m.; Jan. 16 to 17, 2009, Meralco Theater. Tickets are available at customer service, Star Mall, EDSA Shaw from P300 to P700 only. For details, call 851-3120.

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