Monday, October 25, 2010


No photo'Un-Dawn-ted'
CHASING TOFF By Christopher De Venecia (The Philippine Star) Updated October 25, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

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Thanks to the nurturing of director Bobby Garcia who was the artistic glue that gelled everything together. This is one of Bobby’s best works to date. Bravo, Bobby!
Currently on Broadway with the talented Bernadette Peters in the role of Desiree Armfeldt, A Little Night Music, Sondheim’s celebrated masterpiece that features the seminal hit, Send in the Clowns, recently reopened in the Great White Way with a tour-de-force performance from Catherine Zeta-Jones. Her regality and candor suited the role of Desiree so much and the “quietness” that the piece demanded, acting inwards and drawing audiences towards the actor rather than doing an outward and bombastic performance ala Gyspy Rose, that she won accolades in the recent Tony Awards as Best Actress in a Musical.

Now I didn’t really get to catch A Little Night Music on my recent trip to New York — reason being that it was the in-between rehearsal period of the show from Catherine Zeta-Jones to Bernadette Peters. And I have not seen any other version of the show for that matter. But after catching Atlantis Production’s local staging, featuring showbiz scion and the very beautiful Dawn Zulueta as Desiree Armfeldt, I may as well have come face to face with Zeta-Jones and some Broadway-level caliber interpreted on our local soil. Atlantis Production’s A Little Night Music was nothing short of breathtaking, fascinating, and life-changing as I walked away from the theater, stunned, haunted, and a reinforced aficionado and disciple of Stephen Sondheim (who is the show’s brilliant composer).

Based on Ingmar Bergman’s film, Smiles of Summer Night, A Little Night Music is a witty and urbanemusical set in waltz time. The action takes place in a weekend country house in turn-of-the-century Sweden, where surprising liaisons, long-simmering passions, and a taste of love’s endless possibilities are brought to light.

There is of course Desiree Armfeldt at the center of a humorous tug-of-war between Frederik Egerman, played by the excellent Nonie Buencamino, and Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm played by the comical Jake Macapagal. Both men, contrasting in personalities, are initially betrothed, and thus become adulterous to their respective wives — conjuring a messy Melrose web that entangles the show’s primary players. Frederik Egerman is married to the young Anne Egerman, played by the wonderful and amazingly comical Cris Villonco while the Count is married to Charlotte Malcolm, played by the beautiful Jenny Jamora. Adding to the mix is Felix Rivera who plays Henrik, Frederik’s son who we discover later on, to be in love with his stepmother Anne. The Melrose web climaxes when all the primary players travel to spend a Weekend in the Country, upon the invatation of Desiree and her mother, Madame Armfeldt, played by Jay Glorioso — the role played in the Broadway revival by Angela Lansbury.

Apart from the joyous and breathtaking performances and Mio Infante’s gorgeous chrysalis-looking set that encrusts the Carlos P. Romulo stage and paints the mood for each scene as it is transformed each time with Dong Calingacion’s lighting design, not to mention the powerful support from the likes of Teenee Chan and Raul Montesa, among other narrators in the show, accolades should be given to both Dawn Zulueta and Nonie Buencamino who, for this writer, are the luminous stars of A Little Night Music.

Dawn delivers the performance of a lifetime, not overplaying the character to depict a caricature but rather, tempering those tender moments that pull audiences in, hook, line, and sinker. Her Send in the Clowns was in a whole other universe. And myself, being a sucker for middle-age people who find love again in each other’s arms, I was this close to bawling like a kid from where I sat in the second row. Think The Notebook. Where Dawn shines brightly, there is Nonie Buencamino fueling Dawn’s light, lyric to lyric, word for word, emotion to emotion. There was so much depth in his performance, proof of his many wonderful years onstage, that the two of them together — Dawn and Nonie — really do paint a sterling example of how acting and theater should be done. Bravo! This is of course, thanks to the nurturing of director Bobby Garcia who was the artistic glue that gelled everything together. This is one of Bobby’s best works to date. Bravo, Bobby!

The show also stars Alys Serdenia as the hysterical maid Petra who sings a whopping The Miller’s Son, Crystal Baranda-Paras as Frederika, Gabriel Santos as Frid, and Agnes Barredo-Fenoli, Glen Llanes, Anthony Ong, and Jennie Nuyda as the other narrators. Chari Arespacochaga choreographs the show, with Ceejay Javier as musical director, Rajo Laurel as costumes designer for Desiree Armfeldt, Twinkle Zamora as costume designer, and Manman Angsico as vocal coach.

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