13 Unforgettable Plays, Musicals of 2013

(L-R) Aicelle Santos, Isay Alvarez, Mitch Valdes, and Celeste
Legaspi on stage to welcome back KATY, a Filipino landmark
musical. Photo by Tcel Maramag

Manila, Philippines, January 2, 2014--Theater in the Philippines has never been more alive the way it did in 2013. Not only theater groups continued to grow in numbers but also the level of ingenuity and performance was a notch or two higher than ever before.

Proving that theater is a powerful tool not just to entertain, each performance showed unforgettable life lessons for the audience. BroadwayWorld.com has narrowed down to 13 of these theatrical productions: 2013's most unforgettable plays and musicals.

1. Katy

A musical that survived the test of time, "Katy" not only brought back to the Philippine stage one of the best original Filipino musicals but also reminded Filipino audiences their cultural roots. The music of Ryan Cayabyab and lyrics of Jose Javier Reyes came alive once again with the aid of stellar performances by Isay Alvarez, Tirso Cruz III, and Dulce.

2. Collection

From the visionary director Dexter Santos and multi-awarded playwright Floy Quintos came a play with outstanding aspects of mise-en-scene. "Collection" was a one-of-a-kind production that intertwined social elements that challenge moral values, motives, and the Filipino's way of life in a futuristic world--where history becomes the new handbag. The play was a disturbing production as it questioned a society obsessed with "what's new" and "what to buy next" and that has abandoned what really matters in the world.

A scene from the new musical THE BLUEBIRD OF HAPPINESS
(Photo by Trumpets)

3. The Bluebird of Happiness

Three years was worth the wait as Trumpets made a triumphant comeback in the local theater scene with "The Bluebird of Happiness." While most audiences were beguiled with the musical's visually engaging production aspects, memorable music, and highly-entertaining performances, Trumpets succeeded more with the way it uncannily infused values and moral lessons into a musical without being preachy or mundane.

4. Red

Never did combative Socratic dialogue been so engaging as director-actor Bart Guingona and Joaquin Pedro Valdes did their repartees in the Tony Award-winning play "Red." Based on the reimagined life of abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, the Philippine staging did more than justice to the play as Guingona (Rothko) practically gave one of the best performances of the year.

5. Der Kaufmann

William Shakespeare's comedy "The Merchant of Venice" has never been so socially relevant and treacherous the way Tuxqs Rutaquio and Rody Vera re-invisioned it in "Der Kaufmann." The laughs were serious; the terror was real; and the intolerance of one of the darkest moments in history was brilliantly magnified proving the Bard's work is both relevant and universal, and relatable in any language and presentation.

(L-R) Al Gatmaitan, Jayvhot Galang, and Jay Gonzaga star in
MAXIE, THE MUSICALE. Photo by Bit by Bit Company

6. Maxie, the Musicale

Based from the international award-winning independent film, "Maxie, the Musicale" literally painted the theater scene in pink as it was one of last year's runaway hits. The play not only entertained and helped audiences reminisce the heyday of '70s Original Pilipino Music (OPM) but also presented a realistic portrait of Filipino life and values, such as tight family bond.

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Lee Cundangan Lee studied AB Communication Arts at University of Santo Tomas and M.A. in Theater Arts at University of the Philippines-Diliman.

She maintains two blogs; writes for print media outlets Mega Publishing and Daily Tribune; and has produced the UNFPA and Levi Strauss newsletters.

She is an event management director and an artistic director for two community-based theater organizations. She is also a theater workshop facilitator at ABS-CBN Design and Talent Center, various schools and non-profit organizations.

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