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Features: A music extravaganza at its finest!

The first student musical presentation from the College of Nursing has finally been realized! With glittering costumes and flouncy skirts, the dancers of Mamma Mia rushed past me backstage of the Medicine Auditorium, to make their way for the finale, “Dancing Queen”. Behind the curtains, the differing intensities backstage and onstage was noticeable as I struggled to make sense of the chaotic scene around me. The fear—and the excitement, was palpable. I suddenly had a feeling that this was going to be epic.

These musicals, aptly dubbed “Vaudeville”, broke new ground by being the first of its kind, and were launched for the annual celebration of the Nursing week. “Actually, [the] musical was experimental. [At the beginning], people were irritated, but once they had rooms [to practice in], everything was okay.” said Royce Ong (III-7), officer-in-charge of the event, together with the project heads Jeri Albano (III-1) and the twins Phil and Levin Sajor (III-8). According to Ong, since the freshmen had extemporaneous speech & radio drama and the seniors had the film festival as their main event, it was only fitting that the sophomores had the dance festival and the juniors, their Broadway musical.

“This is it!” I heard a junior whisper hurriedly to her friend as they prepared to go onstage. The lights went on—and their fear was gone. It truly was their moment to shine.

Broadway Revivals
Mamma Mia! –Even though the musical had a larger appeal to an older audience, as all of the songs were from the seventies band, ABBA, III-5 was able to make their performances enjoyable to all age groups. With their energetic choreographies and bright costumes, it was nice to see kitsch brought up to a credible level. I even found myself humming along to the infectious hits that are now decades old but still unforgettable as ever.

Next came a brazen performance of Chicago from III-2, chronicling the lives of its two main stars, Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. Who could forget the corporeal scene from “Cell Block Tango”, wherein formless figures gave way to girls clad in black ensembles and trashy fishnets gracefully writhing like adulterated nymphs on life-sized prison bars? It was the roaring twenties immortalized—jazz and sultry cabaret singers, sensationalized murder trials and the flightiest era before The Great Depression. They then ended the musical with another crowd favorite, “All That Jazz”.
I’m guessing the names John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are already synonymous with the next musical. Grease (III-8), the show I consider to be the forbearer of the High School Musical series, included upbeat dance numbers from the cast and typical ‘kilig’ moments you’d expect from a boy-meets-girl plot. Predictability aside, their performance of “Grease Lightning”, “Summer Nights”, and “You’re the One I Want” was good, along with the portrayal of staunch teenage rivalry, high school love and take-out melodrama.

Another musical, Annie, has been renamed Annie Rocks, which, according to Tricia Cuevas (III-3), who plays the lead role, was essentially Annie with a little infusion of attitude. All I can say is great production number, smooth storyline and easy transition (that flipping background was genius — it definitely surprised the audience). The props people, creative team, and the whole performance of the cast was highly commendable.

Next—Hairspray (III-10), a musical tinged with social commentary, mirrored the turbulent racial scene of American society in the sixties by juxtaposing the American dream with an unlikely protagonist—an African-American girl. Some performances were top-notch, despite the markedly long running time, and the show ranked high on originality. The setting was changed to the hospital and most of the songs were taken from contemporary OPM and RNB. Despite the extensive overhaul, the play managed to maintain the informal and light-hearted humor of Hairspray, funnily played by a very colorful cast.

Ms. Saigon, the musical that catapulted Lea Salonga to broadway stardom, was a hard act to follow. The show began with a scene from a Vietnam night club with the song “The Heat Is On In Saigon”. Telling a tale of love and the ultimate sacrifice, the character who played Kim was able to depict the emotions of love (“Sun and Moon”), (“The Sacred Bird”), eventually ending with a dramatic finale, where she dies in the arms of Chris, played by Kennrick Magdangal (III-6), who won the award for Best Actor for the event.

It’s what everybody wants. Fame, another surfacing classic, has gained popularity by banking on its movie release earlier this year. “We wanted a fresh spin, a different version from the movie itself, so we incorporated different elements into the plot and music,” says Charlene Tabora (III-9), who was one of the three winners of the title for Most Outstanding Female Vocalist for the said event. It would’ve been a generally-agreed consensus to say that Fame had been the most dance-driven musical among the whole batch, showcasing different talents from actual ballet dancers to members of the Nursing Dance Troupe.

Although Les Misérables (III-4) was a bit confusing, their stage presence was undeniable; it wasn’t considered as Victor Hugo’s masterpiece for nothing. Depicting the intertwining stories of tragedy, love, & revolutionary heroism, there were characters who sang recognizable songs already synonymous with the play like “I Dreamed A Dream”, “On My Own”, & the choir-like rendition of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” in acapella, heralding the triumph of French revolutionaries as a soldier symbolically waved a flag in the end.

The rise of the giant chandelier was a stunning prelude to this musical from III-7, wowing the audience and raising expectations for the play The Phantom of the Opera. The Phantom was depicted with such fiery intensity that it was able to match the high vocal repertoire of Christine, performed by Katherine Ordoñez who was also the first-runner up of Nursing Idol 2009 and also one of the winners for Best Female Vocalist, along with Asia Agcaoili (III-1) from West Side Story and Charlene Tabora (III-9) from Fame. The play’s production numbers were good, the scenes were effectively relayed and it is also one of my favorite musicals to note—with good reason.

With all these great performances, the panel of judges – Dr. Elmer C. Hibek, Ph.D., Mrs. Evangeline Tan-Matienzo, and Mrs. Ma. Lourdes Bunagan – must have had a challenging time coming up with a winner. But, in the end III-1’s performance of West Side Story was declared the best.

Wild Wild West
When asked how III-1 was able to garner the first prize, Dr. Hibek, Literature professor of the whole junior batch, answered, “Of course the plot, precision, and agility of the performers in doing the roles portrayed by their characters [were their winning factors], at saka malinis ang pagkakagawa talaga.” As the director of the play, Iris Agcaoili (III-1) said, “The vision I had while doing the musical…. was losing [their] inhibitions as performers and overcoming the reluctance and fear of becoming artists. I wanted to make them love the stage as much as I do.” Described as the modern day version of Romeo & Juliet, West Side Story is definitely master class— led by Diane Arandia (III-1) and Daryl Alfonso (III-1) as Maria & Tony. “It really was a class effort and every single member of our section made it easier for us to give justice to one of the best Broadway plays ever made.” says Arandia. And truly, it has made all the difference.

“So why musicals? First, Lit. And thinking about it, literature [is meant to be lived],” said Ong. He continues on, “It is not only right na binabasa lang natin, or alam lang natin. [I] think it’s much better if we do it ourselves. [By doing so], we [incorporate] it into our lives, and we grow better as persons.” Aside from the challenge of depicting such legendary musicals, the sections were also told to include a nursing touch to each of their performance, in which some were able to follow and some were not. Talentwise? Surely, student-nurses have no problems in that area. It has been clear that many hidden gems were discovered that day. “We have so many talents. Develop [them], so that even in the practice of their professions they can make use of their talents”, said Dean Glenda Vargas, RN, MAN.

In fact, what more can be expected from ten sections performing ten different musicals? Disgruntled stomachs and pressure sores on the bum, surely. But more than that, singing and dancing aside, Vaudeville can be truly considered a league of its own, and can be summarized in one statement from Sir Hibek: “Galing talaga ng third year, grabe!” That pretty much summarizes the whole event.

By: Marielle Siy


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