By Jude Cartalaba
Manila, Philippines, November 8, 2012 - "Stageshow," the last masterpiece of the late television, film, and theater icon Mario O'Hara, has managed to present a poignant and emotionally-charged story that focuses on the twilight years of a small group of dedicated Filipino artists - "Tres Dahlias," and "Tirso and the Bandits," among others - during the vaudeville era in the late 1940s. These artists, torn between their love for the arts and economic survival, unfortunately represent parallel realities that performing artists still face today.
The "Tres Dahlias," made up of three female leads Ester (Liesl Batucan), Chabeng (Angeline Kanapi), and Magdea (Mae Paner), could give Broadway's "Dreamgirls" a run for their money. Although Batucan, Kanapi, and Paner all stood out in their respective scenes, it was Batucan who had the audience in the palm of her hand. Batucan's Ester, who had been heartbroken after her husband, Tirso (Roeder Camañag), left her for another woman, was very emphatic: her tender voice, nuances of acting, and crisp articulation were a perfect fit to the character; her crying scene also stirred an emotional response from the audience.
Camañag has been getting praises for his theatrical skills, but in this production he failed to level up to the high -caliber performance of Batucan.
Also sadly, the ensemble, some resident actors of Tanghalang Pilipino, delivered a lackluster performance on the day we saw the show. Towards the end of the production, the ensemble played townspeople or taumbayan that were wearing modern party outfits, which was glaringly wrong.
Nevertheless, Tony Casimiro, the son of the late vaudeville star Bayani Casimiro, made a cameo in this play, and he was stunning. Bayani Casimiro shared the marquee with Dolphy, Rogelio dela Rosa, German Moreno, Sylvia La Torre, Pilita Corrales, Elizabeth Ramsey, Oscar Obligacion, Chichay, and the comedy duo Pugo and Tugo during the vaudeville days; some of them have passed away and were not given due recognition for their important contribution to our country's cultural heritage.
Another cast member, Lou Veloso, this year's BroadwayWorld Philippines Awards' Best Featured Actor nominee, also made a cameo and gave an equally engaging performance.
Katsch Catoy and Tuxqs Rutaquio did an excellent job with the sets and lights respectively.
Kudos should also go to Denisa Reyes for her outstanding choreography.
All in all, director Chris Millado has succeeded in putting together "Stageshow," which well represents O'Hara's love for the dead art form - the vaudeville.