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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.

Sep 30, 2017

Theatre Review: Maynila Sa Mga Kuko Ng Liwanag At KIA Theatre - Definitely The Theatre Event Of The Season

WE SAW THE press preview of the musical version of the late Lino Brockas’s “Maynila: sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag”, based on the award-winning novel of Edgardo M. Reyes, and it’s definitely the theatre event of the season. We haven’t seen a locally written Pinoy musical for a long time and this one is definitely worth seeing, with big production song-and-dance numbers, mostly good catchy songs and splendid performances.

The show is near to Director Joel Lamangan’s heart because he started as a movie actor in Lino’s movie in 1975. Before that, he was a theatre actor with PETA. In the film, he played the character who killed lead actor Bembol Roco as Julio Madiaga in the story’s climax. “The musical is my tribute to Lino and to Edgar Reyes,” he says.

The first act focuses on the exploitation and oppression of construction workers and other poor people in Manila, with several upbeat songs but ending with a grand funeral cortege that goes down the stage and exits through the theatre’s front doors. The touching second act concentrates on the ill-fated love story of Julio and Ligaya.

Playing Julio Madiaga in the musical is new stage actor Arman Ferrer and he’s a revelation. His good singing voice is perfect for musical theatre and shines in several numbers, whether solo or ensemble. The lead female, Ligaya Paraiso, was played by Hilda Koronel in the film. Shiela Valderrama and Lara Maigue now alternate as Ligaya, a provinciana who gets lost in the big city. Julio is her boyfriend who comes to Manila to search for her.

It was Shiela who played Ligaya when we saw it and she got a big applause for her solo song number in the hotel after she is reunited with Julio. But Aicelle Santos as Perla, the sister of Julio’s friend, has more stage exposure and gets to sing more song than the Ligaya character, and Aicelle once again acquits herself well on stage like she did in “Katy” and “Rak of Aegis”.

Giving good support are Dulce as the pimp Mrs. Cruz, Rafa Siguion Reyna as the Julio’s colleague who does well in his new career, Floyd Tena and Noel Rayos as Julio’s friends Pol and Atong and Jim Pebanco as the construction boss Mr. Balajadia. The cast consists of some 50 singers-dancers and they all performed well.

This is the first Brocka movie turned into a musical. Before, his films “Insiang” and “Bona” were staged as straight dramas. The songs in “Maynila” were composed by Von de Guzman (also the musical director), the libretto by Jose Victor Torres and Em Mendez, the production design by Jun Flavier Pablo, the lighting by Joey Nombres, and the choreography by Douglas Nierras. The musical is a brainchild of Joel and Gantimpala Theater Foundation, staged by Grand Leisure Corporation with Full House Asia Productions as line producer.

It started showing at the KIA Theatre in Cubao yesterday. Screenings today, October 1, will be 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Oct. 4, 8 p.m.; Oct. 5, 8 p.m.; and Oct. 6, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. For tickets, call Bards Lapid at 0917-8466704; or landlines 897-7142, 890-0853, 890-6067 or Ticketnet 911-5555.