Saturday, June 25, 2011

The 30-Day Musical Theater Song Challenge, Part 7

I came across this challenge on Facebook and thought I'd give it a try. By now, it should be no secret that I'm an avid fan of musical theater, which is not the case for many people in this country (and it's easy to understand why). If you're a Broadway junkie like myself, then my 'repertoire' is yours to sample. Otherwise, you're in for some 'new' music to... add to your playlist, perhaps?

Note: The instructions say to post this on your 'Wall', one song per day, but since we're in Blogger, I'm having it my way.

A song from your 'guilty pleasure' musical.

"TOUCH MY SOUL" from Bare
by Jenna Leigh Green and James Snyder

I read online that Bare has developed a cult following worldwide, so it got me all excited thinking that I'm actually part of a cult. But that's beside the point. Here's a musical that's nearly a decade due on Broadway (it had an Off-Broadway outing in 2004, but failed to make it to Broadway itself). Instead, it's received numerous productions worldwide and has become a favorite for amateur and regional theaters. For all I know, the youth's a huge part of its fanbase (or cult membership) - and really, there is something about this musical that appeals to young people. 

Perhaps it's because, like Spring Awakening (but without the global fame), Bare is about teenagers struggling to find their place in society. There's contemporary music - and it's quite good, I should say. Combine these two elements and you have the perfect recipe to get young people hooked to a piece of musical theater.

The main story arc in Bare is a love triangle, between Peter, Jason, and Ivy. The pairings are as follows: Peter and Jason, Jason and Ivy. Peter's gay, Jason's confused as to whether he's gay or straight, and Ivy is straight, flirty, and female all the way. In Touch My Soul, Ivy tells Jason about her feelings and her two cents on the world she runs, and Jason sings back to her (though it's hardly welcome).

P.S. The above clip is from the Off-Broadway Production with Jenna Leigh Green as Ivy and John Hill as Jason, dubbed with the 2007 Studio Cast Recording by Green and James Snyder as Jason.

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A song from the musical which you think everyone should see performed live.

"MAYBE" from Next to Normal
by Alice Ripley and Jennifer Damiano

Watch Next to Normal. I say that to everyone out there who lives with a functional and happy family, and to those who'd rather stay away from home because home's such a terrible place. Maybe, after watching this, you'll realize that your problems aren't that major at all. You'll be able to appreciate and love your moms better. You'll realize how lucky you are to have a dad who's not a punching bag for your mom. You'll realize that in the future, it'll just be you and your siblings together. The moral of Next to Normal goes something like this: Treasure your family, for how fortunate you are that you're not a Goodman.

I watched the musical twice in March 2011, and for both times, you could hear the sobs and sniffles during Maybe. Here, Diana and Natalie (mother and daughter) reconcile their differences and resign themselves to the fact that maybe, a normal life's never meant for them. "I don't need a life that's normal," Natalie sings, "but something next to normal would be okay."

Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo and Bea Garcia return in October for a rerun of the Manila production of this musical. Any theater fan out there would be crazy to miss this. The emotions that Lauchengco-Yulo and Garcia evoke in this scene are of the highest and purest level.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The 23rd of June, or How the Rain Fell So Hard, It Gave Us All a 'Good' Time

No image will be provided for this post in honor of the gifts of imagination, resourcefulness, creativity, and intelligence.

Outside, the sky was bleak, the atmosphere dreary. From where I stood, I glimpsed people in uniform scurrying down the sidewalks, bags in tow, folders and envelopes or what could pass for a temporary, mobile roof unsteadily held upon their heads. Inside, many were seemingly oblivious to the pitter-patter of rain on the windows, instead almost entirely immersed in the activity at hand. Then, the warning came.

"The chancellor has called off all classes and school activities. We are advised to go home now, since the weather is getting worse by the minute - and many of us still have a long journey ahead." 

Text messaging is certainly an unquestionable wonder of our era. In a matter of minutes, the word had spread like wildfire across campus. Had we been the naive and wide-eyed grade school kids that we once were, we would have broken into applause and our cheers would have drowned out the rest of our instructor's words. But we were past that stage. There was hardly any sign of bags being packed, chairs being pushed back, or people slowly heading for the door. There was only talk - orderly discussion as to what's happening and what to do next - and so we were given the option.

"We could, however, stay a little longer for you to finish up. Would you prefer that? I'm not yet leaving anyway."

Our instructor's words betrayed a calloused Manila spirit, hardened by a life spent dealing with the horrendous traffic and unpredictable floods and all that brouhaha that continue to plague the city. They say the weather's getting really bad. There'll be flooding for sure. But what's life without that, yes?

