Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Watching Musicals



During last 2005's Christmas Holiday we were able to get a lost of VCDs and DVDs. Two reasons led to this consumption of DVDs:

  1. The 13th month pay and the Christmas bonus
  2. 2005 Metro Manila Film Festival
We were able to watch the following films:

  • The Sound of Music
  • Fiddler on the Roof
  • Oliver!
  • My Fair Lady

These film adaptations of Broadyway and West End Musicals are a delight to watch. The sets were grand and the choreography was great. The musicals themselves had more layers than an onion.

The first film musical I ever watched was the Sound of Music. Our parents took us to the Abelardo Hall at the University of the Philippines to watch the film. The hall was filled with children trucked in by their families to watch Julie Andrews sing on a mountain in Austria. Interesting film/musical it combined music, family life, Austria and the Nazis.

I like musicals because they are multifaceted medium. Aside from the story line and the acting it uses different techniques to bring up a point. The songs and their rendition give depth to a character and delineates the purpose of this character. In Jesus Christ Superstar, one watch and understands at once the character of Herod, Caiphas, Annas, Pontius Pilate, Judas, the Apostles, Jesus and the people through their songs. The chorus for each musical defines for us the mood of a particular crowd. And in Les Miserables, the song Stars of Javert effectively wraps around him the mystique of self-righteous anger he holds against nearly everyone. In West Side Story, Rita Moreno's song I want to be in America encapsulates the reason why they are in the United States.

Clearly the marriage of acting, dance and song is a powerful tool. Similar to the Opera, for what is Opera but the ancestor of the musical. In form and in manner the musical is opera. Except that the musical can be understood nearly all over the world, because it is in the lingua franca of our generation - English.

It is not hard to appreciate and learn things from the musical. Love, betrayal, politics, murder and the mundane are subjects of the musical. Lessons in religion and politics can be taken from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Time Rice's Jesus Christ Superstar. We can learn a lot in politics and the human relations from Stephen Schwartz's Pippin and Webber and Rice's Evita. Or enjoy the poems of TS Eliot in the musical adaptation of his collection of poems about Cats, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.


The only draw back with Musicals that was also inherent for Opera during its heyday was its inaccessability from mere mortals like us. Not everyone can afford to watch a West End or a Broadway Musical; much less have the money to go to London or New York. Often times we have to wait for local versions of the musicals. And often at a steep price, although today the price of a seat in the local cinemas can be as pricey.

There are two things that have enabled us to enjoy these musicals:

  1. Film adaptations
  2. Mass produced copies, video tape and video discs, of the film adaptations.
Now we can watch them at home. Interesting thing about the old Musicals, from the sixties downwards, is that they also have intermissions, scheduled breaks within the acts.


Several years ago, I heard the tape recording of A Filipino Rock Opera based on the comic characters of Nonoy Marcelo and it was entitled Ikabod Dagang Sosyal. It had a couple of lively songs and one tha became a hit. As far as I know it was only played in London at West End. I wonder if any of our local theatre groups, PETA or Repertory Philippines or the CCP Theatre Group and other similar groups will stage this Rock Opera.

As for my nephews -

One liked Oliver! while the other seemed to like My Fair Lady! As for me I still like Pippin and Evita, the movie adaptation of Maddona was horrid. Although I do not mind whistling or humming the song of Alfred Doolitle entitled With A Little Bit O' Luck.


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