Last February 19, I was able to watch the musical (at last!) after prodding Christian for months. It was my first time to watch a play in the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila and boy, I was really impressed with the theater’s facade. The stage is so wide and it has a huge LED monitor at the back which played amazing movie trailers while we were waiting for the show. The sound system is also topnotch. The seats are plush, comfortable, and adequately positioned for theater viewing.
We purchased the deluxe seats (PhP 1300/ticket) but I made sure that we were seated near the center aisle so that we can still have a good view of the actors and the stage. Being very small, the one problem that I always encounter is the sea of heads blocking my view.
When it was announced that Joanna Ampil and Ariel Rivera will be leading the cast, I hissed a little “Yesssss!”. I was actually wishing for the two of them to play Maria Rainer and Captain Georg von Trapp. I will always be amazed by Audie Gemora, the other actor who plays the captain. He is one of the best male opera singer in the country today. But I was really looking forward to Ariel acting and singing on actual stage, not behind cameras and on television.
And then the show began.
The nuns from the Nonnberg Abbey entered the stage and sang like angels, their voices blending beautifully and resonating across the theater. And then comes Joanna Ampil donning the iconic Maria jumper dress, running and dancing across the stage singing the famous “The Hills are Alive”. It was my first time to see Joanna act and sing in the flesh and I was just mesmerized. No wonder she got world-wide recognition from her earlier plays.
Ariel Rivera as the captain is perfect physically. He has this arrogant air and stance that Georg von Trapp got famous for. I especially liked the way he adopted the Austrian accent for his character. It was something new since I was so used seeing Ariel as this handsome, timid singer in the local variety show ASAP. But honestly, his singing just cannot match the other seasoned opera singers. His voice is just too commercial and is often drowned out in duets.
Sadly, Pinky Amador was not there to play the role of Elsa Shraeder. I forgot the name of the alternate actress but she’s also good in terms of acting and singing. She really carried herself well on stage.
Tisha Manalang as the eldest von Trapp, Liesl, looks too old for the role but she makes up for it with her singing. She can hit her high notes and is at par with Joanna when they have their duets. She also has this certain charm that makes you want to sing with her, dance with her, be giddy with her (when she had her first kiss with Rolf), and cry with her when she was heartbroken (thanks to Rolf!).
The other kids are just so-so when it comes to singing but I was kinda expecting it. What I wasn’t expecting is how well they played their character — especially the young ones, Annika Allado who played Brigitta and Alexa Villaroel who played Gretl. Another favorite is Rebecca Coates. She’s really pretty and graceful on stage and played the impish Louisa perfectly. Each of the young von Trapp kids really shone even though they only have few speaking lines.
And who can forget the quirky maid Frau Schmidt who was played by Debraliz Valasote? Debraliz has been around in the movie and television industry since I was a kid and often played the maid, the nanny, the funny sidekick, or just a mere extra. Little did I know that she’s also a seasoned theater actress. For that, I had a new-found respect for her.
I also give my hats off to the stage director for being able to pull off intricate and majestic props on the stage seamlessly. Whatever effect that they want to give to the audience has been achieved. Aside from the actual props, scenic landscapes were played in the LED screen in coherence with the locations and scenes acted out by the characters. There are also two small monitors at the left and right side of the stage which shows close-ups of the actors and playing out the musical as if it were made for television. I guess, it’s also for the benefit of those who were seating at the back part of the theater. But honestly, I found them quite distracting.
Overall, the Sound of Music gave me the high-quality theatrical play that I was expecting. I was proud that a local production could pull off something that is comparable to the other international stage plays that we have right now. It is, without doubt, one of the most successful local production stage play in the Philippines as it is currently running on it’s 4th month and has been extended twice.
For those who still haven’t watched it, you have until May 27 to grab a ticket and be amused, be mesmerized, and sing along with the Von Trapp Family Singers.
Photos by Christian Villanos