Theater review: Myke Salomon really happened in ‘Mula sa Buwan’

Myke Salomon in ‘Mula sa Buwan.’ Kyle Venturillo

MANILA – ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ is a classic French play by Edmond Rostand written in 1987. Since then, the play has been translated and performed in English and other languages, and adapted into stage musical versions as well. There have been a number of film versions, the last of which was “Cyrano” (Joe Wright, 2021) starring Peter Dinklage; as well as adaptations where the story was transposed to modern times and/or gender-swapped, the latest of which was “The Half of It” (Alice Wu, 2020).

“Mula sa Buwan” is the Filipino musical adaptation of Cyrano’s story by Pat Valera (book and lyrics) and William Elvin Manzano (original music and lyrics) based on Soc Rodrigo’s Filipino translation of Rostand’s original verses. It itself has undergone several reworkings since it was first staged in 2010 at the University of Asia and the Pacific by the Dulaang Rock Opera Company. These adjustments in the book were made in order to make the material more relevant to the prevailing social climate.

It had gained popularity when it was staged at the Ateneo de Manila University twice by Black Box Productions. In 2016, it was staged at the Irwin Lee Theater, with Nicco Manalo and Boo Gabunada alternating as Cyrano, KL Dizon as Roxane, and Fred Lo and Edward Benosa alternating as Christian. In 2018, it was re-enacted at the Hyundai Hall of Arete, with Manalo and Gabunada again alternating as Cyrano, Gab Pangilinan and Cris Go alternating as Roxane, and Edward Benosa and Myke Salomon alternating as Christian.

For this current production, the Barefoot Theater Collaborative is bringing the beloved work to a much bigger venue – the beautiful new Samsung Performing Arts Theater at Circuit Makati, which has almost twice the seating capacity of the Hyundai. Lobby.

The dashing Markki Stroem joins the cast as Christian. Always incandescent, Gab Pangilinan resumes her role as Roxane. After playing Christian in 2018, music director Myke Salomon now dons the iconic prosthetic nose to play the lead role of Cyrano.

Myke Salomon and Gab Pangilinan in
Myke Salomon and Gab Pangilinan in “Mula sa Buwan”. Kyle Venturillo

Main supporting characters include the fabulous Rosanna (Phi Palmos), the transgender cabaret owner who has backed projects to promote equal representation and freedom of expression; the haughty Maximo (MC de la Cruz), the rich and brazen young man who dared to challenge Cyrano; the loyal Tato (Jon Abella), Cyrano’s best friend; and sweet Gabriel (Jillian Ita-as), Roxane’s best friend and Tato’s lover.

Cadets under Cyrano were played by Abe Autea, Jep Go, Rapah Manalo, Stephen Viñas and little Ericka Peralejo. The townspeople set includes: Miah Canton, Francis Gatmaytan, Mitzie Lao, Deborah Lemuel, Mark Anthony Grantos, Eizel Marcelo, Kinnara Mayari, Ace Polias, Liway Perez, Lance Reblando, Mikaela Regis, Chesko Rodriguez, Keith Sumbi, Shaira Opsimar and Khalil Tambio

Set designer Ohm David transformed the spacious stage of the Samsung Performing Arts Theater into a bustling street corner with a makeshift stage for the first song number “Ang Tanghalang Ito”, then he ushered us into Rosanna’s cabaret, where she sang her fiery “Manifesto.” David’s main backdrop was a wall of crumpled white fabric, which conveyed different moods depending on the colors of the Meliton Roxas lights. A full moon and a sky full of twinkling stars occasionally appeared there to create a most beautiful effect.

Costumes designed by Bonsai Cielo transported audiences to 1940s Manila before and after World War II. As most of the boys were in khaki, the girls wore rainbow-colored dresses that floated as they turned in JM Cabling’s vibrant choreography. Roxane’s dresses were made to stand out in the crowd, with their bright primary colors reflecting her moods. For Rosanna’s featured number, Palmos wore a set consisting of a polka dot sleeveless blouse, purple pants and red shoes.

The first act alone was already around two hours long, with 10 song numbers that introduced the three main characters and built the love triangle they will be engaged with. the mood for this act was generally upbeat (the loud “Ang Ilong”), with a healthy dose of sweet nothings for the romantics to sigh for (the longing for “Ikaw”). The act’s final song, “Malaya”, was sung when the war reached the city, as the Philippine flag waved with red on top, suddenly changing dramatically with the Japanese flag of the rising sun during the power outage.

A scene from 'Mula sa Buwan.'  Kyle Venturillo
A scene from ‘Mula sa Buwan.’ Kyle Venturillo

In stark contrast to the high energy of Act 1, Act Two had a darker atmosphere as themes of war and mortality took over. The hour-long act had just four songs, all with titles that dealt with the misery of war, the loss of loved ones, and hope for a better future. These are “Awit ng Mga Naiwan”, Christian’s haunting hymn “Matatapos Din”, “Tahan Na” and “Ang Sabi Nila”, Roxane’s song about her difficulty in getting out of a lost love, the emotional climax of Gab Pangilinan’s bubbly soprano.

If you’re unfamiliar with Cyrano’s story, it might not be easy to get into the musical at first with the flowery Tagalog used. However, once the main love triangle kicks in, you’ll be hooked. Real-life couple Solomon and Pangilinan’s romantic chemistry is undeniable even though their characters weren’t exactly lovers, as Stroem valiantly played the third wheel. Abella and Ita-as were lovely as second couple Tato and Gabriel, also earning elated cheers from the audience. MC dela Cruz has strongly registered as the bad boy Maximo.

I haven’t been able to see any of the Ateneo stagings of this musical, so I couldn’t compare this staging to the previous one or if there were any major changes made. Myke Salomon had a lighthearted, childlike, likable portrayal of Cyrano that kept the story, especially the dark second act, from becoming downright tearful and depressing. While “Ang Huling El Bimbo” singled out Solomon as the quintessential music director, “Mula sa Buwan finally confirmed that Solomon is a true leader. This multi-talented man has truly arrived.

Myke Salomon and Gab Pangilinan in
Myke Salomon and Gab Pangilinan in “Mula sa Buwan”. Kyle Venturillo

‘Mula sa Buwan’ runs from August 26 to September 11 at the Samsung Performing Arts Theatre, Circuit Makati.

This review was originally posted on the author’s blog, “Fred Said”.

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