music, musings

ERASERHEADS, THE MUSICAL (Party Pilipinas Version)

years before SA WAKAS, a musical featuring the songs of Sugarfree, came into fruition, there was an attempt to do a musical using the songs of the Eraserheads, the greatest band there ever was. and although elements in this pseudo musical were borrowed from Rent and Moulin Rouge with bits of variety show thrown in (obviously this was done haphazardly), the musical showed that the songs had potential to be transformed and woven into a narrative.

here’s the result presented by GMA’s party pilipinas in september 2010 over a three week period, featuring gian magdangal, rachel anne go, lovi poe, mark bautista, jay perillo, geoff taylor, la diva, and ms ayen munji-laurel.  as a fan of the eraserheads and of musicals, i was intrigued by this and i liked it.  it helped that gian magdangal (im a fan) and ayen are musical theater people, plus rachel ann was more than capable of what she had to do with the role (she later played ariel onstage in the local staging of disney’s the little mermaid).

with the APO songs made into a film musical in I Do Bidoo Bidoo and sugarfree songs made into SA WAKAS, i dont see why we cant have a real eraserheads musical any time soon.

please watch it in hd (720). cheers!


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music, musings

SA WAKAS, A NEW PINOY ROCK MUSICAL

SA WAKAS stage design

SA WAKAS is a new pinoy rock musical love story, directed by andrei nikolai pamintuan and written by him with marianne abuan, featuring songs made famous by Sugarfree, a filipino band that has disbanded a few years back. we watched SA WAKAS on the opening weekend with its first ever show at the PETA Phinma Theater. generally we had mixed feelings about it. carlo was more livid than i was haha

first of all, the songs are all great. credits go to ebe dancel, lead singer of the band, who wrote most, if not all, of the band’s material. he even wrote a gorgeous new song for the musical.


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the performers were actually good. we watched the 3pm show on april 13th. the lead cast were played by the handsome fred lo (playing the lead guy, topper), laura cabochan, and justine pena.  both laura and justine are familiar faces as ive seen them in ateneo stage productions before. act 1 was just confusing. *spoilers* the story flow apparently was running in reverse so we started sa wakas (the end) and ended SA WAKAS dun sa simula (at the beginning) but this was only evident when you get to act 2. in the meantime, you sit through the first act lost and angry. you cant even latch on emotionally to any of the characters because theyre all so bitter and vile at each other and you dont know why there’s too much hate going on. when the first act ended, carlo and i were looking at each other and just going, what was that?! we actually contemplated on leaving right away. eventually we decided to change seats and sat at the balcony and waited to find a clearer perspective on things.

as act 2 progressed, i was telling myself this scene or that song should have been in act 1 so we could understand and appreciate the characters and situation better. it perhaps was only in the middle of the second act that you realize the story was in reverse. you go, oh, so that’s why, except that you’ve already hated the whole thing and are not sure if you’ll still like it.  and the characters turn out to be actually sweet and funny and it’s supposed to be bittersweet knowing in the end they do separate. the only thing bittersweet about it is that this could have been great if the treatment wasnt pretentious and didnt try to copy “The Last Five Years” or something like Nolan’s “Memento.” i dont really see it as “groundbreaking” since the reverse treatment was not really effective.

having said that, i think the last half of act 2 was really great. you finally get a clearer sense of who these characters are, what makes them tick and why you should fall in love with them. that scene with topper and gabbi on the rooftop was fantastic and the anti-hipster hipster lines were great. basha and popoy gets special mention again as lexi plays out a dvd of “one more chance”. you probably would still like to whack the lead guy in the head for cheating on his girlfriend and then you remember it didnt even go very well in the end at the beginning so what’s the point? the play’s treatment will indeed make you forget the bad things that happened in the relationship shown in the beginning but sometimes also, less is more.

im mightily curious though of what victor robinson iii (alternate for topper) would bring to the show, knowing he’s a really good PETA actor.  the reviews during press night on robinson were not very favorable but maybe that’s just first night jitters. most of the reviews on SA WAKAS were positive though, including feedback from friends who’ve watched the show. i thought it was just carlo and me who didnt like it (and few of the people seated behind us in the theater) then i read this review from broadwayworld.com which shares my sentiment.

