5 Reasons why “Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag, The Musical is worth watching

Florante at Laura, Kanser, Ibong Adarna, and El Filibusterismo- Four Classics that have endured the test of time and has continued to be relevant thanks to one theater company that has made it a part of its annual production season. And for a lot of  students, its their first ever live theater experience.  For the past 40 years, the Gantimpala Theater has promoted the works of National Artists for Theater and Literature, original Filipino musicals by new playwrights based on popular fairy tales and Pinoy folklore.

This year the theater group takes on one of the most revered works of Philippine literature as it stages the musical version of “Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag,” the award-winning novel by Edgardo Reyes.

Presented by Grand Leisure Corporation, the musical will be staged at KIA Theater in Cubao, Quezon City starting September 30.

Last week, I got a chance to watch a sneak peek of the musical  and while I’m not much of a fan, I must say the grand productions numbers are something to be excited about.

Here are 5 reasons why you should include Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag in your schedule this month.

1.The musical will be based strictly on Reyes’ novel, not on the acclaimed film by Lino Brocka–says Director Joel Lamangan which means it is going to be different from the movie version.  One of the scenes that did not make it to the stage version for example, is lead character Julio Madiaga’s brief stint as a call boy which is in the movie.  “Tinanggal po namin lahat ng episode na nag-call boy si Julio Madiaga. Ito po ay respeto kay Edgardo Reyes sa nobela, nag-stick kami doon sa sinasabi sa nobela… dahil ‘yun po ay dinagdag lang ni Lino Brocka bilang direktor sa isang pelikula,” he said. “Wala rin po ‘yung mga karakter nina Jojo Abella at Manny Castañeda,” the director added.

2. It is a timeless tale that remains relevant despite being shown 40 years ago.   Lamangan said the story might be sent 70s, but  today’s audiences will be able to relate to “Maynila,” noting that its main theme of exploitation is still being experienced by many Filipinos. “Mararamdaman nila (audience) na may mga taong pinagsasamantalahan, na may mga taong nagsasamantala, na may mga tanga na napupunta sa Maynila. Di ba ito ang sinasabi ng opening [song], na dapat walang tanga sa Maynila? Dahil may mga mapagsamantala sa Maynila, may mga tao na hindi kino-consider na tumulong imbes ay samantalahin ang mga nangangailangan at bagong salta. Iyon pa rin hanggang ngayon,” he added.

3. Its a story of true love. “Maynila” centers on the love story between Julio Madiaga (Arman Ferrer) and Ligaya Paraiso (Sheila Valderrama-Martinez/Lara Maigue) who goes to Manila looking for better lives.

4. It has a stellar cast– Besides the lead stars the musical has a cast composed of some of the biggest names in theater and the music industry such as Dulce and Ima Castro who plays Mrs. Cruz, stage veteran Jim Pebanco as Mr. Balajadia, Pol Floyd Tena as Pol, Noel Rayos (Atong) , Rafa Siguion-Reyna/Joseph Puducay (Imo ), Aicelle Santos/Rita Daniela (Perla), Khalil Kaimo Gido , Jeffrey Camanag (Omeng), Romcel Binquis (Benny),  Randy Rey (Frank).“Honestly, this is a very inspiring cast. I haven’t had the problem in any of the days I’ve worked with them,” said Nierras, who conceptualized all of the dance routines in “Maynila.”

5. Lamangan, Nierras, De Guzman and Pablo–Just like its talented cast, the team behind the musical is composed of some of the  best in the industry. Joel Lamanagan directs,  music is by Von de Guzman, choreography by Douglas Nierras, and production design by Jun Flavier Pablo.

“The method we’re using is more like West End or Broadway, with the body conditioning, the choreography sessions, the dance workouts, etc. But the styles that we will use for the dance are very Filipino. It’s a compendium of everything that we’ve learned from the West and the East, including the maglalatik,” says Nierras.

While De Guzman said he wants the  music to be  “very  current,” but will still have a “Pinoy vibe. “It will have elements of kundiman, singkil, ati-atihan, lahat ‘yun magsasama-sama for something unique,” he said.

With timeless love story, great voices, resonant songs, fabulous dances and world class Filipino performers. Grand Leisure Corporation is set to make local musical theater history with the staging of the much-awaited “Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag, The Musical.”

It is but fitting that award-winning auteur Joel Lamangan is helming the stage musical version of the Edgardo Reyes novel which spawned the Lino Brocka classic film version that starred Bembol Roco and Hilda Koronel.

Among his contemporaries, Lamangan is widely-regarded as the most adept social chronicler with films like “The Flor Contemplacion Story,” “Hubog,” “Bulaklak Ng Maynila” and others to his credit. All these films mirror some of society’s most chronic ills. Lamangan has vast experience as filmmaker and actor in film, television, and theater.
In 2013, Lamangan was named artistic director of Gantimpala Theater Foundation under which he directed the musical “Katipunan: Mga Anak ng Bayan.”

