Two iconic original Filipino musicals are coming online for free, joining a wave of top stage plays from various production companies that have released their remarkable work to a wider, more national audience through the Internet, in hopes of contributing in their own ways during this time of pandemic, through donation-driven online screenings, or just providing a sense of comfort during this time of uncertainty.
In a recent announcement, beloved musicals, ZsaZsa Zaturnnah: Ze Muzikal and Changing Partners are going to be digitally released this month for theater enthusiasts to see while on quarantine.
ZsaZsa Zaturnnah: Ze Muzikal follows the otherworldly adventures of a Filipino superhero, derived from Carlo Vergara’s iconic graphic novel, featuring the life of gay salon owner Ada, who turns into a voluptuous red-haired superheroine, who’s about to face the man-hating adversaries, Amazonistas, with a mission to take over earth.
With its multiple runs from 2006 to 2011, the musical, with original music and composition by Vincent De Jesus, theatrical adaptation by Chris Martinez, and stage direction by Chris Millado, has gained a cult following among theater goers for its successful portrayal of a superhero that’s unheard of before–infusing humor and social commentary with flashy stage design, and rousing production numbers featuring its deep roster of theater actors courtesy of Tanghalang Pilipino and familiar names in mainstream entertainment. Television and film actress Eula Valdes has donned the ZsaZsa Zaturnnah costume in various outings, alternating with K Brosas in 2007.
The well-received musical will be released for a limited time by the Cultural Center of the Philippines starting on May 30, 2020, which will run for one week.
Changing Partners is a compelling narrative of love and pain, told through the interchanging perspectives of its four lead characters. The brainchild of multi-awarded playwright Vincent de Jesus. The musical was derived from a one-night only stage reading at the Virgin Labfest, back in 2016 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
It was then transformed into a full-length play, Changing Partners: A Torch Musical in September 2016 at the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), put forth by the creative partnership of de Jesus and director Rem Zamora. The musical featured an impressive cast of theater and mainstream entertainment actors, Anna Luna, Agot Isidro, then Jojit Lorenzo and Sandino Martin. Changing Partners then went on to take home awards at the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature for One-Act-Play before getting a rerun at the PETA Theater Center Studios.
It was then in 2017 when the play got a film release of the same title at the Cinema One Originals Independent Film Festival. Directed by Dan Villegas, and bannered by the same set of actors from the theatrical run, it then went on to win a total of 8 top awards for its director (Villegas), musical direction (de Jesus) and its actors, then taking home the plum for Best Film.
“We are still fixing the final edit of Changing Partners. We are also talking to several groups who can help us stream the video, hopefully in a week or two,” de Jesus tells Rank Magazine.
Over the weekend, the Internet was swept with fan love over the free digital release of the sold-out Full House Theater Company original jukebox musical “Ang Huling El Bimbo” for a limited time. In just 48 hours, the production, housed in ABS-CBN’s online platforms, amassed a staggering total of over 7 million combined views and a wave of positive feedback from viewers who were wowed by the production’s storytelling, its actors, and even more impressively, the underlying themes and social context it boldly tackled.
While the musical, in all of its successful reruns, attracted tens and thousands of theater goers to Resorts World Manila, this now-historic release has successfully cast a wider net in terms of awareness, interest, and most importantly, access to local theater, especially in the time of quarantine, when people at home are constantly looking for any form of comfort in the face of uncertainty.
“Malakas talaga ang draw ng jukebox musicals because of the familiar music everyone knows–lalo na at very popular ang music ng Eraserheads (Jukebox musicals really draws a lot of interest from audiences because of the familiar music everyone knows–especially with the very popular music of the Eraserheads),” relates the multi-awarded playwright and musical director.
“Marami talagang nanuod, which is good kasi more and more people are getting interested in musical theater. (A lot of people really watched it, which is good because more and more people are getting interested in musical theater.)”
The past month, in the midst of the enhanced community quarantine, we have seen numerous organizations from Dulaang UP, CCP, Tanghalang Pilipino, and the like, who have sought a way to keep the show going on–line, be it from releasing archival recordings on Youtube and Facebook, to live, virtual stagings via Zoom, and even Facebook Live, which, in a way gives us a glimpse of the new normal in theatrical experiences, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to draw global concern.
If you are still reeling from that El Bimbo hangover, or missed the chance to see it performed, we round up some of the uploaded stage performances that we want you to see and enjoy, while on quarantine.
UP Playwrights’ Theatre’s ‘The Kundiman Party‘
Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino shines in this production, highlighting the company’s 26th season, which ran in 2018. Buencamino plays kundiman singer Maestra Adela Dolores, in a drama that puts focus on resistance and the social relevance of art. This digital release is part of DUP’s Remembrance, Resistance, Resurrection series of past productions made available online. The play was penned by Floy Quintos and directed by Dexter Martinez Santos, before getting a revival in 2019 by PETA.