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the cast during curtain call. from left: hans dimayuga, cassie manalastas, laura cabochan, fred lo, justine pena, mikou david, and abi sulit.

my friend, mikou david, is actually in the chorus and i congratulated her after the show, but i knew id be writing a not so great review of the show and i couldnt tell her that at that moment. also, one thing we noticed when we got in was that the set was tightly packed and some elements werent maybe necessary. we’ve seen a lot of productions mounted on the PETA theater stage but this felt too cluttered.

i was actually looking forward to this because im still waiting for the songs of the eraserheads to be made into a musical and this would be a fantastic appetizer. if the creators would explore a different treatment to act 1 maybe id sit again and watch this musical. i really wanted to like this and my reaction was not what i hoped for. here’s wishing for a miracle. in the meantime, im gonna wash off bad vibes with a dose of sugarfree’s dramachine album. cheers!

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movies, music, musings

Les Misérables (2012)

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LES MISERABLES the musical the movie. we waited for this all christmas long and it’s finally here. lots of things i may or may not need to comment on. but no fun not saying them, right? the golden globes is right to grant hugh jackman and anne hathaway best actor and supporting actress respectively but i think they should have at least nominated eddie redmayne for his fantastic portrayal as marius. beautiful voice and his scene on empty chairs and empty tables alone was worth the admission price.

and they were also right to give the best director award to ben affleck and not to tom hooper if only because of his excessive use of closeups. what’s up with that? also, some of his staging in the film is too literal–the pavement shines like silver, the streets are full of strangers, rain will make the flowers grow? we get it!

anne hathaway was awesome but something about her winning reaps of accolades and awards may have hampered my appreciation for the performance. same thing happened with jennifer hudson’s effie white. when she got to “and im telling you, im not going,” i expected to cry buckets and i didnt. shame.

the design was awesome, the textures reminded me of perfume: the story of a murderer where you could smell the streets of paris. even that little detail of dirt on marius’s rump when valjean carries him off into the sewer is just awesome. but i hate that painted eye in the optical shop signage by the barricade. you didnt see it? it was the “eye” of God (bring him home scene)

the weakness of the film may be due to the nature of the musical as a stage production. the transitions could be much smoother, story telling wise, and despite this being an adaptation of the musical, they could have added a bit more score in between scenes.

having said that, i forgive russel crowe’s singing voice because he did try his best and his acting was still effective. i love the 2nd half of the movie when marius and enjolras started plotting out the futile rebellion. i love the new song that fleshes out valjean’s purpose in life. i love samantha barks here because i hated her in the 25th anniv concert. i love the young cosette and i love gavroche. kudos to sasha baron cohen and the typecasted but lovable helena bonham carter. and it’s awesome to give love to colm wilkinson, who passes the candlesticks to the new valjean.

i am aware of hugh jackman’s singing prowess and despite him not being a natural tenor, he owned this and more. the imperfections of live singing created so much more depth in his performance that i wish he could have a breather of space in his camera framing to make it perfect. still awesome!

dont get me wrong though. i was trying my best not to belt out enjolras’s parts lest i earn the ire of my fellow theatergoers. at the end of the day, i still love this musical. the movie is imperfect but i will still watch this adaptation again and again and again. and in a year’s time, i will love this movie more than i did today.

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music, set design, sketch

tuloy ang biyahe

designed the stage for noel cabangon’s recent concert “tuloy ang biyahe” for his music museum and peta performances. it would only be my 2nd time to work for director melvin lee as designer (did one of his virgin labfest plays) and my first to dress up the peta theater. did this sketch as quick as i could before the song ended as the concert was winding down to an end. click on image to enlarge

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i was headed for mindanao on the day of cabangon’s music museum run so i only got to supervise the ingress of the set and i missed watching the show. im glad i was able to catch the performance on its 2nd night (dec 14, 2012) at the peta as it was a fun ride. i know only a handful of noel’s songs but all were beautifully written and sung with so much passion. enjoyed his guests especially the APO (minus one), which i dont remember having watched perform live. gloc 9’s sirena was powerful as ever and ogie alcasid’s song writing skills are still topnotch as he sang two new songs. yet, it was always noel’s night and his brilliance in writing was clear and his voice unparalleled.

im glad i took this journey also in designing for theater and stage. it’s a different beast from designing for film as there are still factors ive yet to learn and take to heart. i wouldnt say my design for the concert was groundbreaking. maybe next time ill play more on concepts. needless to say, im excited in taking this new direction 🙂

here’s a video of kanlungan i took during the concert. i remember mike serrano in our little tambayan office at the back of the gg hall in CRL listening to a cassette tape (what year was this?) of buklod’s album and he introduced me to this song. the arrangement during cabangon’s concert “tuloy ang biyahe” was, in a word, magical. the string and wind section was awesome. love the slower tempo during the concert. just wasnt able to catch the first few minutes of the song. i do have a copy of the recording with the FILharmoniKA 😉

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here are my set sketches. took inspiration from train stations and our own mrt platforms. as the set had to be minimal i only built arches and a fence.