Her sentiments weren't just her own. Like the stereotypical to-be doctors, we agreed to go on with our work - at least, for as long as we were allowed inside the room. Did we have any choice at all? To some, it would have been quite unbecoming to rejoice and think only of home at the mere whisper of 'classes cancelled'. Think of the imprudence. Were we to just leave like schoolkids, flitting from thought to thought, from work to home, from responsibility to recreation? How embarrassing.

So we stayed.

A couple of hours later, we'd be among the many struggling to escape the rising waters, struggling to reach an impermanent shelter where we'd finally be dry and warm and cozy. We'd first be the chatty and sociable throng of freshmen gathered amongst the transboxes, waiting for our lecture transes to arrive. We'd gaze at the sky or the soaked asphalt pavement, or we'd be totally heedless to these inanimate things and be solely focused on our shifting conversations. The transes would arrive and we'd cheer in slight mockery of those who cheer the way we did (in other words, children).

By that time, however, we'd already take notice of the rain gathering momentum and pounding the earth in such barbaric fashion. Consider that our initiation. We'd see the pavement slowly disappear beneath the water, and the water slowly creep towards higher ground (otherwise known as the transbox area). We'd all laugh and ponder at the same time at the thought of being stuck together in this tiny place for the night - or how we'd all be eventually forced to wade through waist-deep waters teeming with roaches and rats. Of course, the latter would only happen the day the sea rises as scientists say it someday would.

Then, the cars came. Shoes got soaked. People were forced to tread on ankle-deep waters. People slipped and fell on the water. People continued to laugh. Spirits were still high and cheery, in perfect contrast to the heavenly gloom. By that time, the goal was to get out of campus at all costs. Chairs were turned into improvised walkways, and so were huge, unsteady pieces of stone.

How everyone eventually got out of the area, how we summoned resourcefulness and creativity to make bridges and elevated pathways, still leave me beaming with pride. In the end, though, I was the only one left.

I was the last one out, but funnily enough, I was relatively dry all over. Thank God. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

The 30-Day Musical Theater Song Challenge, Part 6

I came across this challenge on Facebook and thought I'd give it a try. By now, it should be no secret that I'm an avid fan of musical theater, which is not the case for many people in this country (and it's easy to understand why). If you're a Broadway junkie like myself, then my 'repertoire' is yours to sample. Otherwise, you're in for some 'new' music to... add to your playlist, perhaps?

Note: The instructions say to post this on your 'Wall', one song per day, but since we're in Blogger, I'm having it my way.

A song from the musical with the best music.

"ALL I ASK OF YOU" from The Phantom of the Opera
a concert cover by Brad Little and Joanna Ampil

When it comes to Andrew Lloyd Webber, there are only two ways a musical theater lover may go: You either love his music or abhor it with your life. For the longest-running Broadway show, at least, I'm a fan. Phantom, after all, is the very first musical recording that I listened to and actually got... 'addicted' to. It was the summer before high school, and our living room was constantly filled with Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum's voices (which at that time were quite perfect for me already). Half a decade and many Phantom covers later, I'm still no fan of Michael Crawford.

The category here is best music, and it dawned on me when I was still choosing an answer that I actually like every song there is in Phantom. Of course, there are other musicals that I'd easily give this category to, but for the sheer beauty of the music, ALW wins. I couldn't find a good enough cover for The Point of No Return, which is my most favorite song from the musical, so I had to settle with this one instead. Joanna Ampil for Christine in a Manila engagement ala Cats, anyone? 

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A song from the musical with the best lyrics.

by the Original Broadway Cast

Yes, friends, Avenue Q again for this one. Why? It's ridiculously funny, it's witty, and it's very sincere all at the same time. It's an ingenious juxtaposition of R-rated hilarity and in-your-face facts of life, a comedy or dramedy or I-don't-know-how-to-categorize-it with a really huge heart and a very human soul. At least once, every urbanite with the money must see the show, and so should college students and fresh college graduates, and the married couples as well.

Right now, I'd rename this song "I Wish I Could Go Back to PreMed" and somehow, it'd fit.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I Are Von Trapp

Salzburg, Austria at night.

As I write this, the French Film Festival at the Shangri-La Plaza is just wrapping up with The Tree of Life, this year's Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or recipient. It's supposed to be a Best Picture contender for next year's Oscars, plus Brad Pitt (in serious, awards-bait mode) and Sean Penn are in it. Good thing I decided against going to the fest; it's been raining all day, and we don't want another Equus, do we?

I had my own French film fest today. This afternoon, I watched Of Gods and Men, and just now, Le Concert. The former's a pretty intense drama about a group of monks caught in the web of religious war in Algeria (based on a true story); the latter is a sort-of-musical-comedy about a faded Russian orchestra conductor. I'm not going to review them now; watch them, as both films are pretty well worth the time and effort. I've now watched thirty films for my Oscarthon and will be concluding it in a week or so.

