Tuesday, June 26, 2012

REVIEW: Rock of Ages (Manila) by Atlantis Productions

Carlos P. Romulo Theatre (Manila), Saturday June 23

Atlantis Productions’ Rock of Ages is better than the Broadway production. There, I have said it. I can’t believe that there will come a day that I will find a Philippine production better than the Broadway one. Oh, I know that Filipinos are vey talented, but one has to admit that Broadway do attract and put out very good stuff. With the money and the talent pool (on and behind the stage) available, the statistics just work for Broadway. Last year, I saw the Broadway production of Rock of Ages (see my review) and totally disliked it. I am not so sure whether because in comparison to the other 9 shows I saw during that trip, it paled or it was just a simple case of mediocre performance.

The amazing part about my experiences is the fact that they are polarized. I hate the Broadway production and love the Manila production. I concluded that a major factor has to be the performers. In my review of the Broadway production, I stated that, “It was plain raw and cheap... and the actors know it... every now and then, glimpses of utter embarrassment of what they were doing with their talents were apparent.” In contrast, the performers in the Manila production lapped it up. Aside from the fact that I believe that the humor of the musical is so akin to the Filipino humor (just watch the noontime TV shows in the Philippines), every single performer embraced it and camped it up.

For some reason, the story presented in this production was more effective and I believe that it has a lot to do with the casting. In the fashion of a good romantic comedy (think There’s Something About Mary), the male character is not your typical leading man stereo-type (think Ben Stiller), and that’s where Nyoy Volante’s Drew Boley comes in. Volante is not particularly tall or handsome (as I have said in my review of In the Heights), BUT he infused his Drew with a huge amount of talent, humor and sincerity that is not only attractive in romantic comedies, but also in real life… Well, in real life being tall and handsome like Dan Momenech (who I saw as Drew in Broadway) and at the same time talented, humorous and sincere is of course not bad at all, but that’s for Cinderella and The Little Mermaid.

It was not only with Drew that the production got it right, it was the whole cast. It was a PERFECT cast from leads to chorus. Needless to say, Mig Ayesa as Stacee Jaxx was as stunning as his performance in Broadway. Jett Pangan’s Lonny Barnett (narrator) was all-out positively corny and camp. The biggest surprise of the performance however was Vina Morales as Sherrie Christian. I am not so sure whether she was very good or the role just fitted her faultlessly, BUT the reality was that the performance was flawless dramatically and vocally. I was even more surprised to find out that she’s 36 years old and was making her musical theatre debut! She ought to do more musicals! I can go on and on about why each member of the cast was right for the role, but the true honor should go to director Chari Arespacochaga for her attention to details and capacity to milk dry the potential of the material. BRAVA!

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