Katy! The Musical: Triumphant and Fitting Tribute to the Filipino Arts and Culture

'Katy! The Musical' transcends to becoming a heartfelt celebration of and appeal for the neglected Filipino art and culture.

A disclaimer has to be made here: There is an overwhelming risk in writing about Katy! The Musical. It’s not because one has to carefully euphemize its flaws or respectfully point out the nuances of the staging. It’s because there are times when words would never seem to be enough to fully justify and capture an art form’s immense love, passion and sincerity. This is one of those moments.

Katy! The Musical follows the life of the Philippine Queen of Jazz and Bodabil Katy dela Cruz as she journeys, stumbles and champions her life and the art that she has loved and lived for. Written by artistic geniuses Jose Javier Reyes for the libretto and Ryan Cayabyab for the music, the material overcomes the usual restrictive tendencies of biographies as subjects and transcends to becoming a heartfelt celebration of and appeal for the neglected Filipino art and culture.

Nestor Torre’s direction successfully brings the intent and sentiment to life as he captains a demanding ship and stellar crew. This is the third time that Katy has been staged and the fact that it is rightfully dubbed as one of the best Filipino musicals ever put on stage is a foolproof testament to his effectiveness.

Perhaps one of the most powerhouse cast ever assembled on stage brings justice to each role given to them and the dedication does shine through. Isay Alvarez essays the role of Katy with respect, ardor and vulnerability while showcasing emotion-laden vocal prowess. She perfectly personifies the iconic stature of Katy dela Cruz. It’s such an honor to see Dulce on stage as rival Olivia with so much intensity and humanity. Tricia Jimenez, Celine Fabie and CJ Mangahis provide commendable support to the lead with their astounding talent and comic timing. Gian Magdangal steps up as Katy’s husband Peping. Epy Quizon takes on the role of the young Dolphy and pays a fitting and oftentimes chilling tribute to a portion of the icon’s history with his performance. Tirso Cruz III easily wins the audience over as Katy’s father with charm and love. Aicelle Santos is a revelation who has obviously studied the character so well that she has proven herself to be someone to look out for. I really hope to see more of her in this medium in the future. The rest of the ensemble brings the chaos, joy and life to a forgotten era in local culture.

The songs are in itself something to watch out for. The lyrics and melody are so beautifully written and rendered; both perfectly reflect the emotion and sentiment of the characters and the art form they represent. From renditions of the deeply affecting Ang Entablado Ay Mundo and Minsan ang Minahal ay Ako, the patriotic Luha sa Kinalimutang Lupa to the energetic Sari-Saring Babae and Aba, Ba, Ba, Boogie, each song is something that music lovers will surely remember. I wish someone would commission an official soundtrack album for this production because these songs are what Original Pilipino Music is really all about: sincerity.

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Asosasyon ng Pilipinong Musikero helmed by Mel Villena dictates the tone and the mood of the era and the emotional requirements of each scene with enthusiasm and effectiveness. The prelude alone effectively sets everything up so well it made me want to clap right away.

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The production; of course, is not without flaws. Its pacing tends to get uncomfortable that it breaks the narrative’s emotional momentum while the lights and sound were all over the place during the press staging. But these are things that can be easily adjusted or fixed and quite frankly, none of these should really matter in the grand scale of things.

The Filipino audience tends to be easily swayed by globalized narratives and modern media that it fails to recognize its history. And in the process, a chunk of our culture falls through the cracks and our identity as a nation is left profoundly incomplete. Katy! The Musical brings us back to the time when we celebrate our own and in the process leaves us feeling guilty for neglecting and forgetting some of the finest works that define our identity and history. And we deserve it. We’re such a short-sighted audience that every moment of enjoyment is fleeting and the whole-hearted effort poured into a performance by an artist is often overlooked. We’re quick to criticize when we know what we can say may never capture what was given. Katy! humbles us for pointing out the need to look back and recognize who we are and that we should make an active effort to preserve that.

After the performance, the artists were going around the lobby saying thank you to the audience. I was just in a hurry but I wanted to say that it’s not them who should be thanking us; it is us who should pay gratitude to them. Katy! is highly relatable and never felt exclusivist. It is such an honor to have seen this production and I hope there will be another restaging because this is something that should not be missed. And it’s just not because of its high entertainment and production value; but more because it has something compelling to say and we should take some time to listen.

In the end, to say that the production is brilliant despite its flaws still feels like a gross understatement. One has to see and experience it to fully receive the beautiful gift of its power, passion and sincerity. I regret not having seen this show during its CCP run but I can only hope to get the chance to see it again.

 

 

'Katy! The Musical' Rerun runs until August 4, 2013, at Meralco Theater. For more details, please call CCP at (63 2) 832-1125 or Ticketworld at (63 2) 891-9999.

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