6 things you need to know about 'Himala: Isang Musikal'
MANILA, Philippines – It has been more than three decades since Himala was first released and yet the story of Elsa (Nora Aunor) still resonates with the audiences of this generation. With themes of collective hysteria, greed, blind fanaticism, and compromised moral standards, it’s almost as if Ricky Lee took inspiration from the country’s current state.
Himala tells the story of Elsa, a young girl who becomes a faith healer after seeing a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. News of her miracles spread far and wide, drawing the ill and the curious to what was once the sleepy town of Cupang. Now more than ever, in this era of misinformation, Cupang represents more than just an isolated barrio in the middle of nowhere.
This February, The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical are bringing Ricky Lee’s haunting story back to the stage to captivate new audiences with Himala: Isang Musikal. Aicelle Santos takes on the role of Elsa, which according to her is her “most challenging role” to date.
1. It took roughly three years to make the musical.
Director Ed Lacson Jr. and musical director Vince De Jesus spent almost three years making the musical because they wanted everything done right, with half of the time spent looking for the perfect cast that the new generation of theater fans and cinephiles will love. According to the director, more than great singers, they were looking for actors who could convey the nuances and tension of every scene. Aicelle eventually landed the role because of her emotional maturity and astounding vocal range.
2. Himala: Isang Musikal is a stripped down musical.
Don’t expect complicated choreography or even a grand set design. Ed intentionally went for a simpler, stripped down musical, letting the story and its music take the center stage. The actors also won’t be wearing lapels the entire show. According to the director, it helps build an emotional connection with the audience.
De Jesus also took inspiration from the original film’s music, but rather than opt for grand spectacles, as seen in most Western plays, he took a more solemn approach, with an arrangement for just one voice and piano.
3. This is not a religious, nor a political play.
As the musical’s underlying themes speak of greed, hysteria, and compromised standards, it’s easy for people to wonder about the timing of the restaging. Ed, however, explained that this is simply a retelling of Elsa’s story. Bituin Escalante, who plays Nanay Saling in the musical, added that as artists, it’s their responsibility to tell remain truthful to the Lee’s work.
“You cannot lie when you’re on stage. As artists, as human beings, we’ll use the stage to tell our truth,” she said.
4. The musical is meant to make you think.
Their goal is not just to entertain, rather, they want to encourage discussion about good vs bad, raise questions about the true definition of morality. Instead of providing a clear-cut lesson to viewers, Himala might leave you with a feeling of confusion, and in one way or another, that just might be its intention. In order to cope and survive, characters were forced to make questionable decisions that will make you take a deeper look into yourself.
“I think the politics will come from whoever watches it. The politics is on you deciding whether these characters are to be judged or not to be judged,” Ed explained.
5. Himala: Isang Musikal hopes to give you a different kind of theater experience.
Rather than the typical stage, they created an immersive space where the audience is situated on all sides, blurring the lines between spectator and actors. For those seeing Himala for the first time, Kakki Teodoro, who plays Elsa’s childhood friend, Nimia, teased that seeing it live on stage will be a life-changing moment.
“What I can really share is that every experience of Himala, especially the restaging, will really change your life,” she said.
6. Playing Elsa is Aicelle’s ‘most challenging’ role to date.
After taking the lead on Katy and Rak of Aegis, Aicelle still thinks that playing Elsa is the biggest challenge – and blessing – in her career. According to her, she’s still in the process of “finding Elsa,” with the help of her director and her co-stars.
“When I got the news, sa totoo lang sobrang saya, sobrang (honestly, I was very happy, I was very) excited. Pero (But) I gave it only three minutes kasi after nun natakot ako. ‘Tama ba ‘yung narinig ko?’ (After that, I got scared. Did I hear it right?) But I’m ready for it.”
Catch Himala: Isang Musikal from February 10 to March 4, 2018 at the Power MAC Center Spotlight, Circuit Makati. – Rappler.com