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.

7. Sa Wakas

The music of Filipino pop rock band Sugarfree was not only given a proper "Broadway-fied" version on stage but director Andrei Nikolai Pamintuan also brought in a different kind of storytelling by starting towards the end of the story.

8. Adarna

From the director who always gives theater audiences something different came an age-old tale told in the most avant-garde way: Defying both past traditional film and stage presentations of "Ibong Adarna," director Jose Estrella's "Adarna" not only provided a pragmatic version of the famous corrido but also wisely used shadow puppetry--similar to Indonesia's wayang kulit--as a very effective storytelling device to present the different monsters from the story.

ADARNA, directed by Jose Estrella, features shadow puppets.
Photo by Dino Dimar

9. The Maids

Repressed anger manifested in sadomasochistic situations became the combative expression of two maids as they rebel against their oppressive circumstances brought about by modern feudalism. Renowned and well-respected director Anton Juan not only transformed Jean Genet's absurdist play "The Maids" into a gripping escapist nightmare on stage but also questioned the realities of otherness and self-worth.

10. Melanie

Tanghalang Pilipino truly became the theater of the people when it used Augusto Boal's forum theater as a means to aid change and transform lives by providing information and educating various communities about the realities of HIV and AIDS. The play "Melanie" succeeded in interacting with its audiences by breaking the fourth wall, and by changing its form and the way it was presented on a case-by-case basis.

11. Closer

The newest theater company on the block, Red Turnip Theater, has defied theatrical conventions: It has transformed a special events venue to a theatrical performance space, which also features a bar for the theatergoers to chill out with the actors. Its maiden presentation, "Closer," also brought more questions about life in general to the fore.

Meet the people behind the Facebook-inspired new musical.
Photo by FBed The Musical

12. Lorenzo

"Lorenzo" was a breakthrough production where highly-respected director Nonon Padilla pulled out all the stops by brilliantly fusing Japanese-inspired sets and props with themes that reflect the life and struggle of Filipino Overseas Workers (OFW) and the Philippines' first Catholic saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz.

13. You've Been Facebooked

From the Queen City of the South came a hit musical that is very relevant to today's social media-centric world. "You've been Facebooked," an original musical by Jude Gitamondoc, has captured Cebu City's theatergoers with its hip music and youthful performances. It not only entertained but also advocated for social media ethics and social responsibility.

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From This Author 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 (read more...)