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Matt's Random Thoughts

Experience this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic like never before in this innovative "deconstructed" production from Toff De Venezia!

After nearly three years away from the stages of Manila, Repertory Philippines makes its triumphant return to live performances with one of Rogers & Hammerstein's most beloved pieces, the energetic, emotional, and stirring classic Carousel. Originally slated to become the hallmark of their 2020 season, the pandemic caused the whole theater industry to come to a long dramatic pause, so it never materialized. However, many things had happened in the last two years including sex scandals, the Me Too movement and the Depp vs. Heard case sparking conversations about domestic abuses, as well as the effects of long isolations under lockdown restrictions as well as the aftermath of a chaotic Philippine presidential elections, the musical's message of never walking alone and wanting to get another chance in life is ever so timely and fitting as we enter the holiday season and the onset of 2023.

And not only is this musical timely and relevant, but also the show's director Toff De Venezia enhanced the Carousel experience even further to help connect it to millenial and Gen Z theatergoers by adding unique elements that reflect the emotions of abuse in the post-MeToo society and how making known its effects can spark conversations and bring light and help to people affected by this. The musical emotion is leveled even further by bringing the show to a much smaller stage and condensing the orchestra down to only two pianos as well as reducing the whole ensemble, bringing attention the the struggles and shortcomings of the primary characters. However the overall message of this show (and never will get old despite how this show was altered) is that "You will never walk alone". Despite how bad things in the world will become, there will always be hope of starting again and working to become better people and live to understand how to ease the pain of life.

In the midst of all the drama that had unfolded in this next-gen production of a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic is the fact that two of the country's prime TV and music talent are at the helm of this cutting edge production, namely Karylle Tatlonghari, well-known recording artist, and Gian Magdangal, who has had numerous starring roles on TV and the stage. The chemistry between Karylle and Gian as Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow respectively is, in my honest opinion, a very thoughtful choice for the two lead characters because of the way they can truly bring justice to the delivery of roles that have become iconic in the musical theater canon. I could speak for hours about Gian's portrayal of Billy Bigelow , because the simple truth is that he never chose the role, rather, the role of Billy chose him. And that is evident enough in how much emotion and devotion that he gave to the role, how much he wanted to spend his time with Julie Jordan, and after his suicide, how much he wanted to make amends to Julie and give her another chance in life. He is absolutely phenomenal in this role and it surely hits him very well.

Karylle on the other hand, is very darling in this presentation. The role of Julie Jordan brings out all the best she could ever be, whether it be belting out high notes or reaching her low point in the death of Billy Bigelow as well as finding a new passion in life when raising her daughter Louise, she brings her grace to the stage and never drops an ounce of spirit in bringing such an iconic character to life. Top that all off with razor sharp dance moves then you get a emotional rollercoaster ride that takes you to the depths and heights of humanity in an unforgettable thrill ride of a musical.

The emotions of the story, the weight and relevance of the show's themes, and how Toff brought the show to a whole new level just by deconstructing it, it is such a perfect combination for the comeback of one of the country's most respected performing arts organizations. No wonder tickets are selling out faster than a spinning carousel.

Make sure you catch this ride while you can, the last show on Sunday December 17 is completely sold out and all other subsequent shows before that are close to selling out, so if you can, never miss this chance to experience this beloved tale reimagined and remastered for modern theatergoers.

Tickets are available through TicketWorld at 8911-9999 or at the CCP Box Office.

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Linda Yapp brings important social values and the legacy of Fred Rogers together in this album that aims to enchant and empower.

With many social events that have shaken up the planet this past year, the place is once again divided and searching for someone to look up to who can not only inspire them and show them where to go, but also provide words of reassurance, encourage, and hope, and be like a person that you can turn to when the world has you down and someone you can share your hopes and dreams with. That person, without a doubt, has to be Linda Yapp.

Having been released in March of this year, at the onset of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict and in the midst of political turmoil in the United States and the deaths of influential leaders, this is perhaps the most relevant and inspiring children's music album to ever come out. The reasons are very clear once you give it a very close listen.

