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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.

Jul 5, 2018

‘Binondo, A Tsinoy Musical' Is A Well Produced, Spectacular Homegrown Musical With Good Songs And A Tearjerking Love Story

'BINONDO, A TSINOY MUSICAL’ will have its final run this weekend at Solaire Theatre from July 6 to 8 and we urge you not to miss it. Directed by Joel Lamangan (the only one we know who can shift from film to TV to stage with equal ease) with book and lyrics by Ricardo Lee, Gershom Chua and Eljay Deldoc, this homegrown original musical offers great songs, superb acting and a moving ill-fated love triangle story about Lily, a Pinay singer; Ah Tiong, a Chinese scholar from the Mainland who studied in the USA, and Carlos, a local Tsinoy in Binondo.

The story starts in August of 1972. Carlos has always been in love with Lily, his childhood friend, but he cannot express his feelings. Then one night, Lily meets Ah Tiong by chance and there’s immediate magic between them. It’s a whirlwind romance, but soon, Ah Tiong has to leave for China with the promise that he will come back, a promise that he fails to fulfill because he gets caught up by the Chinese Cultural Revolution and is accused of being a spy for the Americans.

Ah Tiong is imprisoned by the Communists along with his father. Meantime, Lily discovers that she is carrying Ah Tiong’s child. She’s hoping he’ll come back but when she delivers the baby with Carlos helping her, she eventually accepts Carlos’ offer to marry her and give a name to her baby daughter. Lily and Ah Tiong meet again after so many years and how this story eventually ends will certainly bring tears to your eyes, so don’t miss its final weekend at the Solaire.

The whole production is fabulous. First and foremost, kudos to Von de Guzman for the songs that he has composed for the musical, incorporating Chinese elements in his orchestration while celebrating life and love. This starts with the rousing opening numbers, “Masdan ang Hugis ng Buwan” and “Magandang Gabi” up to the final song, “Sa Bawat Sulok ng Binondo”. The night we saw the play, Carla Guevarra Laforteza played Lily, David Ezra was Ah Tiong and Noel Rayos was Carlos. They give justice to Von’s songs and are all splendid in acting and singing.

Carla shines in the songs “Dito sa Binondo”, “Tila Kandila”, “Paghihintay”, “Eternity” and “Awit sa Sanggol”. David stands out in “Kung Sino Nga Ba ang Una”, “Eternity”, “Ang Bagong Tsina”, “Minamahal, Iniibig” and “Patawad”. But Noel has the best songs and he is the most sympathetic character for his unrequited love, giving his very best in songs like “Ako ay Pilipino”, “Hindi na Magbabago”, “Dayuhan sa Iyong Puso”, “Mananagot Ka” and “Mga Talunang Puso”.

Giving them excellent support are Jim Pebanco as the energetic leader of the versatile chorus (which includes Lorenz Martinez, Khalil Kaimo, Tuesday Vargas, Elrica Laguardia and Rhapsody playing different supporting roles), Ima Castro as Lily’s mom and Mariella Laurel as Jasmine (wife of Ah Tiong in China). The whole ensemble of singers and dancers deserve commendation and a big round of applause.

Douglas Nierras’ choreography is likewise a big asset to the show as its movements help in communicating the show’s tone and story, from the invigorating opening numbers, the exhilarating “Ang Pag-ibig ay Disco” number to “Ang Bagong Tsina” that opens the second act. This should now be the gold standard of staging big and showy local musical theatre pieces. Jerome Robbins will be proud.