Saturday, October 30, 2010

Crazy in love

It’s the morning after but their voices are still ringing in my ears. I like it.

Baguio Apaches Rudy Paraan and Rae David  / Photo by Jojo Lamaria
Of course we got the usual quips like, are these guys from Manila? It’s really so annoying, and sad, when our performers get asked that after a show. But you really can’t blame the people who do that for more often than not, institutions in the city ignore local artists and turn to Manila whenever they need performers for their events. That’s why it’s no surprise when they see something good onstage in Baguio, they instantly think the artists must be from elsewhere but here. For those who have been following Panagbenga’s new tradition of staging grand musicals at the Burnham Lake top-billed by Manila artists, last night’s performance was no Phantom nor Camelot on the Lake, as far as grandiose sets and costumes and production budget are concerned. But sheer talent and artistry more than made up for it.

Raye Baquirin / photo by Charm Simbajon
It was during the frenzy of Session Road in Bloom when couples Rey & Deb Bautista and Dammy & Bing Bangaoet opened Marien Platz at the basement of La Azotea earlier this year. While most patrons came and saw a cozy little café that served German sausages and beer, we in Open Space, a group of performing artists in Baguio, saw a potential performance space.  While the idea of having performances there has been brought up from day one, which is expected since the owners have been at the forefront of the local arts and culture scene all their lives, elections and the later the daily struggle of local artists to make rent and put food on the table got in the way of conceptualizing, planning and putting something together. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, we came up with the idea of an evening of songs from hit Broadway musicals, but there were still logistical and technical concerns to tackle: lights and sound equipment, budget, performers’ availability, etc.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally decided to just go ahead with it with eyes closed and fingers crossed – I sent text messages to the group to ask if they would be willing to perform in a musical revue at Marien Platz. Merely minutes later, I received favorable replies from three artists. Within the next hour, I have come up with a design for a poster which I posted immediately online, and a tentative repertoire of about a dozen songs. By the end of the day, eight have confirmed their participation, and more songs were added to the repertoire. By the time we had our first meeting, we had 12 performers and 30 songs to rehearse. We agreed on a rehearsal date – a couple of days before the show, and by the end of that rehearsal, four more songs were added.

Robert Capuyan, Jr. / photo by Charm Simbajon
Pardon me if I’m gloating about local artists again, I know I do that a lot here. And they deserve it. Their dedication, professionalism and love for the craft never fail to amaze me. At rehearsals, after convincing everyone that we can pull off a rendition of “One Day More” from Les Miserables even with only one rehearsal, Lloyd Celzo showed up with handwritten notes for everyone at rehearsals. Jeff Coronado’s passion for singing shone when he opened the show with “Love Changes Everything.” The Cats suite had Eunice Caburao surprising even herself with a masterful performance of Macavity; Ryle Danganan hit those notes in “Memory” effortlessly; and Roman Ordoña delivered an engaging performance with “Mr. Mistoffelees.” Raye Baquirin, who arrived in Baguio just the night before, conquered the stage with her first solo of the night, “As If We Never Said Goodbye,” while Open Space veteran Russell de Guzman sang “Sunset Boulevard” with utmost sincerity. The audience hushed as Ro Quintos beautifully sang the first lines of the duet, “All I Ask of You,” which Lloyd Virgo complemented with his powerful baritone. Lloyd Celzo, as expected, flawlessly breezed through “Music of the Night.” Dennis Gutierrez sang “Rain” from “Once On This Island” with much power and conviction. Arkhe Sorde Salcedo and Robert Capuyan, Jr. brought the house down with their “Jesus Christ Superstar” solos, while Claude Danganan had the group of Baguios Apaches Rey Bautista, Rudy Paraan and Rae David dancing and singing along with his rendition of “Hair.” 

Last night, the audience filled every inch of space in Marien Platz. Later, as we were packing up the sound system that was generously lent by our musical director, Ethan Andrea Ventura, for the show, and after a few glasses of wine and beer and chicken liver kilawin, after singing a total of 35 songs, we all took a deep breath and decided, yes, we would love to do this again.
Photo by Jojo Lamaria
See, we’re just a bunch of people in love… we all fell in love with this crazy world called theater, and as Jeff Coronado sang that night, “Yes, love, love changes everyone. Live or perish in its flame. Love will never, never let you be the same.”

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