The silver age
CHASING TOFF - Christopher De Venecia () - July 18, 2011 - 12:00am

There was something magical about the recent press conference held at the Casino Espanol in the streets of Old Manila that launched the 25th season of Tanghalang Pilipino, the resident theater company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). 

It’s a known fact in the industry that Tanghalang Pilipino, or TP, has mounted some of the finest and most original work on the local theater scene. Founded in 1987 to promote material that is rooted in centuries-old Filipino culture and history while being responsive to evolving contemporary society, their shows have been so celebrated and well received by art critics and aficionados that in terms of quality, they could quite possibly give re-imagined imports or copycats a run for their money. Hello, Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah Ze Muzikal! Also, its recent show Tatlong Mariya racked up awards at the recent Gawad-Buhay Awards, held at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino in CCP.

So to continue its winning streak, TP retrieves a jewel of a play from its historical compendium that celebrates both the vast terrains of Juan de la Cruz’s human experience and cultural conscientiousness, all in honor of Rizal’s 150th birthday. Noli Me Tangere, the Musical, which stars actors Mark Bautista and Gian Magdangal alternating for the role of Crisostomo Ibarra, and Cris Villongco as Maria Clara is adapted for the stage by Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature. This is co-presented by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

Ryan Cayabyab weaves the score to the show, crystallized in several rousing ballads that Magdangal, Bautista and Villongco performed at the press con. National Artist for Theater Design Salvador Bernal will be crafting the costumes for the play and Audie Gemora will be helming the show as director with his fresh play-within-a-play spin to Rizal’s magnum opus. Noli Me Tangere opens on Aug. 5 at the CCP Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (Little Theater).

Next up is a production that showcases the talent and versatility of TP’s Actors Company – an entity whose ranks have included John Arcilla, Roeder Camanag, and husband and wife Noni and Shamaine Buencamino. The show, A Tony Perez Perspective, will feature three of the playwright’s most prolific and outstanding work that represent various phases in his career. Said to dissect the Filipino psyche, Perez’s plays have dealt with adult themes such as intense love, betrayal, separation, compassion, poverty, birth and death — among which are Bombita, Sierra Lakes, and Nobyembre, Noong Akala Ko’y Mahal Kita. The show will run from Sept. 30 to Oct. 23 at the CCP Tanghalang Huseng Batute and will guest star the likes of Bodie Cruz of GMA-7.

Shamaine Buencamino as Josephine Bracken

The Emperor’s New Clothes or D’ Emperor as director and TP Actors Company head Riki Benedicto puts it, will be an adaptation of the beloved children’s story by Hans Christian Andersen. George de Jesus III does a Filipino stage adaptation, with accompanying original music by Jeff Hernandez. This will be Benedicto’s directorial debut as he announced that he will be setting it in the modern fashion world filled with haute couture. Dialogue in the local vernacular will be spliced with an English score and according to Benedicto, a magic show will be incorporated somewhere in between. Watch out for a sartorial number from the closet of Tessa Prieto Valdes. D’ Emperor will premiere at the CCP Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino on Nov. 8.

Provocative is the theme of TP’s most thrilling play yet. The show is Walang Kukurap, a play that blurs the line between reality and fiction as it reveals the shady politics and unethical business practices so prevalent in society today. Based on the findings of artist-researchers as well as first-hand testimony from government whistle-blowers and anonymous syndicate insiders, director Chris Millado creates a mind-blowing analysis of graft and corruption in the government by combining traditional theatre with live interviews and unscripted performances. The show will run from Nov. 8 to 20.

Finally, the TP season culminates with Larawan, the classic tale of pre-World War II Manila written by National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin. An English version was recently performed by Repertory Philippines starring Ana Abad Santos and Liesl Batucan as feuding sisters Candida and Paula respectively. The latter, alongside Noni Buencamino, performed excerpts of TP’s forthcoming version at the press con.

The show will be directed by multi-awarded playwright and director Floy Quintos who will plead tri-lingual in incorporating all of Tagalog, English and Spanish to the said piece. The show will also star ’60s legends Helen Gamboa and Gina Pareno as sisters Paula and Candida, following the ranks of Daisy Avellana and Naty Rogers, Celeste Legaspi and Zsa Zsa Padilla, and even Mikee Conjuangco and Dawn Zulueta who once played the legendary sisters. Larawan will open in February of next year.

TP alumnus Roeder Camanag lightens the mood with a rendition of Sitsiritsit Alibangbang.

Unfortunately, while TP has garnered recent box-office success with Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah Ze Muzikal, it still needs wider theater patronage as shared by board members Tony Boy Cojuangco and Tessa Prieto-Valdes at the recent press con, and it continues to be some sort of unexplored territory to the GLEE generation because of their affinity and predilection to Western musical theater. I, being a disciple of that generation, came to the press con curious but with eyes wide open and found myself wonderfully floored by the incredible performances! After witnessing homegrown Filipino talent essentially do their thing, I walked away victorious, with a newfound passion, curiosity and zest for the talented Juan de la Cruz and original Filipino work.

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For more theater, visit or follow me on Twitter: imcalledtoffee.

TV actor and baritone John Arcilla sings an excerpt from El Fili.

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