Magsimula Ka brings theater to the masses
Dot Ramos Balasbas-Gancayco (The Philippine Star) - December 4, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Given the worldwide reputation of the Filipino in the arts, it has become a cliché to say that we are a country with a surfeit of musically talented citizens ñ be it singers, composers, and musical arrangers. Yet, sadly, a close scrutiny of the Philippine entertainment industry would reveal that it is the foreign acts that persistently dominate the big concert scene and foreign works that control the airwaves.

Even foreign stage musicales, despite the expensive, even exorbitant, intellectual property rights that have to be satisfied before one could be shown locally, have not been a hindrance for the production of Broadway shows here.

Although I am one of those Filipinos who will not think twice about watching quality foreign acts or stage productions, I almost always am bothered by the thousands and thousands of dollars in honoraria that go to non-local talents while our own outstanding but poor Filipino artists get meager pay and, worse, are constantly out of work.

Hence, when several Rotary District 3780 clubs banded together to stage one night of the original Filipino musicale Magsimula Ka at the Music Museum, I went out of my way, with some dear U.P. College of Law friends in tow, to show all-out support.

Magsimula Ka is a revival of the original ë80s Pinoy pop musicale (which this writer almost joined about 20 years ago were it not for a mega-authoritarian set of parents, hahaha!) that revolves mainly around a young man (and his friends) bent on joining a singing contest and pursuing his interests in music, despite the proscriptions of a strict father. The original production jumpstarted the careers, as performing artists, of Robert Seña, Isay Alvarez and Tricia Amper, now the producers of the revival. Set during the 1980s, it is a play for all ages as it targets the youth with all their ideals, ambitions and triumphs, with references to the now seemingly crazy Pinoy pop culture then. The young of today will identify with the lead characters and ask of themselves what will become of them. The young of yesterday will look back, reminisce and wonder at what they could have become had they followed another path ñ the one they really wanted to take.

The cast is a tour de force combination of established and budding artists who do not only sing but can also dance and act as well. Ciara Sotto, as the love interest of lead actor Poppert Bernadas, is beautiful and a revelation in her dancing prowess. Sheng Belmonte (the nanny) and Jerald Napoles (the nannyís boyfriend) almost always stole the show, had perfect comic timing and were amazing performers. Veterans Sherwin Sozon and Ana Feleo were a cut above the rest with their magnificent voices and acting. Andy Bais had short but wonderful appearances. Sophia Reyes who played the lead actorís younger sister was most consistent, natural and fit her role to a T. Although the script could have been tightened by some minutes by deleting some unnecessary lines (especially during the heavier scenes) and shortening some songs, and in spite of the few technical glitches, I give the direction and choreography an outstanding mark.

I congratulate Isay Alvarez as the producer and her husband Robert Seña, the director, for daring to do this musical notwithstanding the many difficulties. I share with them the dream to bring theater to the masses, for Filipinos to consider stage plays the way they regard movies.

I believe in their dream to promote our very own. . .to encourage our writers and composers to create, and to give more chances to Filipino artists to express their exceptional talent.

(Today is the last play date of Magsimula Ka at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. For tickets call, Ticketworld 891-9999 or Spotlight Artists Centre 899-8089.

Email author at or text 09275000833.]

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