A ‘Zsazsa Zaturnnah’ for the Gen-Z era
The musical runs for two hours and 40 minutes, and Kim Molina as the busty red-haired superhero is dynamite throughout
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF BEA BERNARDEZ/ATENEO BLUE REPERTORY THIS Gen-Z ‘Zsazsa Zaturnnah’ soars on a youthful, unmistakable authenticity.
The musical runs for two hours and 40 minutes, and Kim Molina as the busty red-haired superhero is dynamite throughout.
The Ateneo Blue Repertory campus theater group marks its 31st season with an ambitious staging of the hit homegrown musical Zsazsa Zaturnnah, The Musical… ‘Yun Lang!
For this particular staging, composer-lyricist Vincent De Jesus rearranged his score, which was first heard 17 years ago, and there is a strikingly carefree tone to his new arrangements.
Director Missy Maramara also reworked parts of the original script for stage by Chris Martinez to try to capture and critique present conditions, notably the progress of the fight for LGBTQIA+ inclusion and acceptance.
But first things first. Award-winning film-theater actor Kim Molina delivers an enthralling performance, as expected. Singing, emoting, dancing, and prancing across the set constructed by Adrian Ungriano without an alternate is no mean feat. The musical runs for two hours and 40 minutes, and Molina as the busty red-haired superhero is dynamite throughout.
(This writer watched Zsazsa Zaturnnah three consecutive times on March 25, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and on March 26, 3 p.m., to catch all the cast alternates.)
Kakki Teodoro (Queen Femina Suarestellar Baroux) with her impeccable command of the English language, Phi Palmos (Ada) and Joshua Cabiladas (Didi) likewise eloquently display in their performances their years of professional experience on stage.
Jude Matthew Sevilla (Dodong) and Shaun Ocrisma (Ada) do not fall behind their more experienced theater colleagues. However, the more compelling surprise in this show are the student actors themselves (take a bow, Amazonistas and taumbayan, whose collective energy is simply infectious) and the other stage newbies who captivate the audience just as well.
Specifically, it’s riveting to see the combination and chemistry of Molina, Adrian Lindayag (Ada), Robert Bradly Hao (Didi) and Elian Dominguez (Dodong), because their nuanced portrayals of characters struggling to make sense of their feelings mesh so well together. Thank you for not relying on acting techniques alone. Bravo!
Dominguez, a 4th year environmental science student, makes for a convincing straight young male guy slowly discovering affection for the gay beautician Ada.
On the other hand, with her self-assurance on stage, first-year psychology student Anyah de Guzman as Queen Femina can be mistaken for a seasoned actress. And Kyla Rivera as Aling Britney is a scene-stealer, showing tenderness in a cruel setting.
Tata Tuviera’s production and costume design, notably the giant frog, adeptly circumvents the limitations of a student production, while Franco Ramos’ choreography, especially the fight scenes, keep the almost three-hour production moving while holding the attention of the audience.
The palpable Gen-Z flavor in this staging comes in the form of its approach to the gender issue as an ever-evolving development that needs to be explored and validated. This is most resonant in Dodong’s initial tentative fondness for Ada that eventually metamorphoses into genuine love.
In the musical’s 2006 staging, one had to totally suspend disbelief to accept the development of Dodong’s character.
But that was a different time, and now it’s the #LoveWins era. In the 2023 setting, ZsaZsa Zaturnnah triumphantly plays before cheering inclusive audiences, with same-sex couples who come into the Arete theater holding hands or wait for the theater doors to open with their arms around each other — inside a staunchly Catholic university.
In the end, this Gen-Z Zsazsa Zaturnnah soars on that youthful, unmistakable authenticity.
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