Centered around themes of social, racial, and environmental justice, as well as embracing diversity and individuality, Linda takes listeners back to the good old days when Mister Rogers was a friend that many children across generations, providing love, care, and reassurance. In fact the entirety of this rather splendiferous album is full of songs that I'm certain Fred Rogers himself would be very proud of, as Linda wholeheartedly crafted a selection of lullabies that reassure and inspire children of all ages and their families to have a big caring heart, embrace people's inner talents, and work together to create a peaceful loving world.

Every single song in this album and every single detail in it, from titles right down to the lyrics have been created from a very loving heart and is very thoughtfully crafted to ensure that families can not only listen, but also learn and embody the values seen in this album. Even the cover art was a labor of love, and is very reminiscent of some well-loved children's storybooks from the likes of E. B. White and Beatrix Potter, and just like a well-loved fairy tale, it beckons you to explore the wonderful world contained in this album and imagine a world where all are one.

This really has to be the year's best and most touching children's music album, for all the many reasons that I have listed it and more.

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Playing to sold out audiences at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater for a strictly limited engagement!

The musical based on Soc Rodrigo's Filipino translation of the French classic Cyrano de Bergerac has been among the most popular Filipino theatrical productions of the past decade and it's very easy to see why. It really has all the elements Philippine theater will ever need to jumpstart from the pandemic, owing to its growing popularity among millenials and Gen Zs in its most recent productions in Ateneo De Manila University in 2018, all that thanks to its themes of love in a time of the atrocities of war as well as its over-the-top, genre-bending soundtrack. And does it deserve a massive comeback after the pandemic?

Oh yes, it did. It did have such a comeback. And it returned with a vengeance. All that thanks to such a loyal audience.

And not only that, but its comeback story is happening in the city's newest and boldest venue for theatrical entertainment: the Samsung Performing Arts Center in Ayala Malls Circuit Makati.

The theater itself is such a massive place. Spanning nine floors and towering high above the mall, CPAT really is a sight to behold. Add to that the amazing interior design inspired by experts in the field bred from the finest venues on Broadway and the West End. It's modern, classy, and elegant vibes is complimented by exquisite paintings adorning the walls and the woodgrain stairwells throughout the venue gives off a superb and classy vibe. It almost feels like I'm at a grand theater abroad. Thumbs up to the guys at the Samsung CPAT!

When I saw the September 4th Sunday afternoon show, the theater was buzzing with excitement. Every corner of every space was filled with lively conversation, friends and families coming together to share the magic of musical theater and this fantastic well-crafted piece as if the pandemic only lasted for a shorter time and we were all called back to the theater to share this story of love and defiance that have captivated audiences since its first incarnation over a decade ago as "Cyrano: Isang Sarswela" at UP Diliman. After six years of writing, rewriting, and redeveloping, the show had its first big run at Ateneo De Manila University's Henry Lee Irwin Theater in 2016. It became a runaway hit with young theatergoers with its themes of finding romance and holding on to your hopes and dreams amidst the darkness of living in World War II Manila. It's infectious and heartwarming songs have resonated with the show's legions of fans in the last few productions over the years. And after the announcement of the show's return to the stage in late August this year, the fans came in droves to re-live this wonderful experience, and also for new fans like me to discover what the hype was all about.

Act 1 of the show is as you might expect, an upbeat introduction to the characters in the show, the dreams they all had and most importantly, the main character Cyrano's unwavering love for theater and the performing arts, as well as the humorous antics of his fellow general Christian and their attraction to a lovely girl named Roxanne. Both of them had dreams of going to the moon and back with their love and passion for the arts, until the war came and ravaged everything.

At this point, we reach the second act, where a more poignant, human, Filipino side to the war story: That of those unsung heroes who were never soldiers, just military men in training, and they had to risk everything and see the destruction of their beloved Manila. And it portrayed Filipinos forced to live through these conditions, and how their innocence has been lost to oppressively forces. Despite nearly losing their lives, Cyrano and Christian kept on hoping and carrying feelings of hope, for them lies the future of the nation where they can be free to dream, as well as Roxanne, the common love they all share and how much they want to send her to the moon.

