Review Roundup: Spotlight Artists Centre Presents KATY

Review Roundup: Spotlight Artists Centre Presents KATY

MISS SAIGON original London cast alumna Isay Alvarez plays the iconic role of Katy dela Cruz, the queen of Philippine vaudeville, in Spotlight Artists Centre's revival production of KATY (photo by MJ Suayan)

Manila, Philippines, January 22, 2013 -- Members of the press that attended the preview performance of the much-anticipated revival production of Ryan Cayabyab and Jose Javier Reyes's landmark musical "Katy" at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) on Wednesday last week felt the production was far from technically perfect. Nevertheless, this Spotlight Artists Centre's take on the beloved original Filipino musical, based on the life and times of bodabil queen Katy dela Cruz, directed by the show's original director, Nestor U. Torre, opened last weekend, and was rewarded with extended standing ovations from the audience.

Spotlight Artists Centre's "Katy," whose remaining performances (Jan. 24-27) are sold out, features Isay Alvarez (Katy dela Cruz), Gian Magdangal (Jose "Peping" Yoingco), Dulce (Olivia), Tirso Cruz III (Juan dela Cruz), Epy Quizon (Golay/Dolphy Quizon), and Aicelle Santos (young Katy dela Cruz), among others.

Below, BroadwayWorld brings you a review roundup:

Vladimir Bunoan, Inspired performances, particularly from Isay Alvarez and Tirso Cruz III, helped lift the restaging of the original Filipino musical, "Katy," which had a shaky start at its press preview last Wednesday at the Little Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Nearly 25 years since its debut at the now defunct Rizal Theater in Makati in November 1988, the musical, created by composer Ryan Cayabyab and librettist Jose Javier Reyes, lived up to its reputation as among the finest original Filipino musicals ever written.

Reyes' book stayed with the primary aim of telling the story of bodabil star Katy dela Cruz, while providing choiced glimpses of that particular era and art form, as well as some of the personalities, including a young Mary Walter, then a sexy Hawaiian dancer; a young Dolphy; and a very young Gloria Romero...

Nestor Torre may have directed the original staging of "Katy," but this time around, in a new venue that has several technical limitations, the overall direction was largely unimaginative, with slow scene changes -- including one that lasted for what seemed like minutes with absolutely nothing happening onstage, not even music -- and way too many blackouts that broke up the flow of the musical. This was made even more glaring because of Reyes' crisp writing. The individual scenes are so tightly written that these numerous blackouts literally stop whatever momentum had been built.

The production numbers do soar, with the AMP Big Band providing an authentic jazz feel, aided by some energetic choreography, but the scenes don't move seamlessly to the next as one would expect -- especially 25 years after the original.

Ibarra C. Mateo, Torre's January 2013 staging of "Katy" may elicit thoughtful debate among critics, notably for its remarkably sparse set design and frequent, and almost eternal scene changes, which tend to derail the spiraling momentum. The CCP's Little Theater (Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino) has its own technical limitations. Similarly, funds for artistic productions are hard to find these days.

In spite of these unavoidable production hitches, it must be declared that the return of "Katy" on stage to mark the production's silver anniversary is another milestone in the musical's garland of achievements.

Its executive producers, namely Robert Seña, his wife Alvarez, Jimenez, and Carl Balita, gave Filipinos young and old another extraordinary chance to savor the enormous and exhilarating combination of the rare gifts of librettist Reyes and musician Cayabyab. One could only wish that the songs and music of "Katy" would be available in compact disc.

Alvarez, Dulce, and Cruz III more than displayed their natural musicality and vocal prowess, earning them repeated shouts of bravos and loud applause, almost every time they ended their song numbers.

Cruz III, who has not appeared in a musical on legitimate stage for about 15 years, was a genuine revelation in this production. He has not lost his enviable talents for singing and acting, which made him popular in the 1970s opposite Nora Aunor, despite the passage of time which has been very kind to him.

Magdangal, Jimenez, Fabie, Mangahis, Lambuhon, Tabunar, and Salazar did a highly commendable job of supporting the lead actors and actresses. The 13-member chorus cum supporting talents acting in various roles must also be acclaimed.

Francine Marquez, At Friday night's (Jan. 18) performance, an appreciative audience kept applauding after each scene, even whistling, as the lead actors-from the very young and pint-sized Yedda Lambujon who plays Katy as a child to divine Dulce and her expected striking vocal cords-delivered their performance-level best.

Also turning in noteworthy performances were multi-awarded actor and singer Tirso Cruz III and Epy Quizon. Rendering perfect timing in his repartees with Isay and other actors like Gian Magdangal, Tirso (also known as Pip to his fans) gave an endearing performance as Katy's overprotective but nurturing father. Epy, on the other hand, was an enigmatic presence when he first showed up on stage as Dolphy, his late dad who was a colleague of Katy dela Cruz during the vaudeville days. Katy even appeared in Dolphy's films. Epy's resemblance to Dolphy, even the way he portrayed his father, was uncanny and struck wistful moments among some theater goers.

But of course, Isay Alvarez delivers a deliciously spunky portrayal of the uncompromising yet passionate artist Katy. It was palpable that Isay's singing and acting was beyond technique but that she could feel for the Bodabil Queen herself, an iconic figure in Philippine theater. Like Katy and her peers at the time, even up to this day, local theater still has its creative and financial challenges that continue to affect the theater scene. Not to mention, the demands of being an artist can also take its toll on one's personal life.

Juan Antonio Lanuza, Business World: The librettist of the play was Jose Javier Reyes, while Ryan Cayabyab composed the music (among his best show compositions since the music had a Philippine flavor). Nestor Torre, Jr. directed the play with Cecille Martinez, Tin Limjap and Liza Martinez as choreographers. The functional and simple sets were by Bobot Lota, while the musical direction was by Mel Villena. The book was composed of a set of vignettes depicting the life of Katy, from early childhood to her adulthood. This created a disjointed effect that would affect some in the audience. Set changes did not go without glitches.

However, the redeeming factor and definitely the reason I enjoyed the show was the excellent performances and singing of the main roles: Isay Alvarez as Katy was excellently cast, Dulce as Olivia was fabulous, Epy Quizon as Dolphy, Yedda Lambujon as the child Katy, Aicelle Santos as the young Katy. Gian Magdangal looked the part and did good singing and acting as Pepino the pianist who eventually marries Katy, and Tirso Cruz III did a credible job as Katy's father. Lou Veloso as the theater director at times would get carried away and overact...

Dulce's two duets with Isay during Act I were a dream come true for me. I finally heard Dulce perform in a show. She is terrific. What a voice she has and what a delivery she has! In the Second Act she had her big solo wherein the audience gave her prolonged and loud applause.

The period music Cayabyab composed sounded very authentic. I really enjoyed the music, choreography and costumes.

My only wish would be to try to shorten the play and try to consolidate some of the short scenes.

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