Review: Marriage is Not Perfect; It Never Will Be

'Carousel' runs until December 18 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez.

By: Nov. 29, 2022
Review: Marriage is Not Perfect; It Never Will Be

This review contains spoilers.

Manila, Philippines-- Witnessing a postmodern reimagination of a sublime 20th-century Rodgers and Hammerstein musical makes one realize there is a darker, yet more revealing, life's perspective. In Repertory Philippines' "Carousel," director Toff de Venecia incorporates what we obsess about in this digital age, e.g., mobile phones, TikTok, and ring lights, amid the present-day political and societal pressures, including the countless fits of abuse in marriage.

In the early duet "If I Loved You," Karylle Tatlonghari, the simpleton Julie Jordan, and Gian Magdangal, the happy-go-lucky carousel barker Billy Bigelow, instantly set the romantic flame between their characters.

But Billy beats Julie.

Julie seems naïve at first; however, Tatlonghari's approach to her character is more complex than that: a daydreamer in her world, she sees only the good in Billy, which the others around them don't agree with. Tatlonghari, an experienced actress on the stage and screen, gives Julie a fully-developed character with pure emotions and moving singing; hers is a delightful work on stage.

Magdangal, on the other hand, delivers a brash and troubled antihero. His seven-and-a-half-minute performance of his character's signature song, "Soliloquy," is impeccable, where his story arc transitions from his easygoing ways to a would-be father to a daughter whom he needs to provide for--no matter what.

Seeing Julie's BFF, Carrie, played by Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante, in a constantly happy disposition only makes the characters' dynamics more interesting. In fact, Volante's Carrie offers a light-hearted balance to the show's rather discomforting storyline. It's also thrilling to witness Volante work with Lorenz Martinez, who plays the ambitious, single-minded Enoch Snow, Carrie's would-be husband. Theirs is a hilarious stage chemistry, which had the audience in stitches.

Further, it seems fit for Noel Rayos to play the cunning Jigger Craigin, Billy's "not-so-good" friend. The actor's villainous solid facial features exude ambition, arrogance, and manipulation. A similar picture can also be said of Roxy Aldiosa's Mrs. Mullin, the carousel's proprietress who obsesses over Billy. She's effectively mysterious, sensual, and untrusting of others.

Mia Bolanos plays Julie's cousin and confidante, Nettie. She gets to sing the show's big solo number, "You'll Never Walk Alone," in a manner that's not rushed or over-the-top, which many in the audience are accustomed to. The song's melancholy tone, yet brimming with uplifting lyrics, embodies the ethos of the people living in this "Carousel's" world--a moral compass that one strives to emulate.

Experiential Dances, Paradox of Marriage

As envisioned in the early stages of this production, Stephen Vinas' choreography enhances the storytelling. For instance, the actors' loud banging of a bench placed on center stage in "June is Bustin' Out All Over" simulates Billy slapping Julie on the face.

In the second act, Gia Geguinto, Billy and Julie's 15-year-old daughter, Louise, does a bone-breaking dance sequence, along with danseurs Julio Laforteza and Steven Hotchkiss. The trio's highly-demanding physical performance emblemizes Louise's extreme dejection and inferiority complex.

And this "Carousel" depicts a similar circumstance: people who belong to the working class in a small town in Maine, New York, who constantly struggle to put food on the table.

It also shows that marriages are far from perfect, but at least from Julie and Louise, it's possible that "someone may beat you over and over and not hurt you at all."

REP's production of "Carousel" runs until December 18 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez.--with additional words by Oliver Oliveros

Photo: Paw Castillo/Repertory Philippines