After over three decades, the haunting musical ‘Himala’ that was inspired from a 1982 Ishmael Bernal film of the same title has finally returned onstage via The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical since February 10 till March 4 at the Power Mac Center Spotlight, Circuit Makati with Ed Lacson Jr. as the director.
In this day and age, in the current Philippine setting; a production like this is something very political aside from being spiritual.
Bernal, being hailed as the ‘genius of Philippine cinema’ and was named National Artist for Cinema in 2001 for his notable works with feminist and moral themes as he directed landmark Filipino films such as ‘Nunal sa Tubig’ (1975), ‘City After Dark’ (1980), ‘Relasyon’ (1982), ‘Himala’ (1982), and ‘Hinugot sa Langit’ (1985)—to name a few.
The Nora Aunor-starrer film that was adapted into a stage musical in 2003 as part of Tanghalang Pilipino’s 20th theater season production with May Bayot assuming the role of Elsa—has a more ‘direct- to-the-point’ and ‘straight-to-the-soul’ reimagined staging 15 years later.
Immersive, Intimate Staging.
It can be remembered Lacson’s directorial piece titled ‘Games People Play’ was also something immersive and intimate, which in his current work is quite evident.
The theater-in-the-round setup is like eavesdropping to what really happened in Cupang. The ambience is too close to feeling the pain, the desperation, the love and passion of the characters. The audience could see themselves not just as spectators, but the production made sure that all are involved as if they were really there—breaking the fourth wall.
The audience were treated as interactive agent in the whole process of the actors’ performance. It’s great to have created that ‘mood’ allowing the members of the audience to be part of the stage with the actors; feeling the energies the actors were creating at the moment.
Perhaps, this staging is the best by far. No offense meant to the previous five productions prior to this.
Music and Songs are Haunting.
The same team that made the previous versions of this musical unforgettable is back in this current production. Ricky Lee as the writer and lyricist, along with Vincent A. DeJesus as the composer, lyricist and musical director; Jed Balsamo as assistant musical director and pianist; and Ejay Yatco as pianist—are the names that each audience must be thankful for.
Despite the bad acoustics in that venue, the voices of the actors did compensate. The projection of their speaking and singing voice just reverberated and left a chilling experience about how tragic it was for the friendship of Elsa (Aicelle Santos), Nimia (Kakki Teodoro) and Chayong (Neomi Gonzales).
The singing is just powerful and overwhelming even without lapel microphones.
Every song in the show pierces the heart. It torments the soul, but seeks to strengthen one’s pure faith. It confronts the audience with a slow, nagging and deafening kind of stillness. The death of Chayong and the gunning down of Elsa were two equally intense scenes that definitely shook every member of the audience.
The piano that accompanied the songs define the emotions required for the scenes. The softer or the louder the pounding of the keys; did variate the ‘message’ of the musical.
No Small Roles.
Truly this musical is a great reminder that each actor contributes to the overall impact of the show in its entirety. Kudos to Santos, Bituin Escalante, David Ezra, Sandino Martin (in particular) for delivering stirring and topnotch performances as well as the rest of the actors.
Such great ensemble of actors can be found in this show. There are no small roles. Their characters were described as ‘coping’ to survive in an arid land.
They’re all like embers; their acting flicker amid the darkness that enveloped the community. Though the downpour in the play is depicted like that of the Scriptures—showing how grand and glorious God’s love and purpose for humanity.
And bravo to The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical for such a brave move in restaging this masterpiece. It will forever etch in the hearts of the audience the lines in the ensemble song: ‘Ang himala ay nasa puso ng tao. Ang bawat puso ay pugad ng himala.’
‘Himala: Isang Musikal’ still has eight remaining shows on February 24 (Saturday), 3 and 8pm; February 25 (Sunday), 2 and 7pm; March 2 (Friday), 8:30pm; March 3 (Saturday), 3 and 8pm; and March 4 (Sunday), 2pm.
It is a guarantee that this Lee-penned story; once a La Aunor-starrer; and the spirit of the late Bernal—their legacy still lives on even till this very day. An apt production to awaken the hearts and the minds of the Filipino people to take control and create real historical change.
Faith indeed is the realization of what is hoped for and is the evidence of things not seen, which only the heart and mind can comprehend (Hebrews 11: 1, emphasis added).