‘Mula sa Buwan’ shines a refreshing light on current events

Written and directed by Pat Valera and music by William Elvin Manzano, the musical weaves the story of young Filipino ROTC cadets caught in World War II amid the backdrop of sarsuwela shows popular during that period

‘Mula sa Buwan’ depicts the political climate in the country through the story of young FIlipino ROTC cadets during World War II. | Photographs courtesy of Kyle Venturillo

September 9, 2022

Live theater is back following a long halt due to the pandemic. Currently playing onstage is one of the most acclaimed musicals of the past 12 years, Mula sa Buwan — based on French poet and dramatist Edmond Rostand’s play Cyrano de Bergerac.

Written and directed by Pat Valera and music by William Elvin Manzano, Mula sa Buwan weaves the story of young Filipino ROTC cadets caught in World War II amid the backdrop of sarsuwela shows popular during that period.

The musical has undergone numerous alterations over the past decade. Its initial run, in 2010, was titled Cyrano: Isang Sarsuwela, based on Valera’s college thesis.

Manzano, Valera’s friend and college batchmate, wrote the music. It was retitled Mula sa Buwan on its succeeding runs in 2016, 2018, and this year as the opener show at the new Samsung Performing Arts Theater in Ayala Circuit, Makati.

In this run, Myke Salomon is musical director and also plays the main character, the Pinocchio-nosed Cyrano, after having portrayed the young soldier Christian in 2018.

Playing Christian now is Markki Stroem, while the stunning Gab Pangilinan reprises her role as Christian’s love interest, Roxane.

Salomon proves to be a much better Cyrano than his previous character Christian. He gives the lead character his own quirky, childlike treatment, with graceful movements and a subtle, comedic delivery.

Myke Solomon as Cyrano and Gab Pangilinan as Roxane.

 

Nicco Manalo, who played Cyrano in multiple restagings of the show, still stands out with his flexible, carefree portrayal of the character, which made Cyrano look like an intellectual heavyweight in a jester façade.

Pangilinan’s vocal prowess is consistent, hitting difficult notes, particularly in the third act.

However, she falls a bit short in expressing Roxane’s inner turmoil, perhaps due to the high singing notes.

Stroem seems to lean on the stupid-good-looking-jock stereotype early on, but ends up strong in his solo number, “Matatapos Din” — beaming hope and boosting the morale of his battalion suffering on the frontlines of the brutal war.

The supporting actors amplify the love triangle at the heart of this tale while revealing their own brilliance. The radiant Rosanna (Phi Palmos) makes her presence felt in the cabaret and war sequences with her powerful pipes.

The couple Tato (Jon Abella) and Gabriel (Jillian Ita-as) elicit laughs with their playful and light romance, while the menacing Maximo (MC Dela Cruz) is a compelling antagonist.

Ohm David’s set design fills the cavernous Samsung Theater with towering pieces, a far cry from the ones he did in previous runs.

On the other hand, Bonsai Cielo’s costumes truly transform the cast with the vintage, elegant look of 1940s youth with stylish beige casuals of the pre-war era, enhanced by the choreography of JM Cabling.

Eyecatching is the lighting by Meliton Roxas, which helps bring the characters’ emotions to the audience — sequence by sequence, from the joyous first act with follow spots and ambient lights dancing along with the characters, to the somber third act with floodlights as backdrop to the solos of Roxane and Cyrano.

The inspired use of silhouettes transforms the funeral sequence into a shivering, melancholic scene but with optimistic undertones.

Despite its period milieu and poetic language, Mula sa Buwan shines a refreshing light on the country’s political climate and concerns of the masses, thus remaining contemporary and relevant.

Those who’ve seen the show’s previous runs won’t feel like they’re rereading a book or watching a rerun movie. The musical feels as fresh as ever, keeping one on the edge of one’s seat, moved and touched throughout.

Mula sa Buwan has remaining performances till 11 September, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., at the Samsung Performance Arts Theater, Ayala Circuit. Visit Ticketworld or mulasabuwan.com/partners.


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