Reviews

Two Musical Weekends: Jekyll and Hyde + Care Divas

Here are my reviews of Jekyll and Hyde (Repertory Philippines) and Care Divas (PETA, Repertory). Spoiler alert — this should go without saying 🙂

We got to catch the last show (April 22 8PM) of Repertory Philippines’ Jekyll and Hyde, with Michael Williams playing the titular role.

Image from Repertory Philippines

The Broadway recording of Jekyll and Hyde (1997) is probably my favorite 20th century musical recording along with Les Miserables. Its anthems are timeless — “This is the Moment”, “Take Me as I am,” “In His Eyes”, and the tearjerker “Someone Like You” — as are its chorus songs — “Facade” and “Murder, Murder”. So it was a surprise for me to learn that despite a long run on Broadway, it did not have rave reviews, especially not toward the end when David Hasselhoff apparently could not pull off the character.

While watching, I realized that the music may not have translated well to a theatrical performance — not as well as, say, to a concert — and that’s why some chorus songs seemed to last too long. But I think the chorus members were superb singers, and I think the stage design helped make their songs more engaging than it would have been otherwise.

The stage is set like a Victorian operating theatre, according to the notes of director Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, with the main action happening on what would have been the surgery area. I didn’t realize it was an operating viewing gallery till after watching the musical — I’d thought it was just a modified arena theater. In either case I thought it was an excellent choice of set design. On the one hand, Dr. Jekyll was a doctor, with other people watching his every move. It was kind of intimidating when the disembodied chorus, standing on the galleries, moved ever so slightly to Dr. Jekyll’s words and actions. On the other, it echoes the theme of human actions and character being governed by the opinions of society on him or her. Society, after all, is watching our every move, and they may well be the only ones who keep our (Freudian) id in check.

I loved the cast, too. Cris Villongco was lovely as Emma Carew, and though her singing voice was quite restrained, it might have been a good decision. It also served to distinguish Emma from Lucy Harris, and after all, a too-powerful soprano might not blend well with a belting alto in “In His Eyes.” Kalila Aguiluz was such a stunning Lucy — electrifying in “Dangerous Game” and heartrendingly empathetic in “Someone Like You”. I quite liked the character of loyal John Utterson, too, portrayed by Junix Inocian.

But I have to state the most obvious thing of all — Michael Williams as Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde carried the production from start to finish. Actually, for about five minutes since his first appearance, I had a difficult time separating the character from the actor, whom I have known personally (he directed the school production of Grease some years back, and even then he was very demanding, as well as very helpful to a total neophyte actor like me). But I decided to stop doing so consciously and started enjoying the show for what it was. He had tremendous energy. His solo numbers, especially “This is the Moment” and “Transformation” utterly took my breath away. We were watching from the balcony and could not see distinct facial expressions, and yet how he transformed from stately Jekyll to crazed Hyde was so…complete. To me it seemed that there was depth in his characterization of Dr. Jekyll such that his fall from grace, in spite of his good intentions and caring friends, was something everyone sympathized with.

My rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

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The next weekend, we watched Repertory Philippines and PETA’s Care Divas (April 29, 3PM), which I’d always wanted to watch but never got to, mostly because the PETA theater in New Manila is so far. I scored discounted balcony tickets from my friend Nonoy. Yay for discounts! (Seriously, as plays are always so expensive.)

Image from PETA

It’s a story about five transgenders — Chelsea, Shai, Thalia, Kayla and Jonee –who work in Israel as caregivers to the elderly, and as performers during their spare time. It deals with such issues as the “TNT” (tago ng tago) phenomenon, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the acceptance of transgenders in both the Israeli and Philippine societies (this last one is very timely).

I will say what everyone else has been saying — it was hilarious, even gut-bustingly funny at some points. The funniest were ditzy Thalia (Dudz Terana), whose antics and silly remarks had everyone in stitches (and earned the actor a standing ovation), and pessimistic Shai (Vincent de Jesus, also the musical director and of Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah fame) with her deadpan delivery of a la-Vice Ganda one-liners.

I think that one has to reflect on the play as more of a realistic exposition and less of a narrative of what life for transgender OFWs in Israel is like. Each life in the group is one experience that we’re supposed to watch, to understand, to empathize with. The characters’ endings — Chelsea’s death, Kayla’s deportation, Shai’s transfer to the US — are not particularly ennobling, and one gets the sense that there is no proper denouement for them. But that’s what happens in such a life, and every life — it goes on.

There was marvelous chemistry among cast members as it seemed that most of the lines they were throwing at each other were unscripted. I love that about theater — the play transforms during every performance. If those lines were scripted, then it would have been quite a very long script! And I think that the weakness of the play lies there — the bantering, while funny, was too long — for a long time during Act 1, nothing of note was happening, nothing of substance was said. Maybe it’s a personal preference; maybe I’m just used to the fast pacing of today’s TV shows and movies.

The last two numbers, by the way, was exceptional. Chelsea performed a heartfelt number — her red scarf was all too suddenly something else, and her joining her beloved Daddy Isaac was such a poignant moment. As for the last number — the costumes were so bongga! I think half of us girls in the audience were kind of envious.

My rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

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2 thoughts on “Two Musical Weekends: Jekyll and Hyde + Care Divas

  1. hi fellow theater-lover! Atlantis Productions is staging NINE, starring Jett Pangan, Cherie Gil, Eula Valdez, Menchu Yulo, Sitti, Ima Castro, Carla Laforteza, Yanah Laurel and Jay Glorioso. Please contact us at 0922-893-2332 for tickets to the Oct 6 show. Thanks!

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