“Maynila… The Musical” was a brainchild of Lamangan and Gantimpala Theater Foundation.

The 40-year old theater company founded by the late Philippine theater icon Tony Espejo, has the National Artists Production Series which aims to bring closer to theater aficionados the works of National Artists like Severino Montano, Nick Joaquin, Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero, and F. Sionil Jose. “’Maynila…’ was supposed to be the first movie by a National Artists for Film (Lino Brocka) to be part of the National Artists Production series.”

Based on the Edgardo Reyes novel and inspired by the Brocka film adaptation, the initial challenge for Lamangan and his artistic staff was to synthesize the prose into a two-act, two-hour play featuring soaring music and brilliantly choreographed dance routines. “Dapat ‘yung mga tauhan ay lumabas na mga tunay na taong may puso, kaluluwa, at damdamin na kumakanta at sumasayaw,” shares Lamangan. “Dapat na maramdaman ng mga manonood na nagkukuwento sila ng ukol sa kanilang mga agam-agam, hinaing, siphayo, at pangarap.”

To realize his vision of a realistic depiction of the great, if doomed love story of Julio Madiaga and his inamorata Ligaya Paraiso, Lamangan gathered an artistic staff composed of people that he trusts can deliver the goods: Von De Guzman (Composer and Musical Director), Jose Victor Torres and Em Mendez (Libretto), Joey Nombres (Lights Designer), Douglas Nierras (Choreographer), and Jun Flavier Pablo (Production Design). Full House Asia Productions, Inc. acts as line producer.

Musical Director Von De Guzman has collaborated with Lamangan in many of the latter’s film projects. He has done musicals meant for school productions but “Maynila…” will be his first mainstream musical of this scope. “Direk Joel wanted memorable melodies for the play,” relates De Guzman, “so the ballads will have the feel of a George Canseco and/or Willy Cruz composition, the fast numbers we have incorporated very Filipino elements of singkil, ati-atihan chants, mostly percussion-driven kind of music. And then we have the strains of kundiman in the other numbers.”

De Guzman adds, was to merge OPM romanticism with the orchestral power of a Stravinsky. De Guzman also utilized Filipino instruments that we seldom hear like the banduria.

The next step was to find powerful singers from the leads to the chorus. “They have to have lungs of steel,” notes De Guzman.

Actors Arman Ferrer, Sheila Valderrama-Martinez, and Lara Maigue easily fill the bill. Ferrer plays Julio Madiaga and sees the role as “a good learning experience, especially the parts where I have to dance.”

Valderrama-Martinez and Maigue are alternating as Ligaya Paraiso. “I was excited to join this production because I wanted to work with Joel Lamangan whom I’ve never worked with before,” says Valderrama-Martinez. Maigue is burning the midnight candles, so to speak, to bring justice to her interpretation of Ligaya Paraiso, a victim of circumstance. “I’ve been watching Hilda Koronel in the Brocka movie over and again and I’ve been talking to friends from UP where they worship before the shrine of ‘Maynila Sa Mga Kuko Ng Liwanag.”

“Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag, The Musical” is a musical theater event that shouldn’t be missed and worth saving the ticket price for. “It’s a musical told from the point of view of the novelist,” says Lamangan. “It features wonderful composition from Von De Guzman, topnotch dance from Douglas Nierras, three-dimensional characters, heartfelt moments, stirring scenes meant to enthrall and entertain.”

In restless times like the one we are living through, “Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag, The Musical” resonates even more. “It shows that in the midst of the squalor, despair, and violence, pure love still exists like the one shared by Julio Madiaga and Ligaya Paraiso,” says Joel Lamangan.

Giving life to the other important characters in the
musical are Floyd Tena (Pol), Noel Rayos (Atong), Rafa Seguion-Reyna and Joseph Puducay (Imo), Aicelle Santos and Rita Daniela (Perla), Jim Pebanco/ Joseph Billezar (Mr. Balajadia), Khalil Kaimo (Gido), Jeffrey Camanag (Omeng), Romcel Binquis (Benny), Randy Rey (Frank), and Dulce and Ima Castro alternating as Mrs. Cruz.

Performances are scheduled on September 30, 3:00pm and 8:00pm (Gala), October 1,2017 3:00pm and 8:00 pm October 4, 2017 8:00pm, October 5, 2017 8:00 pm, October 6, 2017 3:00pm and 8:00 pm,  Venue is at the KIA Theater in Cubao, Quezon City.
“Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag, The Musical” is made possible through the generous support of KIA Theater, Cibo, Epson, Erase Placenta, SvelT’I Health & Beauty Centre, and Mr. Swabergers.

For ticket inquiries, contact Ms. Bards Lapid at mobile number -09178466704, landlines 897 7142. 890 0853, 890 6067 or Ticketnet -9115555.

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