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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

May 23, 2015

Peta's Original Musical, 'Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady', Is A Must See, Proof That Local Theatre Is Alive & Well

WE THOROUGLY ENJOYED watching “Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady - the Musical”, currently showing at PETA Theatre. It’s definitely one of the best original Pilipino musicals we’ve ever seen and a sure proof that local theatre is alive and well. We enjoyed more than "Rak of Aegis" which we find so talky. Based on Carlo Vergara’s komiks novel that was turned into a one act play (he’s also the author of “Zsa Zsa Zaturnnaah”), it’s perfect for today’s generation reared on X-Men, The Avengers and other superheroes. The story revolves on two sisters, engaged in sibling rivalry, who get involved with the superheroes of Fuwerza Filipinas and the supervillains of Kayumanggilas. The play is bi-lingual, using both Pilipino and English in the spoken lines as well as in the songs.

The strength of the show lies in the fact that the songs written by Vince de Jesus (also the musical director) are all simply great! We’ve seen too many local musicals where the songs are mostly forgettable, but in this one, we hear songs (a mixture of various musical genres) that can really rival those of foreign musicals, with cleverly written lyrics (“lumaki sa isaw at balut”) and fabulous melody. Many of them are catchy and can stand on their own.

Our favorite is “Kasalanan Ko”, which Frenchie Dy as Mely the Maid sang with much poignancy and conviction after her loved one has died (or so she thought.) The signature theme songs of Fuwerza Filipinas and Kayumanggilas are also both exuberant, brilliant showstoppers.

Another asset is the fantastic lighting design, which really helps keep the show so alive. And then there’s the acting. Everyone is simply splendid. Frenchie Dy is just superb as the older sister who’ll do everything to help her ailing mom and younger sis. We loved her in “Avenue Q” and it’s so nice to see her again on stage giving another outstanding portrayal.

Markki Stroem is also great as the superhero called Leading Man. He truly fits the part as onstage eye candy and his singing is also getting better and better since we last saw him in “Carrie, The Musical”. He and Frenchie were the ones on stage when we saw the play, so we don’t know if their alternates (particularly Bituin Escalante) is anywhere near as good as they are. Like what we said, everyone is fine, but special mention should also be made of Kim Molina as Viva (Mely’s sister who sides with the bad guys), Menchu Yulo as Madre Dios (leader of the Fuwerza Filipinas), Nar Cabico as Senyor Blanko (leader of Kayumanggilas), May Bayot as the mom of Mely and Viva, and the guy who played Henyotic that night.
The choreography is also better than what we’ve seen before in other local productions. The whole thing was beautifully orchestrated by Chris Martinez in his theatre debut. He can now claim that he is one of the very few ambi-dexterous directors who can be excellent in both film and theatre. Don’t miss this once in a lifetime original Filipino musical. It’s showing at PETA Theatre until June 7. We saw it with our 6-year old granddaughter Jane who enjoyed it so much and didn’t complain even if it ran for three long hours. Honestly, they can do some trimming here and there to hasten the pace and make it much tighter.