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MULA SA BUWAN Has Killer Song Hooks, Melodies, and Lyrics

Performances are until September 11, 2022.

MULA SA BUWAN Has Killer Song Hooks, Melodies, and Lyrics Manila, Philippines--True to its original form, the zarzuela, "Mula Sa Buwan," whose original title "Cyrano: Isang Sarswela," fuses songs, dances, romance, and revolutionary overtones, which, in essence, is immensely faithful to its main inspiration, Edmond Rostand's 1897 French play Cyrano de Bergerac, more specifically its 1955 Filipino adaptation by Soc Rodrigo--but this time set during the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines.

Officially a 12-year-old musical whose various iterations were embraced by its avid fans through the years, "Mula Sa Buwan," featuring the book, adaptation, and lyrics by Pat Valera and music and lyrics by William Elvin Manzano, has returned before sold-out live audiences at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater at Ayala Malls' Circuit Makati; performances are scheduled until September 11, 2022.

Although Mr. Rostand's Cyrano has been adapted into many forms: film, television, radio, opera, and musical theater--and in different languages, what stands out in this local take on a classic are the original songs, a sum of 15 musical numbers with song hooks, melodies, and lyrics that stay with you, including Cyrano's heartwarming, romantic solo "Ikaw," Cyrano's childhood love Roxane's heartbreaking 11 o'clock number "Ang Sabi Nila," and second lead Christian's wartime anthem "Matatapos Din," among others.

Musical direction is by Myke Salomon, who also ably plays Cyrano in this iteration, opposite Gab Pangilinan's Roxane--her soprano is hauntingly beautiful, and Markki Stroem's well-played and sung Christian.

MULA SA BUWAN Has Killer Song Hooks, Melodies, and Lyrics How we wish the music or the orchestrations are played live, though. But, overall, the production's sound design is well-balanced. The spoken and sung lines are not drowned beneath the pre-recorded instrumentals.

Performed across the massive 250 sqm main stage at the Samsung Theater, set designer Ohm David makes much larger cardboard set pieces against a humongous paper mache resembling the moon's surface compared to the previous runs of the musical, which Mr. David also designed. The opening scene at 1640s Paris' Hotel de Bourgogne in the original Cyrano is now transplanted into a zarzuela venue in 1940s downtown Manila. The Ragueneau's bakeshop in the original is now a cabaret club, run by Phi Palmos's Rosanna. Mr. Palmos's solid vocals, stage presence, and big number "Manifesto," a song of defiance and freedom of self-expression, is an early showstopper.

Bonsai Cielo's 1940s-inspired costumes and Vinas Deluxe of Drag Race Philippines' wigs, from the cadets to the cabaret dancers to Manila's urbanites at the time, are on-point.

Tech-wise, what the production needs to improve on, based on what we saw on opening night, is the lighting mix by the show's longtime lighting designer Meliton Roxas, Jr. From the back row of the 1,500-seater venue, Mr. Roxas' lighting palette comes across uneven, and at times, highly saturated.

MULA SA BUWAN Has Killer Song Hooks, Melodies, and Lyrics In its storytelling and stage direction, a few but essential characters' lines, especially the principal characters, should prompt their precise motivation on why they will burst into a song--a tweak on this aspect would help better establish the relationship of each character to the other or the rest of the characters early on. For instance, a short unsung premise-prelude to Cyrano's first ballad, "Ikaw," could give the audience an empathic "punch" of why he's about to sing the charming piece of music.

Like Mr. Rostand's original text, "Mula Sa Buwan" is filled with symbols and metaphors, which the text doesn't explicitly speak about in detail. Why does Cyrano have a famous elongated nose? (It's a literal or figurative barrier between him and Roxane's love.) What does the title "Mula Sa Buwan" allude to? (The real Cyrano--yes, Cyrano was a real person, was fond of space travel; he even published a collection of stories titled "The Other World"). And why were there falling autumn leaves in a tropical Philippines? (Mr. Rostand used autumn leaves to symbolize a graceful death or exit, which leads to the show's rather tragic, bittersweet ending.)

Besides the leads, "Mula Sa Buwan" also features performances from MC Dela Cruz (Maximo), Jon Abella (Tato), Jillian Ita-as (Gabriel), Abe Autea, Jep Go, Rapah Manalo, Stephen Vinas, Ericka Peralejo, Miah Canton, Francis Gatmaytan, Mitzie Lao, Deborah Lemuel, Mark Anthony Grantos, Eizel Marcelo, Kinnara Mayari, Ace Polias, Liway Perez, Lance Reblando, Mikaela Regis, Chesko Rodriguez, Keith Sumbi, Shaira Opsimar, and Khalil Tambio.

Additional creative and production work are by JM Cabling, choreography; Julia Pacificador, property design; Mikko Angeles, assistant direction; Philleep Masaquel, technical direction; John Mark Yap, stage management, and Baha Vergara, production management.

Barefoot Theatre Collaborative presents this much-needed run of "Mula Sa Buwan"--some two and a half years since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Check out the tickets.

Photos: Kyle Venturillo

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