Home Arts & Leisure A different kind of classic

A different kind of classic

By Michelle Anne P. Soliman, Reporter

Theater Review
Presented by Repertory Philippines
Ongoing until Dec. 18
Black Box Theater, Cultural Center of the
Philippines, Pasay City

ORIGINALLY part of Repertory Philippines’ 83rd performance season lineup, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical Carousel returns to the stage as the company’s 85th season opener. While remaining loyal to the text, it slightly and humbly deviates from classic presentation.

Carousel follows the story of carnival barker Billy Bigelow who falls in love with and marries the sweet yet naïve millworker Julie Jordan. After learning Julie is pregnant, Billy — desperate for money — is forced to participate in a robbery that ends in tragedy. He is then given a second chance to make things right.

The only exposure I had previously had to the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein classic was seeing the Lincoln Center’s 2013 staging streamed on YouTube for a weekend during the height of the lockdown in 2020. The first time I watched it, I found the material problematic for the current zeitgeist. It was submissive to patriarchy and issues of domestic violence.

When director Christopher “Toff” De Venecia said that his adaptation for Repertory Philippines would have a postmodern interpretation, I became excited to see how it translated onstage.

It was refreshing to see Karylle Tatlonghari in her first lead role as Julie Jordan, and watching how she can be vulnerable and refined. Gian Magdangal suited the character of Billy Bigelow. His “Soliloquy” showcases his vocal prowess. Meanwhile, Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante and Lorenz Martinez as Carrie Pipperidge and Enoch Snow, respectively, were fun to watch during their sweet and comedic duets.

The ensemble had infectious energy during the song and dance numbers. “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” was so enjoyable, I wished it wouldn’t end.

Despite the downsized cast of 14 (from over 30 in the aborted pre-pandemic version), their singing sounded powerful, as if listening to a composite chorus.

Ejay Yatco and Jed Balsamo’s two-piano accompaniment worked well for the intimate setup. Some scenes also use sound effects of waves to indicate the musical’s setting near the seashore.

However, there were moments when the line delivery sounded unclear. Some words were spoken or sung so softly they were drowned by the pianos. It made it difficult to understand what was said from the second to the last row where I was seated.

But one has to commend the contemporary dance sequence featuring Gia Gequinto (as Lousie) with Julio Laforteza which clearly conveyed how her character yearned to break away from ridicule she, unfortunately, found herself entangled in.

Charles Yee delivered a minimalist yet effective set, featuring a rectangular wooden stage with a black pole at the center, and hanging yellow lighting across the stage.

Mr. De Venecia’s postmodern commentary is evident in subtle instances — such as when a cast member walks through wearing a shirt sporting the message “My Body, My Rules,” the skepticism on their face when an ensemble member opens the musical’s script, and the ensemble’s use of smartphones during the couples’ emotional moments as a reference to exposing oneself which often leads to endless judgement.

It was bold move to present a postmodern take considering the how issues about equality are still talked about and continued to be fought over today. But a generation of new viewers, seeing it for the first time, might still react differently to the dated material.

Tickets for Carousel are available through the CCP Box Office, TicketWorld, and SM Tickets. Ticket prices range from P1,000 to P3,000. For updates, visit www.repertoryphilippines.ph, or follow Repertory Philippines on Facebook and Instagram. Educators and school representatives who are interested in the show can e-mail sales@repphil.org.