/The Renaissance of Musical Theater in the Philippines: Will It Last?

The Renaissance of Musical Theater in the Philippines: Will It Last?

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Filipinos, by tradition, are great fans of
both music and good storytelling. The appreciation of the latter may not be as
evident as the former, but that’s only because it’s yet to be given a chance to
grow in the minds of the new generation. Fortunately, young people may be
getting that long-awaited chance with the current resurgence of musicals in the
The past few years have seen classic and
well-beloved plays such as Cats, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera and Chicago finally
make their way to our shores. The arrival of these Broadway musicals were
greeted with enthusiastic sold-out shows for every performance that surprised
even the organizers. It’s because of this warm welcome that more mega-shows
like Singing in the Rain, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, and the Lion King are
set for an appearance on the Philippine musical calendar.

Impending Curtain on Philippine Theater

There are several reasons why having such
shows on Philippine shores were nothing but a pipe dream just a few short years
ago. Primary among them was the lack of venues to appropriately host such
events, as well as the cost of entrance that kept most audiences away.
The lack of suitable venues created a
virtual bottleneck wherein both host and show needed to be sure beyond any
shadow of a doubt that there would be a return on investment. This not only
meant less shows, but more expensive ones.
Fears of small audiences, coupled with poor
exchange rates, raised ticket prices to astronomic levels, scaring away a
considerable chunk of theater enthusiasts. This circular dilemma plagued the Philippine
theater industry for many years, and didn’t have an immediately obvious
solution. Fortunately, the rise of premiere entertainment locations such as The
Theatre at Solaire were able to solve both conundrums at once.
Stages and Credibility

Originally, the purpose of such centers
were to expand and capitalize on the gaming industry that was feeling
constricted as Asian high rollers were looking for new places to play. The
wisdom, however, of expanding the attractions of such establishments beyond
that purpose had the foresight of taking ownership of entertainment as a whole.
The opening of such entertainment centers
caused a domino effect that led to the musical Renaissance we are experiencing
today. More big venues meant a more relaxed margin of error for everyone in the
industry, allowing them to become bolder in accepting with less known and more
experimental shows. Local productions such as Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, Noli at
, Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading
and Rak of Aegis
made it to
the stage to critical acclaim from both casual and hardcore audiences because
of the more accepting attitude within the industry.
the Renaissance

The traditional trepidation that
international companies had in making Manila one of the stops of their Asian
tours are long gone, and local theater fans are making the most of this
opportunity. Many people see such events as the only chances they would get to
see their favorite shows for themselves. All anyone needs to do is listen to
the joyful applause at the end of each act to know how much it means for every
person in those seats to get the chance to be part of the audience.
There’s no telling how long such a period
of musical appreciation will last. Keeping this resurgence going for as long as
possible is the goal for now, and there are two very exciting ways to do that. The
first is to keep inviting big-ticket shows to the country that are sure to
attract sold out crowds every night. This will ensure that the industry will
keep attracting new fans, and inspire local talent to reach the same quality of
performance and story.

The only problem with this approach is that
it’s a very in-the-moment solution. There are only a finite number of shows venues
can keep inviting every year. There needs to be new material to keep audiences
excited and looking towards the future. The second way is directly related to
the cultivation and inspiration of local talent to gain recognition – not just
here, but on the international scene as well.
Having fellow Filipinos on the world stage
is the biggest justification for the investment of entertainment in the
country, and will only enrich the local theater scene even more. This is a more
sustainable method of preserving this new musical age, and even usher in a
golden time for the performing arts the country has yet to see. Fortunately,
there are already big steps being taken in this regard as Filipino talent
continues to turn heads around the world.
New Generation

The only talent the country had to claim
until recent years had been Lea Salonga, and though she’s one of the biggest
names in theater history, she’s simply not enough. The good news is that the
world seems to have found her successor in Rachel Ann Go. The singer has
already won the Best Supporting Actress at the WhatsOnStage Awards for her portrayal
of Gigi Van Trahn in the West End revival of Miss Saigon. Her path is only
beginning, though, as her next project is the emotional role of Fantine in next
year’s Les Miserables.
Unlike Lea’s rise, however, Rachel’s star
might not be without company as another performer – in the form of Bibo Reyes –
might be on his way to the top as well. Bibo made waves in his debut
performance as Sonny in the award-winning musical “In The Heights” back in
2012. He has since starred in the Manila production of Rock of Ages and the
Singapore production of Avenue Q. His latest project is the understudy in the
Asian tour of Saturday Night Fever.

The future of Philippine theater is a
bright one, but only if the industry as hosts and we as an audience make the
right moves to make it happen. It shouldn’t take much effort to take this
Renaissance and turn it into a Golden Age for the performing arts.

About the Author: 
Thomas Hill is a blogger, online marketer, and traveler who enjoys life to the fullest. 
He loves writing about technology and having open discussions on Facebook. 

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