ROSES & THORNS
By ALEJANDRO R. ROCES
Currently showing (June 21 to 24) at the legendary off-Broadway La MaMa Experimental Theater in New York City is the first original Filipino zarzuela in English, Something to Crow About. It will also be shown at the Alex Theater in Los Angeles, California on June 28. The collection of short stories with the same title on which the play was based has certainly come a long way from its origins in the laboratory of my creative mind.
The Philippine Star
It is interesting to note the history of theater in New York City. Although its history dates as far back as the 1800s, it was the beginning of the 20th century that saw the establishment of Broadway as we know it today. Theaters then were not taken seriously and attracted middle class people in search of music, excitement and romance. The 1940s was the era of Tennessee Williams and Rodgers and Hammerstein, who combined the elements of song, dance, comedy and drama in the 1943 smash hit Oklahoma. In 1949, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific became a hit and won the Pulitzer Prize for Best Musical. In 1957, Jerome Robbins’ West Side Story, with music by Leonard Bernstein, so captivated audiences at the Winter Garden Theatre. More recent musicals include Pulitzer Prize-winning A Chorus Line, then Cats, known to be the longest running show in Broadway history, Tim Rice and Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar and Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, which later moved to theaters across the globe.
Off Broadway theaters in New York serve as launching stage for promising artistic productions. Some shows staged off Broadway that were successfully run later on the more prestigious Broadway were Godspell, Sunday in the Park with George and Hair. Approximately 1,500 off Broadway productions are staged each year, selling an estimated 7 million tickets annually.
The US roadshow presentation of Something to Crow About was made possible through the invitation of US theater doyenne Ellen Stewart, founder of La Mama Experimental Theater Club, the launching stage of many world-renowned artists; and Aliw Awardee Cecil Guidote-Alvarez, the show’s musical director, whose amazing perseverance and creative genius made possible this Filipino zarzuela to be performed Off Broadway. Music was composed by Ferdinand Dimadura, orchestration by Nonoy Diestro and choreography by Joji Felix-Velarde and Enrico Labayen. A reprise of the cockfighting dance was by National Artist for Dance Leonor Orosa-Goquingco.
An original Filipino musical with an all Filipino cast shown Off Broadway will certainly make our kababayans in America proud, being another achievement on top of an all Filipino group who conquered Mt. Everest, a Filipino fighter who put Philippine boxing in the limelight, award-winning Filipino singer and actress Lea Salonga who is best known for her portrayal of Kim in the musical Miss Saigon and in many different fields of endeavor from hip hop to aeronautics.
These only show that Filipinos are indeed world class.