BWW Review: GUADALUPE The Musical Is A Hearty Musical Treat

BWW Review: GUADALUPE The Musical Is A Hearty Musical TreatManila, Philippines--It has been a very busy theater season in Manila. The past months saw the premiere of productions offering different and often intriguing facets of life, which naturally would solicit interest into the prying eyes of the theater-going public. With so much theater goings-on, "Guadalupe The Musical" stands tall as a beloved reminder of the nation's historical devotion and adherence to "popular religiosity."

The miracle in Tepeyac hill in Mexico on a wintry December of 1531 has been an age-old story passed from generations to generations raising awareness and even faith to people of mixed cultures. The Philippines, in fact, is consecrated to the Our Lady of Guadalupe and was declared by Pope Pius XI as the nation's Heavenly Patroness in 1935. Nevertheless, despite the numerous versions of this familiar tale of conversion, redemption, and hope, the musical offers a taste of the Filipinos' sincere adoration to a miraculous event that linked two Spanish colonies together.

At first glance, it seems that one would be exposed to a promotional showcase of faith not until you are greeted by a powerful opening that introduces the culture of the Aztecs, Native American people who were ruling over Mexico before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. The first part would totally force you to anticipate more and the play successfully does it, even surpassing conventional expectations.

BWW Review: GUADALUPE The Musical Is A Hearty Musical TreatThe set, created by Mio Infante, is fully researched and not just a mere mock-up presentation. The Aztec lines would remind one of the temples of Chichen Itza and Tenochtitlan. The costumes are impeccably made and tailored to ensure that no aspect of the 16th-century Mexican life would be left untouched. Though the subject of the play is religious with leanings to Catholicism, it is not a religious play. It is meant to be enjoyed regardless of one's faith. The storyline explores love, hope, simplicity, sincerity, and bravery: virtues that mirror no religion but of the general ideals of humanity. The story would surely strike a chord in anyone's heart as it will give you a reason to shed light on your path, no matter how troubling things might seem.

The production itself is a miracle on its own. It welcomes the return of Cocoy Laurel to the stage as Juan Diego and his mother's (Celia Diaz-Laurel) comeback after a long absence in the theater as the costume designer/researcher. With so many collaborations from different old and new faces, this musical is a gift that unites the different passions of so many artistic people--echoing Our Lady of Guadalupe's call for the Spaniards and the Aztecs to be one under one triumphant Lord.

If Broadway spawned "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Godspell," Manila has its own "Guadalupe The Musical" that reflects our distinct devotion. The show's music, composed by Ejay Yatco, is given great importance and though recorded (an indication that the production has prospects of a national tour), it still has its supposed flavor with the lyrics, written by Joel Trinidad, oozing with emotions. Its overall sound has its own flow of drumbeats, which excites a rather rustic scene and ensures that audiences would be in continued delight all throughout. Yatco made the necessary research coupled with the right inspiration to come up with a score so strong so as to affect the emotions not only of the actors but more so the viewers.

BWW Review: GUADALUPE The Musical Is A Hearty Musical TreatThe actors and their voices also contribute to the success of the musical. The difficulty of the songs seems not to be a problem as the cast members sound light and brilliant. Their energy flows from the stage down to audience and echoes backs towards the actors. There is never a dull or even a null moment when the actors come on stage. The intonation and accents are totally "Latinized" to a point it seems that all the actors had language classes to ensure that everything would be as authentic as possible.

One important thing that would make people flock to this play is that the story and premise are very easy to follow. In fact, all your questions are answered point by point. Families and students should watch this piece because it is not only entertaining and informative, it is also inspirational and though the subject is Mexican, it is "authentically Filipino made." There is no musical piece existing about the Apparition at Guadalupe other than this one*; therefore, this is a first of its kind and may even give birth to different other productions not only about the Apparition at Guadalupe but also about other miraculous moments in history. This musical is a hearty treat, which restores faith in humanity.

"Guadalupe The Musical," directed by Baby Barredo, is brought to the stage by Julie Borromeo's Performing Arts Foundation. It runs at the Meralco Theater in Pasig City now through October 14, 2018.

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Photos: D&E Movement Photography

*Editor's Note: At a Q&A session with the creative team and cast of "Guadalupe The Musical" last September 30, 2018, the panel was asked: "Was there any musical ever done in Mexico or elsewhere prior to this production?" Vice Consul Gerardo Regalado, Embassy of Mexico in the Philippines, said, "None." View video clip starting at 02:53

However, the Call of Guadalupe, a non-profit theater organization based in Melbourne, Australia, pointed out that the company has been staging the musical "Call of Guadalupe," featuring the score of Peter Foster, since 2004. Get more info:

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From This Author Jared Echevarria

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