Fast forward to the postwar era, and we see Christian and Roxanne together, giving birth to their first child, and so much has changed. Theaters were being replaced by cinemas and dance halls filled with swing, big band, and early pop records. The world has changed so much around them and yet their love remains alive, and the ways that they tried to stay connected had kept them through the trials and tribulations.

Its confluence of love, history, and music really does hit right in the feels for many theatergoers young and old. With such a relatable script that takes audiences into the worlds of the characters and the music that spans every known genre throughout the history of Filipino music, mixing classic old fashioned "kundimans" and "harana" with the sounds of 90s Pinoy rock.

And the cast? Well, I do have to say that I can speak volumes about their incredible performances, many of which are from some of the rising new stars of Philippine theater. First of all, let's talk Myke Salomon, who played Cyrano. Honestly, this is a very amazing showing of his talent and its unlimited possibilities. The role and how he delivered it was very fluid and really shows the wide spectrum of his emotions. It is living proof that he can rise up to the challenge of whatever role can be passed on to him. Considering his background in film and his most recent shows like Joseph The Dreamer and Ang Huling El Bimbo, rest assured that Filipinos will have a rising star to watch for.

Markki Stroem, a Fil-Norwegian multimedia star who's better known for conjuring up hilarious conversations in Monster RX93.1's The Morning Rush radio show, makes his very poignant theatrical debut in this show. To me, the humor and the heart he exudes on the radio every morning is the same humor and energy that he takes to the stage. Whether it be giving the main character a helping hand to using his incredible dance moves, Stroem is sure to become Pinoy theater's next big thing, and with the show's skyrocketing popularity, his next phase as a stage actor is in good hands.

And of course, the ever so elegant Gab Pangilingan stars as Roxanne, and as I have always expected, gives off a rather splendid performance. Her elegant singing, makeup, outfits, and acting is the undisputed heart and soul of the show. The way she emotionally represented the character of Roxanne stole the hearts of audiences when the show debuted in 2016, and still continues to captivate audiences today. No wonder she has become a constant fixture of the show throughout its many incarnations over the years.

To be honest, Mula Sa Buwan is a total feels trip. It has all the elements Philippine theater needs to get back on its feet in the post-COVID age. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me discreetly bob my head when each song came on. So beautifully crafted and heartfeltly made, it has captured the hearts of post-pandemic audiences so much that the closing weekend has been sold out! With that writing on the wall, it is sure to become more or less the Pinoy answer to Lin-Manuel Miranda's megahit Hamilton, as it beautifully portrays the aspect of "The story of the Filipino then, as told by the Filipino now"

And with all the themes I had mentioned, it is touching and stirring the hearts of theatergoers young and old, and its romantic background as well as the relatable is attracting so many youngsters bringing the "hugot" aesthetic with them, the show is selling out rapidly and all the final weekend shows had been sold out. It was due to close last weekend but COVID cases in the theater, so it had to get delayed by one week to ensure the proper protocols and testing were observed, and it allowed fans of the show to grab hold of whatever tickets were left for the final shows. I do have to say that with its themes and popularity, the show will certainly get another rerun in the future, if not in Manila (as the producers said that this is the last time the show will be staged in Manila), then perhaps other parts of the country like in Cebu, Iloilo, or Davao so that more Filipinos can be able to experience this rather heartfelt, thoughtful, and relatable feels trip every time they watch this show.

Congratulations once again to the tremendously amazing cast and crew for pulling out all the stops to create a show that we cannot just see but also feel, and thanks also to the many many fans of Mula Sa Buwan for helping its post-pandemic run not only to hit the ground running but also to figuratively and literally get off the ground into people's hearts.

As a special bonus, here are my videos from the experience, sharing my thoughts on the show at intermission and at the end of the show, plus the exciting curtain call!

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