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music, musings

LSS: i know him so well

whitney houston and her mother cissy houston

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i remember hearing this song on the radio as a kid and it was a huge hit in the 80s. it wasnt until i heard the original version that i was blown away by the power of the song. i only learned/realized this year (what?!!) that the song was from chess the musical, written by tim rice and music by benny andersson and björn ulvaeus (from ABBA, yes that group). whitney’s version is very pop, palatable to a larger audience but im starting to love the musical version more and more. chess the musical involves a romantic triangle between two top players, an american (frederick trumper, loosely based on grandmaster bobby fischer) and a russian, in a world chess championship, and a woman (florence) who manages one and falls in love with the other; all in the context of a cold war struggle between the US and the soviet union, during which both countries wanted to win international chess tournaments for propaganda purposes (source wikipedia).

let me just say, listening to the various versions of this song will overwhelm and may even confuse you. and you might even end up hating the song for too much recall. my apologies in advance 🙂

i know him so well is sung by florence, the lover, and svetlana, the estranged wife, reflecting on their relationship with anatoly (the russian chess player).  the london cast version was recorded by elaine paige with siobhán mccarthy but here’s paige (florence) and barbara dickinson’s (svetlana) hit version from the original concept album (1984).

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when the show moved to broadway in 1988, judy khun replaces elaine paige as the role was rewritten to be an american. here, she sings this song with marcia mitzman. for the uninformed, judy khun played cosette in les miserables for the original broadway cast and was singing voice of pocahontas (whose version of “colors of the wind” will remain my favorite over vanessa williams’s pop take). this is such a beautiful version i never tire listening to (along with paige’s version) on loop.


listen to this again and try to imagine pocahontas singing this 😉

in 2008 a concert version was staged with josh groban (anatoly), adam pascal (from rent and aida, playing freddie) and idina menzel (of wicked and glee fame, as florence). i do think her version of “i know him so well” with kerry ellis was an abysmal performance. although i love idina as elpheba, she was just screechy in this version.  kerry ellis also played elpheba on broadway.

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the always magnificent lea salonga sings the song in a tv show in the 90s (probably aired on rpn9).

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elaine paige sings along with one her biggest fans, susan boyle in this link here. we should remember susan boyle did mention her greatest idol was paige during her famous audition in the tv show, britain’s got talent.  there is another version recorded by barbra streisand with richard page in 1992.  of course, locally the divine kuh ledesma, with regine velasquez, covers the song here (start at 4:23 if you wanna get straight to the song). another with regine and lani misalucha here (start at 4:09).  the australian pop group, steps, also performs this song (accent is heavy!). link is here.

stumbled upon an amazing male version by john barrowman and daniel boys. they didn’t bother changing the lyrics here. awesome!

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this blogpost is sort of a comparative study, if you may, on the different performances of this incredible song.  ive listened to paige and kuhn’s versions endlessly i just had to blog it. it was inevitable. to lessen the blow of listening to various versions of the same song, i leave you with another beautiful song from chess the musical. this is someone else’s story, performed by judy khun (remember pocahontas?) and was only written when the show moved to broadway.  first heard this song when lea salonga performed it in her broadway concert (link here).  let’s listen to the original version:

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im all for im-all-alone songs from musicals (someone else’s story, aida’s i know the truth, and avenue q’s there’s a fine, fine line, etc.) but let’s save that for another day and another blog entry. cheers!

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filmmaking, laundry therapy, music, musings, travel

lake sebu revisited

this is y’egas, a t’boli singer from lake sebu in south cotabato. i came across her in 2004 when i went up the area to work on a documentary (which unfortunately i didn’t finish).  the first time i met her at her home and asked her to sing for the documentary, y’egas started lamenting in song about the conditions of her people and fighting for ancestral domain land titles in a largely government protected area (watershed). i gave her a token of thanks (p500) for her help and left.  i later learned from my guide that she didnt like me recording her; she was saying i might exploit her and her people and all that jazz. i was oblivious because she sang in her native tongue and didnt speak a word of bisaya! i also found out my recording got corrupted (used minidv tapes and for some reason they were pixelated and “choppy”) so i had to go back and redo the footage. i braved asking her to sing again and thankfully this time she was more than helpful, smiled a lot more and sang of the beauty of lake sebu and hoped i bring with me only good memories of her and her land.  she even recounted the death of a beloved datu chieftain and sang about a local epic.  here is the video to that song.

