WITHOUT WANG²: Rock Musical opens Tanghalang Pilipino’s new season

by Nickie Wang

The opening salvo for the Tanghalang Pilipino’s 24th season is a rock musical that aims to attract theater aficionados of all ages. Titled Banaag at Sikat Isang Rock Musical, the production raises the curtain on Aug. 18 and will run for two weeks at the CCP Little Theater.

Banaag at Sikat is a collaboration of National Artists Bienvenido Lumbera (librettist) and Salvador Bernal (production designer). The story is based on Lope K. Santos’ groundbreaking novel about the breakup of the Filipino family and the rise of socialism in the country. The opus was published in 1906.

The title itself, the theme of the musical, and the archaic lyrics of the songs featured sound alien to young theater audience. This is the challenge to the people behind the project, ergo the rock musical format to make it acceptable to the young.

“We want to make it more interesting to young generation. We asked Bien[venido] to make a rock musical so the message would get across easily to the young audiences since this is the genre which is relevant to them,” says Tanghalang Pilipino artistic director Fernando Josef.

One of the lead actors explains that their responsibility is to relate the message through their actions. “Apart from doing our own research, we have to understand the language and the characters [in the story],” he furthers.

A classic tale of a poor boy that falls in love with a rich girl, Banaag at Sikat centers on the pilgrimage town of Antipolo in the early 20th century. In this rustic setting, a clash is about to unfold about urbanization. Don Ramon Miranda (Greg De Leon) and Don Felimon (Raymond Roldan), capitalist owners of El Progreso, a cigar factory in Manila, argue with Delfin (Al Gatmaitan), a progressive journalist who is also a suitor of Meni (Ayen Laurel), Don Ramon’s daughter, about the labor problem in the factory. This clash of ideas becomes all too personal when Delfin, later supported by Felipe (John Arcilla), Don Ramon’s ahijado (godson), defends the workers on their struggle for their rights. This incident sparks a chain of complicated events.

Sharing love and friendship through music

Music is indeed the universal language that gets beyond the question of color, nationality, belief and origin. It is inspiring to know that there are people who promote music by sharing their talent, that in the same way, they could learn how to appreciate other cultures while promoting their own.

Recently, we had an invitation to watch a show choir perform at the FEU-FERN College Observatory. The choir is called Synergy!, a motley group of performers with ages between 17 and 26 years.

The repertoire of Synergy! include high-energy songs and dance routines from Broadway to Country, Pop to Funk, Swing to Musical Theater. During its performance at the Quezon City based school, familiar favorites from Michael Jackson, Walt Disney, Cats, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, and Starlight Express were performed. The group even rendered its own rendition of “Paraiso,” a classic from Smokey Mountain, as its final number.

Students who watched the show couldn’t get enough of the performers who are all based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

They traveled 26 straight hours to stage the production with its very simple mission—to bring an experience that is positive, professional, uplifting, and yet very entertaining.

After the group’s 90-minutes adrenaline-pumping performance, we had a chance to have a conversation with some of its members. We found out that they came here at their own expense. Most of them just graduated high school and went through a rigid audition process to be part of the Synergy!.

“We want to experience different cultures apart from the US,” says one of the members of Synergy!, “And to tell you, we have never experienced a crowd like this.”

The group has traveled the world and has performed in different important venues like The White House, and Pentagon. It has staged shows and mesmerized audiences in entertainment centers like Walt Disney World, Sea World, Disneyland, and McDonald’s World Youth Classic. Some of the countries the show choir has visited include: United Kingdom, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Spain, Austria, Czech Republic, Taiwan and Venezuela. All their shows are under the sponsorship of New York-based Friendship Ambassadors Foundation (FAF).

After it performed at FEU-FERN College, the ensemble headed immediately to Hospicio de San Jose. The next day it performed at St. Paul University Manila, and at Philippine High School for the Arts in Mt. Makiling on July 27. On July 29, Synergy! flew to Cebu to stage five more performances. Every performance is open to the public except the one at St. Paul University, which was staged as a fund-raising project.

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