Sunday, November 16, 2008

An unabashedly unobjective review of Hairspray Manila

This is going to be a very biased review of Atlantis' production of the Broadway musical Hairspray, for the simple reason that the girl playing the lead role of Tracy Turnblad is a former student of mine, the curvaceous, vivacious and always adorable Madel Ching.

Maddy's the main reason I went to see Hairspray, but it's also because I love the songs from the musical. In fact,
I loved last year's movie remake of Hairspray so much that I saw it twice, and my sibs gave me the soundtrack CD for Christmas. As it turns out, the film was not an exact duplicate of the original Broadway adaptation (the musical has additional/omitted songs and a slightly different sequence of events/scenes), but the common denominator is the entertainment value. On film or on stage, Hairspray is just loads of fun, and Atlantis did a good job of delivering that fun. Key to this is the outstanding cast they assembled: singer Nyoy Volante as Seaweed J. Stubbs, stage vet Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo as Velma Von Tussle, pop diva Dulce as Motormouth Maybelle, and acting great Michael de Mesa in a magnificent, cross-dressing turn as Edna Turnblad. All of them got to strut their stuff: Volante's dancing was a delightful discovery, Lauchengco-Yulo's "Miss Baltimore Crabs" was solid gold, and de Mesa pretty much stole every scene in which he sang.

But the best vocal of the night definitely belonged to the iron-lunged Dulce, who gave me goosebumps with her powerful and moving rendition of "I Know Where I've Been". In light of Barack Obama's recent victory in the US elections, the lyrics about the fight for racial equality took on even more poignant significance ("
There's a dream in the future/There's a struggle we have yet to win/And there's pride in my heart/'Cause I know where I'm going/And I know where I've been").

The only slightly disappointing cast member was Tim Espinosa, who played
Tracy's love interest, crooner Link Larkin. Espinosa's acting was ok and his dancing was terrific, but his voice left more to be desired. He faltered a bit in "It Takes Two" and some other numbers, but he did redeem himself in "Without Love". Meanwhile, I found Monica Reynoso, as Tracy's best friend Penny Pingleton, a bit over the top and a tad annoying, until her character's transformation at the end of the play. I was far more taken with Christine Allado's polished performance as antagonist teen queen Amber Von Tussle.

But back to my girl Madel (and here comes the really biased part of my review!). From start to finish, my eyes were glued on Maddy as she sang and danced her heart out in her breakthrough performance, and my own heart was swelling with teacherly pride as I watched one of my kids transform into a star right before my eyes. I've always known Maddy's got theatrical talent (she was president of ICA's Dramatics Guild in her senior year), but I've never seen that talent showcased on such a grand and wide scale. From the very first scene ("Good Morning Baltimore") to the very last ("You Can't Stop the Beat"), Maddy just shone, even if her voice wasn't as powerful as her senior castmates' (but better than Espinosa's). What she lacked in vocal prowess she more than made up for with her exuberant dancing and wonderful stage presence, radiating with charm and energy and totally owning her character Tracy. Her strongest number was her plaintive-turned-positive solo in "Good Morning Baltimore Reprise", which had me dangerously close to tears, I was so proud!

My favorite Maddy moment though wasn't even in the script: in one scene where Link is supposed to hand Tracy his council ring, the ring is accidentally dropped, and as Espinosa quickly scrambled for it on the floor, Maddy just as quickly adlibbed in an excited squeal, "Give it to me!" eliciting an appreciative laugh from the audience.
The rousing ovation she received at curtain call proved that I wasn't the only one in the audience who had been impressed with her performance (so maybe my review isn't that skewed after all).

I would recommend fans of the Hairspray movie to go see this production of the musical, if not for the chance to enjoy the song and dance numbers and relive the joy of Tracy's big-girl-with-big-dreams story, then to at least compare the film and stage adaptations. But those who have never seen the movie might actually end up enjoying the play more because of the novelty factor. So basically, I'm telling everyone to go see Hairspray.

But like I said, I'm biased, so you don't have to take my word for it.

Other possibly less biased early reviews of Atlantis' production of Hairspray: (warning: some bad grammar ahead!)


At Sunday, November 16, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The show's definitely a must-see. Tickets for the NOVEMBER 21, FRIDAY, 8PM show available at 09175366832 or 09227544571. Reserve now for good seats!!!

At Sunday, November 16, 2008, Blogger Tim said...

Hi, thank you for posting a link to our review, we were the show buyers for opening night =) You have every right to be proud, Madel is amazing. She IS the show. We had a chance to catch up with her after the show (we took her autograph actually, that's how enamored we were). She signed it "I hear the bells, Madel". =) Cool right?=) We bought another show on Nov. 23, Sunday 8pm, do contact us at 0917-8735405/ if you wanna watch it again. By the way, do comment on our webpage ( if you see bad grammar! =) we welcome it.

At Sunday, November 16, 2008, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

Hi Tim! Nice to meet a fellow Madel fan! Haha, don't worry, the bad grammar warning only applies to the last link. :p

I have a wedding to attend on the 23rd, but if any of my friends want to see Hairspray that night I'll tell them to get in touch with you. :)

At Monday, November 17, 2008, Blogger Tim said...

Thank you, it's much appreciated. A lot of people are put off by the venue as it is a bit on the far side, which for me is a crying shame. It's really one of the best plays to hit Manila this year (if not, the best). I hope people realize that.

At Sunday, November 30, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hairspray is nearing the end of its run. Don't miss it! Catch the CLOSING NIGHT show on DEC.7, Sunday, 8PM. Call/text 09063414559 for tickets. Thanks! See you at the theater! :)


Post a Comment

<< Home