Makin' it rain

On bended knees: Aicelle Santos plays the iconic role of Elsa in Himala: Isang Musikal.

Makin' it rain

Helene Enriquez (The Philippine Star) - January 26, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  Iconic doesn’t even begin to cover it. The 1982 film starring Nora Aunor left audiences haunted for decades to come. How can one person’s baseless claims spark the kind of fanaticism that leads to the upheaval of an entire town — even an entire country? (We seem to find ourselves asking that same question a lot nowadays, eh?) For something Ricky Lee first wrote in 1976, the dystopia of Cupang is as relevant as ever. Needless to say, the restaging of Himala: Isang Musikal is a big, big deal.

What makes it an even bigger deal? Himala: Isang Musikal is being brought to us in a collaboration between 9Works Theatrical and The Sandbox Collective, which is finally back after too long a hiatus. You might remember them for their provocative and experimental productions like Dani Girl, The Imaginarium and No Filter. Two years later, they’re making a comeback with nothing less than the quintessential Filipino musical. “It’s time. There’s a new generation that needs to see Himala,” says director Ed Lacson Jr. “The ones who’ve already seen (Himala) will always remember it as they first saw it. This is for those who haven’t seen it.”

Family woes: Aside from obvious religious themes, Himala: Isang Musikal also highlights Elsa's relationship with her mom Aling Saling (played by Bituin Escalante).

Stepping into the big shoes of Nora Aunor as Elsa, the tragic faith healer of Cupang, is Awit-Awardee Aicelle Santos (Rak of Aegis, Manila sa Kuko ng Liwanag). By her side are Elsa’s childhood friends Chayong, played by Neomi Gonzales, and former prostitute Nimia, played by Kakki Teodoro. Rounding out the impressive cast are Bituin Escalante as Aling Saling, Elsa’s mother, Sandino Martin as Pilo, Chayong’s former lover, David Ezra as Orly the filmmaker, and Floyd Tena as the town priest.

With a book and lyrics by Ricky Lee, music by Vince DeJesus, direction and set design by Ed Lacson Jr., musical arrangement by Jed Balsamo, lighting design by Barbie Tan-Tiongco, and costume design by Carlo Pagunaling, the upcoming Himala: Isang Musikal proves itself a much anticipated collaboration among the brightest Filipino artists today. Undoubtedly, it’s going to be one of the best Philippine theater experiences going this year.

“After watching, I think they should be bothered,” says Vince DeJesus. “There are so many layers: murder, rape, fanaticism, corruption, greed, principles for sale, immorality — well, whatever immorality means.” For all its complexities, director Ed Lacson Jr. has chosen to render the world of Cupang with the bare essentials: no makeup, no choreography, no lapels, and just a piano for accompaniment. With the stage surrounding the audience on all sides, Himala: Isang Musikal isn’t just “intimate.” It’ll swallow you whole.

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Himala: Isang Musikal will run at the Power MAC Center Spotlight, Circuit Makati from Feb. 10 to March 4. For ticket inquiries, contact 0917-554-5560, 586-7105,, or Ticketworld at 891-9999. Tell us how excited you are with the hashtag #Sandbox9WTHimala

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