Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Johnny Come Lazy

Musical theater is, I believe, one of the most difficult genres to create material for. Not only do you need to come up with a great book (translation: the story) that has all the elements—plot, characterization, dialogue, etc.—well-made, but added to that degree of difficulty is conjuring up the musical part—music and lyrics—that should integrate seamlessly in many levels with the book. Staging it is no walk in the park either—there’s dance choreography that has to be woven into the blocking. On Broadway the musical is still going on strong, but here in the Philippines there is a dearth of people who can collaborate and create a damn good musical.

Which is why Vince de Jesus should be considered a national treasure in Philippine theater.

In Si Juan Tamad, Ang Diablo At Ang Limang Milyong Boto (yeah, quite a mouthful), not only has Vince singularly created a musical whose elements weave seamlessly into one another, he has also come up with a very relevant and topical musical that is also highly entertaining.

The Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) is known for pushing the “E” part of their acronym rather heavy-handedly (and with good reason). I still have a problem with prescriptive works of art, but I guess when you’re talking to the Filipino audience, after all these years I guess PETA realized long ago what the rest of us are slowly figuring out just now: the Filipino is worth bludgeoning-on-the-head-with-a-lesson for.

More so, this play is part of their “The Virgin Voter’s Campaign” aimed at the 5 million first-time youth voters to register and vote wisely. It is this that explains why the piece plays out like a live Batibot, with matching “Kaya mga bata…” portion in the end directed at the audience. Still, the whole material does not dumb itself down for the audience.

The cast is a high-energy bunch whose collective performance is what lifts the production to joyful heights. Special mention goes to Vince, who played the Diablo (playwright, songwriter, actor, singer—is there anything this man cannot do?), and Victor Robinson who essayed a Juan Tamad on the cusp of manhood.

The songs by Vince are a wonderful hodge-podge of styles and genres. Moreover, what’s remarkable with Vince as a songwriter is how he’s managed to use Filipino lyrics that sound rich, crisp and very understandable when sung.

I felt some jokes could be dropped to further tighten the pace, and while this musical can stand on its own, at times I felt like I was watching a different reflection of Vince’s previous opus, the very excellent Zsazsa Zaturnnah. Insignificant quibbles really, in the face of the more superior achievements by Vince, director Phil Noble and the rest of the artistic staff.

Don’t be lazy, folks. Go watch Juan Tamad this weekend!

If you want to catch the play:

Ticket: P300
Friday, February 5, 2010 – Sunday, March 7, 2010

PETA-Phinma Theater
5 Eymard Drive, Bgy. Kristong Hari, New Manila
Quezon City, Metro Manila


Guyrony said...

I love this play! Go Juan Tamad!!!

joelmcvie said...

@GUYRONY: Love mo ba yung play, o love mo yung nag-play na Juan Tamad? AHAHAHA!