Review Roundup: BLUEBIRD OF HAPPINESS by Trumpets

Review Roundup: BLUEBIRD OF HAPPINESS by TrumpetsManila, Philippines, October 3, 2013-- As an early Christmas gift, Trumpets, Asia's first professional gospel theater group, known for original Filipino musicals such as "First Name" and "Little Mermaid"--shows with strong moral and spiritual messages--brings to Meralco Theater another family-centric production, "The Bluebird of Happiness," which runs until Sunday, October 20.

"The Bluebird of Happiness," a musical adaptation of Maurice Maeterlinck's play of the same name, featuring music by Rony Fortich and book and lyrics by Jaime del Mundo, begins on Christmas Eve, where two poor, unhappy children Mytyl and Tyltyl express their dismay about Christmas. In search of a better life, the two embark on a magical journey searching for the mythical creature known as the bluebird of happiness. Together with their dog, cat and "Light" (a candle in human form), the two kids visit various places: "The Land of Memory," where the children meet their long dead grandparents, "The Palace of the Night," "The Forest," "The Land of Luxury," "The Land of the Future" and "The Graveyard." Mytyl and Tyltyl end up in the same place where they started their journey--their own home.

Its cast, directed by del Mundo, includes Anton Posadas and Guido Gatmaitan (Tyltyl), Alessa Zialcita and Chimmi Kohchet-Chua (Mytyl), Lynn Sherman (Tylette, the cat), Robie Zialcita (Tylo, the dog), Carla Guevara-Laforteza (Light) and Joel Trinidad (Night).

Let's see what the critics had to say:

Ava May Robles, Pep.Ph: The play can be likened to an animated Disney movie that springs to life with songs and melodies that are easy to listen to, and which will undoubtedly appeal to the young and young-at-heart.

Review Roundup: BLUEBIRD OF HAPPINESS by TrumpetsThe actors--from the lead stars to the supporting cast; from the elderly performers to the young ones--displayed such consistency and played their parts so skillfully to make the entire show engaging...

What is good about this play is that it is fast-paced, dynamic and has an easygoing appeal that should make it likable to young viewers--its main target audience. The songs are very catchy. The dialogues are designed for kids and even the humor is easily grasped.

For instance, in one scene, Night and Light are conversing. Night cracks a joke which Light doesn't get, which prompts Night to groan, "O, lighten up!"

However, there were a couple of songs that seemed a bit too long and repetitive, and felt dragging at a certain point.

But as a whole, the two-hour long play proved quite engrossing and entertaining.

Vladimir Bunoan, The Bluebird of Happiness" succeeds as family entertainment largely because of the creative vision of director and book writer Jaime del Mundo, set designer Mio Infante and lighting designer John Batalla. The musical is really more of a visual feast, a children's pop-up book made larger than life. Trumpets spared no expense in bringing the story to the stage, notably in the Land of Luxury sequence that opens Act 2, with a candy-colored ramp, a large ceiling-to-floor chandelier and the cast in outrageous costumes. Even more eye-popping was "The Forest" scene with the cast dressed as towering dead trees.

It also helped that Rony Fortich composed pleasant melodies patterned after old-fashioned Broadway musicals ranging from light operatic arias to fun numbers, such as Tylo's solo backed up by a group of energetic kids.

Review Roundup: BLUEBIRD OF HAPPINESS by TrumpetsThe highly professional cast gave the musical the polish to elevate it from being just another kiddie show. The chorus, for instance, were gifted with strong voices that ring even in ordinary numbers with the harmonies tight and clear.

"The Bluebird of Happiness" also has a star-studded cast, filling even minor roles. Veterans Joy Virata and Steve Cadd exuded warmth in their roles as the grandparents, while Carla Guevara-Laforteza's pristine soprano was aptly radiant as Light. Robbie Zialcita, who will soon be seen in "The Producers," was cuddly as the loyal dog and his scenes with jazz singer Lynn Sherman as the sly pet cat lent the musical much of its humor.

Joel Trinidad, another Repertory Philippines' regular, relished the deviousness of his role - and punk frock - as Night without going overboard with the creepiness.

Carlomar Arcangel Daoana, Child actors Alessa Zialcita and Guido Gatmaytan give a dazzling performance as Mytyl and Tyltyl, whose seemingly endless quarrels make their tandem against Night and the speaking trees all the more touching. The songs make the full use of their vocal ability, from rap-like renditions to melancholy ballads, such as the play's theme song. Addressing the bluebird of happiness, they croon, "When will you cheer/ My tearful days/ Or is it a lie?" Alternates to the roles are Guido Gatmaytan and Chimmi Kohchet-Chua.

The strongest performances, however, come from already notable names in theater that include Mayen Bustamante-Cadd (Mama Tyl), Jennifer Villegas-dela Cruz (Berylune), Steve Cadd (Grandpa Tyl) and Joy Virata (Grandpa Tyl). But it is Lynn Sherman (Tylette) and Joel Trinidad (Night) who are the most interesting and memorable in their roles, especially in their performance of "Tango of Treachery" that involves some daring spins, dips and leaps.

One would be amiss not to mention the play's scenographer Mio Infante who has made some of the most spectacular sets for local theater. Birdhouse-strewn and starlit, his stage creations for "The Bluebird of Happiness" incite child-like wonder, especially The Land of Luxury that has all the accoutrements of opulence, including a humongous, dripping chandelier. The graveyard and the forest he concocted are at once menacing and fear-inducing.

Photos by Trumpets

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