The Lion King: A Feast for the Eyes

Finally, after seeing all those Instagram posts, I got to see the Lion King last Saturday.

True to feedback from close friends, the visuals are amazing. One will wonder on the extent of imagination put into the stage sets, props, and costumes. There were some moments in the play that caught me by surprise and made me ask, “How the hell did that happen?”. 

We were too excited early for the play. The VIPs are not yet in. LOL!

The actors are mostly strapped in mechanical costumes that look so awesome and cool when they move. Think actors on stilts acting as giraffes; an actress strapped in a full-sized puppet moving about like a cheetah; an actor doing high jumps across the stage holding gazelle figures to imitate their stotting in the prairie; and an actor holding a long stick with attached mechanical birds dancing and twirling to make them come to life.

With JJ who played Young Simba. So adorable!

The main actors have these beautiful headpieces that transform into masks when they tilt their heads down, which made for a very convincing lion on a fight stance.

On top of navigating and acting through intricate stage set-ups, the actors are also dancing. And by dancing, I mean dance in a really technical way. Very impressive especially if you’re also singing and speaking in between.

My only gripe is there’s not one song that made me go “WOW!” during the actual play. Even Circle of Life which is the creme de la creme of the production paled in comparison audiowise to Do You Hear the People Sing from Les Mis or Defying Gravity from Wicked. If it wasn’t for the amazing visuals, it would have been just ordinary. It must be the audio in the theater at that time because even the other songs sounded muffled. After watching the play, I headed over to Spotify and listened in to the songs and they were all really good to me. Some even reminded me of Hans Zimmer with the heavy basses. Granted that they have good quality because they were recordings I’ve still seen plays where the recordings and the live performances are at par. It’s such a shame that this wasn’t the case in our show.

I think there was also one mishap because the platform where Rafiki should have held Simba up in the air during Circle of Life was nowhere; so all three actors – Rafiki, Mufasa, and Sarabi stayed on the same stage level as the other animals which overwhelmed them. I had a hard time looking for Simba, and for a minute there, it looked like Rafiki was just shaking the plushie Simba rigorously. It was hard to ignore.

Despite my gripes, there were still a number of scenes that stood out aside from the Circle of Life opening:

  1. One by One in the beginning of the Act II. The actors just looked so happy, colorful, and energetic! It was contagious!
  2. The lionesses’ amazing dance number in Shadowland. This is another part where you see how much thought was given in the costumes to emphasize the movement and grace of the lady actors. And the choreography is super.
  3. The Stampede. Just. WOW! I was really excited to see this part because it’s hard to translate from animation to stage. The result was flawless!
  4. Simba’s Endless Night to Mufasa. Very emotional and made me tear up a bit especially when he sang “You promised you’d be there.. Whenever I needed you… Whenever I call your name.. You’re not anywhere..”
  5. He Lives In You with the amazing visuals again. It surprised me how that 3D Mufasa head just suddenly appeared in the darkness. The One by One chorus made another appearance here which gave life to the whole performance.
  6. The Madness of King Scar. I loved the actor who played Scar and the hyenas are so amusing. A cackle of hyenas also did a cool dance number during this part.

Overall, The Lion King is still a delight to watch. Again, it would leave you at awe on how someone conceptualized all of these and translated the animated movie into a believable live action play. It’s true when they advertised that there’s simply no like it because there really isn’t. It’s like watching a musical, a puppet show, a circus, and a shadow play all rolled into one amazing show!

I wouldn’t go about and call it as the #1 Musical, though. I’m reserving that one for Hamilton. 😜

The Manila run has been extended until May so grab a ticket and enjoy the show.

U to the ke to the lele

Yesterday, I attended my first ever ukulele night hosted by Ukulele Manila. Not as a player, but a mere spectator. I’ve always had this small fantasy of being this kick-ass musician in an alternate universe, but you and I both know that it’s never gonna happen. Nevertheless, I am very much of a music lover and watching and listening to legit musicians do their thing gives me the fulfillment of my otherwise ‘musical me’ delusions.