It's a long weekend, and a pretty benign one at that - perhaps the most benign we'll ever have for the rest of the semester. The first week of med school's over, and yes, it was just three days of introductory, sort-of-like-Values-class sessions. We have classes five days a week (UP colleges normally have Wednesdays off), eight hours a day (8 to 5, with a 12 to 1 break). The previous days have been all about getting to know the 120 lateral entrants (I still don't know half of them, and they say it sometimes takes more than the entire year to know your entire class). We were made to watch Patch Adams and Freedom Writers, probably to further inspire us to become doctors for the people, and that's just about all the interesting things we did (sarcasm).

So I wondered: Why do we watch movies? Here's my answer: Movies help us develop empathy. To immerse oneself in that fictional universe, to establish a connection with the characters, to tread that fine line between fiction and reality. That plethora of emotions and myriad of thoughts that flooded our very selves throughout the entire viewing experience, we bring with us as we exit the cinema or close our screens.

Next weekend's another long weekend, and after that, we have our exam on this week's classes (on the country's health care system and all that shiz). Then, the real thing begins. Anatomies, histologies, physiologies, biochemistries, dissections - the real medical stuff that we'll need in the future. And of course, the must-study-for exams, more than twenty of them for the semester alone. But first, The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber on Saturday night - yes, we're watching.

Now that I've mentioned theater, I just read online that there will be auditions next weekend for Resorts World's production of The Sound of Music. How about playing Friedrich or Rolf come October, while balancing med school and all that jazz? But I'd really like to go to Salzburg someday.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The 30-Day Musical Theater Song Challenge, Part 5

I came across this challenge on Facebook and thought I'd give it a try. By now, it should be no secret that I'm an avid fan of musical theater, which is not the case for many people in this country (and it's easy to understand why). If you're a Broadway junkie like myself, then my 'repertoire' is yours to sample. Otherwise, you're in for some 'new' music to... add to your playlist, perhaps?

Note: The instructions say to post this on your 'Wall', one song per day, but since we're in Blogger, I'm having it my way.

A song by your favorite musical composer.

"SO MANY PEOPLE" from Saturday Night
a concert cover by Laura Benanti 

First of all, pardon the video if the audiovisuals aren't that good; it's my first creation using Windows Movie Maker - and dear Lord, did the entire process of extracting that clip give me one heck of a headache. But I guess the headache's worth it, for here, in a clip that Youtube does not have or refuses to hand over to me, is Tony winner Laura Benanti in one of the best numbers of the night during Stephen Sondheim's 80th Birthday Concert more than a year ago.

It took nearly a half-century before Saturday Night, probably one of Sondheim's least known creations, made it to the West End, and Broadway's yet to get a taste of it. In this musical, however, is what I deem to be Sondheim's most beautiful (love) song - in fact, one of the most beautiful songs I've ever encountered. It's something I'd really like to hear at a or my wedding. Laura Benanti, in just concert form, is dazzlingly romantic here.

My favorite lyrics: So many people in the world/ and what can they do?/ They'll never know love/ like my love for you/.../ And if they tell us/ it's a thing we'll outgrow/ they're jealous as they could be/ that with so many people in the world/ you love me. 

Blog Post Served Raw

I write this with less than twelve hours to spare before med school finally begins. In a month's time, I'd already be wrapped in those pearly white uniforms, under the control of a dress code again after two years of liberation. Tonight, my two-month summer break comes to an end, and I couldn't be any happier as to how it all turned out.

I finished Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco last night. I can't believe it took me all of two months to will myself into finishing the novel, and that it's the only book I finished for the summer. In any case, the novel has "Palanca" stamped on its pages from start to end; every sentence, every paragraph is formed in award-winning fashion, every chapter a microcosm of the totality that is the Palanca Grand Prize Winner a couple of years back.

Manner and method over matter: Ilustrado is definitely worth reading, though I believe it's more an exquisite read for the way its written and the sheer beauty of the author's style, than for the story.

Once again, the vacation saw my sleeping time and pattern drastically changed. I can actually remember only a single night when I didn't sleep at nearly midnight. I guess practice makes perfect then (for med school, that is)

My biggest achievement this summer, however, is sort-of-finishing our high school yearbook. It took all of two months to actually finish the entire thing, so hurray for me. And I can drive now (though far from an expert).

Whoever owns this picture has our yearbook staff's gratitude.

P.S. I'm writing this sort-of-rant-or-mind-vomit simply because I feel sort of guilty that I didn't write for an entire week. So there, a mediocre blog post served raw.