Truly Epic: A Review of Tanghalang Pilipino’s Lam-Ang

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After Tanghalang Pilipino’s thought-provoking productions Katsuri and Mabining Mandirigma, this colorful and movement-filled musical Lam-Ang changed the mood. This theater adaptation of an Ilocano epic marks a few firsts—a first for both lead stars to be part of a TP piece and a comeback of a TP family member.

I honestly don’t remember the story of Lam-Ang anymore, that’s why this musical was a good way to be reminded of it. The title role was bestowed to actor JC Santos, whom most of us are familiar with either his movie or TV works, but has really started acting in theater in UP Diliman. Changing Partners starrer Anna Luna portrays Kannoyan, the beautiful heroine of Kalanutian. It’s both JC and Anna’s first time to work on a production under TP and during the press conference of the musical, both were very ecstatic about it. Tanghalang Pilipino Actors Company alumnus Tex Ordoñez-de Leon marks her return within the CCP realm to play Baglan, the storyteller of the said musical.

The stage wasn’t as complex as compared to some of the previous productions but it worked well with how extra the movements and blockings were done by the actors. Kudos to Set and Props Designer Marco Viaña, who’s also sharing director duties with Fitz Bitana, and Choreographer JM Cabling who both made sure that everything is harmonious on that aspect of the musical. I really enjoyed the choreography—it was elaborate in a way that’s making it deeply integral in the play. The costumes were on point. Costume designer Bonsai Cielo did an amazing job staying true to its Ilocos region garb inspiration, from the women’s skirts and accessories to the men’s cloth and blankets; they were seamless. A huge part of a musical would definitely be the songs and I love that a good number that were written and arranged by Jen Torres, Fitz Bitana, and TJ Ramos had a recall to me. I remember stepping out from the theater with the lines “huwag mangamba kahit saan ka mapunta…sasamahan kita” still melodically stuck in my head.

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JC Santos as Lam-Ang

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Anna Luna as Kannoyan

JC’s performance will not give you an indication that he ever skipped on performing on stage. He was wonderful; the type that you would want to look forward to on his next shows. I only have a few of those that I “follow” in every production and that would be Ricci Chan, Vincent de Jesus, Pepe Herrera, and probably a bulk of the present TP Actors Company. It’s safe to say that I’d probably already have added JC in that mix after seeing Lam-Ang. I have to confess that I haven’t really watched most of his TV and movie projects but I’m glad that I caught him portraying this role. What he lacks in miniscule when it comes to singing, he provides tremendously in acting. I had the chance to catch Anna Luna in Changing Partners in PETA and I remember enjoying that show so much. She shined more playing the feisty Kannoyan though. She has a commanding voice that would surprise you if it’s your first time to watch her perform. Playing Baglan was perfect for Tex Ordoñez-de Leon, all my tearful moments came from her. At first, I was a bit confused on who she was portraying until eventually I realized that she’s the narrator. Her emotions flowed in every chant, every line, and songs that would come out from her and to think that some of her cast members mentioned that she wasn’t feeling well that night that I watched the play. Watching the cast and entire ensemble of every TP production is always something that I look forward to because you’d really see and feel their dedication on stage. A few special mentions on this particular production would be Raflesia Bravo, who confidently portrayed the seductress Saridandan, Paw Castillo’s formidable singing voice, and Lance Reblando’s graceful representation as Taraok.

Unfortunately, this production will already end this weekend which really deserves a rerun. In general, Lam-Ang is a well thought of, researched, and produced piece of art; a good presentation of our culture. This is the kind of production that should be toured and have our younger generation watch.

Here’s a short Q&A with JC, Anna Luna, Tex Ordoñez-de Leon, Raflesia Bravo, and Jonathan Tadioan during the press conference of Lam-Ang:

JC ON HIS AUDITION AND WORKING IN A TANGHALANG PILIPINO PRODUCTION OF LAM-ANG

JC: Nagaudition ako for this tapos sabi ko sa kanila wag na nila papapasukin yung susunod. Kiniclaim ko na sha nung time na yun. Sabi ko gagawin ko yung best ko dito kasi gusto ko sha makuha talaga, yung song na binigay sa akin may choreography na. First musical ito na mangyayari sa buhay ko. Dati kasama lang ako, tapos ngayon bida. Nakakapressure pero exciting, nasa magandang team ako e so I’m trusting these people; great and hardworking actors. Sixteen years old pa lang ako dinadala na ako ni Sir Tony Mabesa ng mga souvenir programs na galing TP. I remember them being my super stars. Matagal ko ng ina-eye na magperform sa CCP, sa Little Theater, gusto ko makasama ang Actors Company kasi everytime na rehearsals na kasama ko sila, ang dami dami kong natututunan. We’re all working hard towards this production, sigurado kaming maganda to.

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ANNA HAVING HER FIRST THEATRICAL SHOW WITH TP

Anna: Nagpapasalamat po ako kasi pangarap ko po talaga na makapagperform sa TP. Workshopper lang  ako dati, nuong 2010, naisip ko kung kailan mauulit tapos naisip ko na baka hindi na. I guess sakit din yun ng mga theater actors na minsan nawawalan ka ng tiwala sa sarili mo na hindi mo kaya kasi magagaling na artista yung kailangan nila. Ito yung unang beses na nakalabas ako sa PETA. Puro PETA plays yung ginagawa ko, dun na ako nagdalaga. Kaya itong napasama ako sa Lam-Ang, lakas lang ng loob din siguro talaga na mapabilang sa ganitong kagagaling na mga artista sa isang theater company. Kaya thank you sa pagconsider sa akin.

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TEX ON HER TP COMEBACK

Tex: Sobrang saya ko lang po na nakabalik ako ulit sa TP na naging tahanan ko po sha ng dalawang taon; bata pa po ako nun. Kahit nakikita ko yung mga old security guards, sinasabi ko na “si Tecla po ako” kasi Tex na ako ngayon. Gustong gusto ko yung amoy ng CCP at sobrang bait ko po sa rehearsals para makaulit.

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PRESERVATION OF ACTORS’ HEALTH IN DOING ONE SHOW TO ANOTHER

Raflesia: Most of us here sa Lam-Ang, magkakasama din kami sa Himala, malaking adjustment vocally kasi iba yung technique na ginagamit namin duon na very classical na. Tapos ngayon demanding yung music ng Lam-Ang na magbebreak sha into ethnic and other ways of singing, so kailangan talaga magadjust. Sa body naman, essential oils at Berroca. Yung TP hindi rin naman nagkukulang na alagaan din kami. Binibigyan din naman nila kami ng reasonable time to go home. Tinutulungan kami ng TP na masurvive yung 13 shows na sunod sunod.

Jonathan: Galing naman kaming Katsuri, na straight play tapos biglang pupunta ng musical, shempre yung katawan mo nagaadjust kung ano yung hinihingi ng production. Kung musical, kailangan ahead of time kinukundisyon mo na yung boses mo. Kinukundisyon mo na yung sarili mo bago ka pa sumabak dun sa first day of rehearsals. Dahil yung instrumento namin yung katawan namin, we make sure na nakakapagpahinga kami; nakakatulog.

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Lam-Ang runs at the CCP Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (Little Theater) until December 15; 3 and 8 pm. For tickets, please call Tanghalang Pilipino’s box office at 8822-6920.