BWW Review: LAM-ANG is Vibrant, Powerful Retelling of an Epic
It is essential to be authentic because a production like this speaks of our cultural identity.
Manila, Philippines - Prompted by its mission to promote Philippine culture and heritage, Tanghalang Pilipino's (TP) third production this season is Lam-Ang: An Ethno-Epic Musical.
Biag ni Lam-Ang (The Life of Lam-Ang), which inspired the musical, is one of the oldest folk epics in the Ilocos Region, and yet most Filipinos know nothing about it.
Featuring the book by Eljay Castro Deldoc, TP's Lam-Ang wants to tell the story creatively and truthfully. The epic is about Ilocano warrior Lam-Ang's two quests in life: the quest for his missing father and the quest for love. It is these quests that shape Lam-Ang into the kind of hero he is.
The musical, in general, is a sight to behold. Everything that the audience sees carries so much meaning, which proves how much research went into it. It is essential to be authentic because a production like this speaks of our cultural identity.
Jen Darlene Torres' music and lyrics are beautiful, where indigenous chanting and instruments are mixed with modern genres. At the media launch, Torres mentioned she wanted the songs to appeal to the younger generation and be stuck in their heads after watching, and she succeeds.
The costume design (Bonsai Cielo) is faithful to Filipino culture, helping the audience to be transported to the epic's setting, and the set and props (Marco Viaña) symbolize so many important elements in the story. Everything is crafted so intelligently, and even the lighting design (Meliton Roxas) is noteworthy. The choreography (JM Cabling) is incredible despite the very few instances where it was too confusing and disorganized onstage.
JC Santos' portrayal of Lam-Ang is impressive - really capturing the essence of the typical hero who is blinded by the need for power and revenge. He shows the character arc well and has the audience rooting for his character's development. Santos gives the audience an image of Lam-Ang, and now he appears not just an idea but a real person who had his flaws and moments of poor choices. Santos' first lead role in a musical certainly makes the audience look forward to seeing him in more.
Joining him is Anna Luna who is extremely charming as the formidable Kannoyan. Luna fits the role perfectly, being as clever and alluring that the role required of her. She is very refreshing to watch, especially since she's a stark contrast to Lam-Ang's machismo.
Tex Ordonez-De Leon is absolutely captivating from the beginning until the end, and Ybes Bagadiong and Lance Reblando's performances as Tagguob and Taraok, respectively, are commendable, too.
Marco Viaña and Fitz Edward Bitana's direction is a fresh take on the epic, and the meaningful nuances in the production show that they are successful in this creative retelling of Lam-Ang's tale.
Lam-Ang is a powerful and timely adaptation that is necessary in the present day, and it's definitely a must-see. Surely, many people will enjoy learning about the epic in such an impressive manner of storytelling.
Photos: Tanghalang Pilipino