Disclaimer: I paid for my ticket. THAT IS ALL.
I caught the last matinee show of Orosman at Zafira last Saturday and boy, if you missed it, you better hope there’s another run soon. Two years ago, I watched the same musical, only at a smaller scale, at the Wilfrido Maria Guerrero Theater in UP Diliman. Well, if you belong to the non-theater watching population and you haven’t heard of Orosman at Zafira, I’ll summarize the plot for you in five simple sentences a kindergarten would understand:
Aldervesin, adopted son of the Marruecos’ sultan, gets it on with the sultan’s wife (Gulnara) and betrays the whole tribe to escape his death sentence. Zafira seeks revenge after his sultan father is slayed by Orosman’s tribesmen. Zafira then discovers that Orosman, the man he has fallen in love with, belongs to the tribe responsible for her father’s death and rejects him and his brother’s (Abdalap) advances. Abdalap kills his father and becomes sultan, after being forced to marry another woman (Gulnara). The tribes war against each other, resulting to the deaths of almost all key characters, until Orosman slays his brother, gets back Zafira and restores peace.
Now, on to the review:
Score and choreography. As I remember, the score two years ago definitely did not include drums and electric guitars. Spicing it up with electric guitar riffs made it fitting for the intense choreography. I’m sure most of the cast are part of the UP Pep Squad because, man, they were doing cheerdance stunts I’ve never expected to see in a musical. Expects lifts, jumps, extended pirouettes and routines. I was particularly proud that the chorus used a variety of Filipino instruments while dancing, not confining the use of these unique gadgets in the background. Although at some point, the dancing dragged on more than it should have.
Actors and vocals. I was seated with a bit of a distance from the stage and I could barely make out the actors’ faces. I think everyone would agree that the supporting cast had stronger voices than the lead actors – Gulnara, for example, played by Jean Judith Javier and the narrator, Zelima, played by Tao Aves. Javier worked with Maita Ponce‘s (Zafira) voice well on their duets, with the latter’s voice coming out albeit her partner’s stronger voice. Tao Teves was mostly spectacular, her technique articulating all the drama unfolding (she didn’t need a mic, I’m sure). I was disappointed with Jay Gonzaga (Orosman) – the supporting male characters like Red Concepcion (Aldervesin) and even his antagonist Roeder Camanag (Abdalap) outshone him both in acting and singing.
Casting. I don’t know if it’s really hard to cast manly-looking actors in theater, but the casting was a bit off for some characters. The actors, playing warriors, are flabby and frankly, I look manlier than them, seriously. I’m not saying they should be ripped, but at least they could have cast warrior-looking actors. Acey Aguilar (Zelim) looked manly, yes, but wasn’t articulate enough to deliver the lines clearly. He delivered in the acting department, thankfully.
Production. The lighting was minimal but pulled off the musical’s general mood, although there were moments when I couldn’t see the actors’ faces clearly because of the lack of light. An area at the back of the stage was used effectively – the chorus was there at the right moments especially when some of the main characters were singing their solos. The lighting also highlighted how the area was put into good use; the part when the dead were walking during Zafira’s solo at the end was both sad and eerie. Costumes were a big improvement and was creatively used particularly when Zafira and her bridesmaids used a solid white veil while dancing, transitioning into the bride’s escape. The very roomy stage, as compared with their previous runs, was also used extensively with actors floating midair in harnesses and a two-storey rolled artifice. I’m relieved that the familiar movable grass and inverted walis ting-ting was still there, only at a larger scale.
The verdict. A matinee ticket is worth one movie in a 3d cinema. That 3d film, whatever it is, would definitely pale in comparison with Orosman at Zafira, making it worth every penny and minute spent. 7/10 stars and a standing ovation is in order.