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sorry, i have no way of translating this video.  took me a while to find this file, one of the few scenes i was able to digitally convert and keep 5 years ago, and upload on youtube.  has it been that long?  i have one more of y’egas dancing and her brother, ma’afil, playing the hegolung he made for me.  ill upload this vid at another time.  here are my blog entries on the trip around zamboanga and lake sebu in 2004:

cruising down the freeway in the hot hot sun
more on motorcycle diaries

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food trip, laundry therapy, movies, music, musings

random whatever

on american idol season 10: the season started off promising with steve tyler in the judges’ seat and jennifer lopez in impeccable makeup. we had our early favorites, especially casey abrams (crazy performance on “nature boy”) and the toothy paul mcdonald. in fact, this batch actually had a lot of good ones, including james durbin (who could have won the whole thing), haley reinhart (love her raspy voice) and naima adedapo (such a colorful personality). thia megia, who also tried out in america’s got talent, was another jasmine trias, cute and lots of potential but didnt progress much. i dont mind scotty mccreery in the finals but i am appalled lauren alaina made it to top 2.  she should have been eliminated in the 1st week of the live show.  didnt bother watching the finals.  as it goes in recent years, it pays to be runner-up (chris daughtry, jennifer hudson, adam lambert, etc).

on rupaul’s drag race season 3: love love love manila luzon! if you still don’t know her, you’re missing a lot.  and it’s no surprise, and yet frustrating at the same time, that manila luzon, a filipino-american drag queen, is making waves on the show but is not covered by local tv. is it because gay men who dress up are deemed bad role models? come on! here’s a fan-made compilation of all of manila luzon’s looks on the show:
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on food: there’s this crazy resto called stoops on malugay st makati that serves to-die-for bagnet. cholesterol-ridden bagnet! i cant explain further, you just gotta try it. a plate of bagnet with rice and sidings cost less than $2 and you can order by the kilo as well.

on the sing-off season 2: the season has wrapped up long ago but i havent written about it. it’s a live glee competition and we just love it!  the runner up from last season comprises the warblers on glee.  we tried watching a few episodes of season 1 and i couldnt finish it though. the talents on season 2 is way off the charts, the top 4 groups are just a-mazing! watch their “american idiot” version of “21 guns” featuring all the remaining groups on episode 3:
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on the RH Bill: im all for it. the filipino catholic church is defensive and being archaic without looking at the real issue. truth is, education and information is a right for every citizen and the filipinos need to know about health and sex and have choices on reproduction. why is it such a bad thing? why keep brandishing the abortion issue when it’s not even about that? i do think this bill will be passed despite the stubborness of some.

on stupid TV shows for the sake of airtime: i seldom watch TV and when i do, it’s because other people are watching and im in the same room. tonight i chanced upon GMA’s mind master and it was f***ed up. his so-called telekinetic powers are really just static energy. talking to the dead seemed bogus and the bereaved family are being played on badly on national tv. c’mon!

on fringe season 3: faux olivia was fun but i think i loved season 1 better. there is less walter bishop-ing this season than in the previous, and it lessens his chances of picking up a nomination. we always wonder why he is being overlooked during awards season. the finale is almost here and we’re still about 3 episodes short off our viewing list. gotta catch up!

on glee season 2: was a bit underwhelming but we followed it nevertheless. it was great in about the first four episodes, got boring (really boring), and then picked up in possibly the last 3 episodes. charice’s appearance in the 1st episode was exciting but her song selection in eps17 is frustrating only because “all by myself” is done to death by her and numerous contestants on american idol.  and i long for the day she sings “out here on my way” from fame.  favorite songs this season include “tik tok (by ke-dollar sign-ha), “unpretty,” “river deep mountain high (or all the santana songs),” all the rocky horror songs except “whatever happened to saturday night,” and all the barbra streisand songs especially the last one, “my man” from funny girl. ok, im still a big fan. kill me

posting the original video of “my man” from the film:

and here’s lea michelle’s version from glee episode 21:

on smash: a new tv show on nbc from steven spielberg.  the production values in this film is great but i hope it doesnt turn into “burlesque.” im excited megan hilty is in the cast, she was fantastic as glinda in wicked (after kristin chenoweth, who went on to star in glee).  christian borle from the original cast of “legally blonde the musical” is also part of the show and im looking forward to this. casting katherine mcphee is interesting but we’ll see if she succeeds in stealing megan’s spotlight. i highly doubt she can.  still, will be watching. the more musical shows, the better.

on the rapture: thank you Lord for postponing because X-Men First Class is opening in a week’s time and the 8th Harry Potter movie is showing in a month. awesome!

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