Why ‘Himala: Isang Musikal’ is worth watching
Himala makes you feel uncomfortable.
It transports you to Cupang, a bucolic, backward, barren, and sad excuse for a town. There wasn’t much excitement in Cupang, except perhaps the occasional passer-by and – until recently – a whorehouse and the worldly activities that transpire within.
Lately, this faith healer named Elsa – who claims to cure the sick with the power of the Blessed Virgin Mary – has been stirring interest in this once sleepy little town. Pilgrims have been flocking to Cupang in reverence of Elsa, and people with all sorts of ailments fall in line for their chance to be healed.
It has done wonders for the townspeople, in a way. At least they can gain income from selling food and religious artefacts, and by offering board and lodging to the tourists. At least the rest of the world is now aware that Cupang exists.
It all sounds familiar, as if everything was directly lifted from some monumental '80s film. But you know what’s extraordinary about this version of Cupang? The people there can really sing!
Mind you, they don’t sing merely to entertain. Making you feel good isn’t the slightest of their concerns. Because in Cupang, people sing to air out their frustrations, tell their sob stories, and recount whatever the hell is wrong with their god-forsaken lives.
What’s astounding is that when they do, they do so in rehearsed perfection, hitting every note and raw sensation; not withholding any emotion that should come with every lyric, every painful admission.
Aicelle Santos’ rendition of "Gawin Mo Akong Sining" is a desperate yet startlingly beautiful plea. She pleads with her wide vocal range, her expressive eyes, and with the very core of her being, it seems; and this continuously manifests in every succeeding song and every scene. (READ: 6 things you need to know about 'Himala: Isang Musikal')
Bituin Escalante, who plays Elsa’s mother, sheds every ounce of her glamorous persona to deliver a truthful portrayal of Aling Saling. Kakki Teodoro’s Nimia – Elsa’s childhood friend who has become a prostitute – is sultry and seemingly remorseless; a sprinkle of playful irony in a barrage of chaos.
In the hands of Neomi Gonzales and Sandino Martin, Chayong and Pilo’s love story is a poignant depiction of ill-fated romance and absolute doom.
Manila-based filmmaker Orly, played by David Ezra, slides through the plot as a mere spectator initially, but surprises the audience with a powerful and heart-rending solo towards the end.
And then there‘s the people of Cupang, who sing about the grimiest of details, the most ridiculous conclusions, and the most painful of truths; but whose voices harmonize so beautifully, everything else becomes tolerable – it’s almost masochistic.
The set is relatively minimalist yet its simplicity complements Cupang’s barren, impoverished state. The stage is in the center of the theater and the experience is immersive. Don’t be surprised if you see something indecent happening when you look over your shoulder – it’s all for show.
This non-traditional theater set-up restricts viewers in certain seats from having a complete view of what happens on stage in certain instances, but the immersion, the shifts in the blocking of actors, and the raw emotion that you can hear and feel in the actors’ voices – heightened by the evocative piano accompaniment – more than compensate for the set’s intentional lack of grandeur.
The rich material, taut musical arrangements, paramount vocal prowess of the cast, and riveting portrayal of every actor – from the one playing the lowly Cupang vendor to the ones in lead roles – make Himala: Isang Musikal worthy of every standing ovation it has received.
Thunderous applause goes to the members of the cast; to director Ed Lacson Jr; to Ejay Yatco who, without an orchestra to support him, had only a piano to make the show a musical in the strict sense; and to Vincent de Jesus and Ricky Lee who co-wrote the libretto that stands as the strong foundation of Himala: Isang Musikal.
It’s the kind of show that brings tears to one’s eyes not only for its seamless and compelling execution, but also for its unapologetic brutality. It can trigger dormant feelings, resentment, and regret.
Himala: Isang Musikal is a painful yet beautiful reminder of how seriously damaged and corrupted our world is. It recounts the ills that have plagued society for the longest time, and points out how many still ridiculously believe that there is one omnipotent being who can save us all.
It’s a scenic portrait of the ugly face of truth.
You need to be emotionally prepared to see it, because nothing can save you from deplorable realities Himala: Isang Musikal presents. – Rappler.com
The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical’s Himala: Isang Musikal runs at the Power MAC Center Spotlight in Circuit Makati from until March 4. For inquiries, call 0917-5545560, 586-7105, or ticket world at 891-999, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.