Carlo Vergara’s ‘Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady‘ at the Virgin Labfest
Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady! , is a one-act-play by well-loved graphic novel artist Carlo Vergara and directed by Chris Martinez originally made for the Virgin Labfest, played by Hans Eickstein as Leading Man, Skyzx Labastilla as troubled sister, turned villain, Viva, and Kiki Baento as Viva, an all-enduring maid servicing a bunch of superheroes. The tragicomedy’s successful run went on to be produced as a full-length play by Dalanghita Productions with acclaimed musical theater actress Bituin Escalante playing the lead. The video, is released via CCP’s rich HD and archival recordings, and will only be available on Youtube until Thursday, May 14.
Layeta Bucoy’s ‘Lolo Doc‘ for Tanghalang Pilipino’s PansamanTanghalan
Lolo Doc is a monovlog written by Layeta Bucoy that talks about the life of a senior doctor, whose commitment as a frontliner precedes everything else, including his own family, ultimately taking its toll on his relationships and compromising his own safety. Released under Tanghalang Pilipino’s PansamanTanghalan series, the lead character is portrayed by TP’s artistic director, Fernando “Nanding” Josef. Written by Layeta Bucoy, a second installment is also underway, aptly titled, Lola Doc, showcasing Nora Aunor in the lead role, slated for digital release later this month.
PETA’s ‘Rated PG‘
Released in time for the celebration of Mother’s Day, this Liza Magtoto play navigates the struggles of raising a child, highlighting the value of using positive discipline towards building a harmonious relationship within the family. Rated: PG is directed by Mae Quesada-Medina, and tells the story of Joselle, portrayed by Stella Cañete-Mendoza, with the musical direction of Vincent A. de Jesus. The video will be available online for a limited time.
Ballet Philippines’ ‘Firebird and other Ballets‘
Ballet Philippines staged Firebird and Other Ballets at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo in 2016, showcasing new interpretations of two Stravinsky classics created for the legendary Ballets Russes. The Firebird revolves greatly on the journey of its hero, Prince Ivan, who chances upon a magical bird, as he was led into the otherworldly realm of Koschei, the Immortal. The series of ballets made available online will be streaming until Tuesday, May 12.
Dulaang UPs ‘Ang Bagong Cristo‘
As part of its series of uploaded productions, DUP, releases the reimagined take on the story of Jesus Christ. Originally written by Aurelio Tolentino in 1907, mirroring Christ’s passion and resurrection, laced with an incisive look on social injustice and inequality. This staging was directed by former artistic director, Alexander Cortez with Boo Gabunada in the lead role for the company’s 42nd season.
Eljay Deldoc’s ‘Ang Goldfish ni Prof. Dimaandal‘ for Open House
The live online reading of Eljay Deldoc’s Ang Goldfish ni Prof. Dimaandal was presented by Open House, a fundraising project aimed at providing help to culture and performing arts workers deeply affected and displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic. The satirical play originally appeared in the 2014 Virgin Labfest, trailing the misadventures of three students under investigation for the death of Prof. Dimaandal’s goldfish. The online reading featured the original cast who took on the roles when it was first staged. You can watch the recorded virtual reading and donate at http://bit.ly/DonateOpenHouse
Dulaang UP’s ‘Adarna‘
One of the most interpreted Filipino classics on the theater stage, Fransisco Baltazar’s story of the mythical bird, who serves as the last hope for an ailing monarch, gets reimagined in director Jose Estrella’s Adarna. Staged in 2013, the full-length corrido features the stage adaptation of Vlad Gonzales, told through shadow play, puppetry and other narrative innovations. JC Santos makes his appearance as the young hero, Don Juan.
UP Playwrights’ Theatre’s ‘Father and Sons‘
Released in remembrance of two much-respected mentors and actors, Tony Mabesa and Menggie Cobarrubias, Dulaang UP releases Nick Joaquin’s Fathers and Sons, a drama set in the 70’s, touching base on the concept of patriarchy. It follows the central figure is Zacarias Monzon, asserting his power in a meek household. The production stars Menggie Cobarrubias, alternating with Leo Rialp, Rody Vera, alternating with George De Jesus & Greg De Leon, Stella Cañete-Mendoza, alternating with Banaue Miclat-Janssen, under the direction of Tony Mabesa.
Dullang UP’s ‘Orosman at Zafira‘
Based on Francisco Baltazar’s classic comedy on love in the time of war and insurgency, Bit by Bit Company releases the full recording of Dulaang UP’s 2011 staging of Orosman at Zafira filmed at the SM Mall of Asia CenterStage Theater. The release of this epic musical was made in conjunction with the donation drive “KALingain Ang Kapwa Fund” by the UP Diliman College of Arts and Letters and the CAL Student Council for the benefit of the CAL workers affected by the pandemic, including janitors, security guards, Faculty Center construction workers and even photocopy operators. Apart from this, donations will be used to provide supplies for the UP dormers and medical assistance for Mrs. Rosana Pariñas, wife of UP Dept. of European Languages staff Felix Pariñas. For donations: https://ticket2me.net/e/6519