Going to a bar where you only know 2 out of almost a hundred people can be intimidating. But one thing I learned about going to these kind of gigs is, IT DOESN’T REALLY MATTER. The musical community is a cool and friendly lot, and Ukulele Manila is no exception. I remember smacking a guy’s arm, a total stranger, because I was laughing so hard at his antics directed to his friend. In another scenario, I would have gotten the stink eye. But in this, I just got a laugh in return.

What made it more awesome is the fact that it’s The Beatles Night. Who doesn’t love The Fab Four, really? Even if you were born yesterday, chances are you will still grow up surrounded by people who listen to and love their music.

The night ended with me and my friend, Val, contemplating on getting our own ukes. Not until last night, my knowledge of ukulele has been limited to that of Zooey Deschanel and her 1950’s singing, blunt bangs, doe-eyed and all, strumming this mini guitar thing. But after last night’s jamming session, I had a better appreciation for the instrument.

What more, my other friend, Ahmad, who also played some tracks last night was very much encouraging us to try it on our own. He said that UM is hosting free ukulele tutorials every Saturday around the BGC area, which is really cool, BTW. It not only give other people a venue to learn more about the instrument, it’s also a fun way of introducing the ukulele community to them.

If you have time to spare and want to learn something new, why not give it a try? Who knows, we might bump elbows there one Saturday. 🙂

FNS, YIF, and YSITV

I’m supposed to be working on my SoKor journal before it bites the dust and forever be a remnant of my undocumented memories but I can’t bring myself to. I’ve been bitten by the Friday Night Syndrome and all I wanna do is to laze around and wait for precious time to trickle.

On a positive note, I am thinking of going to YIF’s Your Silence is the Villain Single + MV Launching at Autonomy Bar tonight.

YSITV

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a bar, drinking my way through good music and interesting conversations. In an alternate universe I would have been a musician. A place where my guitar playing skills is not limited to strumming ‘When You Say Nothing At All’ and ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’, my singing does not sound like a wailing cat, my stage presence and charm is not obscenely annoying or bordering on the boring, and my height does not require too much microphone stand adjustment.

Oh, yeah. I would have been a great musician in that alternate universe.

But I’m not. And the least I could do is to surround myself with people who are, indeed, good musicians in their own rights. If you have some free time to kill, drop by the gig. If you happen to spot me in the crowd, come on over and say hi. Maybe we can talk about something interesting other than the weather.

Pumped Up for Foster!

I’ve been gushing about Foster the People ever since I got introduced to their music. And being a fan girl, I did not dare miss their first ever concert here in the Philippines no matter how financially deprived I was at that time. Bought Upper B tickets in Araneta Coliseum which is not so bad.  Hey, it’s all for the music, right? Nah… Who am I kidding? I would vouch for the VIP Patron seats if I could. Anything to be nearer to my current favorite band. But I can’t so I didn’t. I just bought myself a pair of Eye-max — those foldable paper binoculars which cost 60 bucks a piece — so that I can zoom in on them if I’m not jumping and dancing around like a crazed person.

That Saturday was really amazing!!! They have such strong presence on stage and they sure can sing and play music– them, jumping around from one instrument to another. Seriously… I was mind-blown!

I was lucky that Christian was there to document it for me. Here’s the video that he made for the concert highlights with Pumped Up Kicks in the background– an epic ending to an epic night!

Foster the People Live in Manila

Image taken from http://liveconcertmanila.blogspot.com

It’s official! Mark Foster, Cubbie Fink, and Mark Pontius are coming over to the Philippines on October 6. I’ve been a Foster the People fan ever since I heard a friend’s band do a cover of their song, Pumped Up Kicks. I loved it so much I even wrote about it in one of my earlier posts. Which led me to find the original, which made me fall in love with it even more, and which, eventually, led me to fall in love with the band and their music. And yeah, they’ve got these awesome music videos, too.

Seriously stoked! Gotta buy tickets soon. 🙂

“How do you solve a problem like Maria?”: The Sound of Music Review

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.

At the theater’s lobby

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.

With the nuns of Nonnberg Abbey

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.

Souvenir Program

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