Staging a literary classic such as this is no easy feat. But what makes it 10 times harder are the hundreds of restless high school students that the company has to keep in their seats for 2.5 hours. Fortunately, Gantimpala Theater Foundation has already mastered the answer to this problem.
It was modern- the group infused pop culture while being 90% faithful to the script written by playwright Boni Ilagan.
It was epic- with no less than a 30-person cast filling the stage.
It was visually stimulating- armed with beautiful lighting by Andy Villareal, regal costumes by Vangie Inocencio, and stunning set pieces by Joey de Guzman.
It was engaging- using majestic marches and synchronized choreography as they carried out the elements of a komedya.
It was entertaining. The cast really knew how to tug at an adolescent’s heartstrings. One couldn’t help but to root for Florante (Paul Jake Paule) and Laura (Ellrica Laguardia), and Aladin (Jefrey Carpio) and Flerida (Sharlene Rivera) to come to a sweet conclusion and ultimately defeat the menacing Adolfo (Ace Urieta).
The charming narrator (Michael King Urieta) also needs special mention. Even as he was speaking poetry throughout the entire production, none of the audience members felt bored or unfocused in any way.
The biggest feat of this production, however, is making the young generation fall in love with the theater. I have never seen a reaction quite like it. The kids were going crazy throughout the production- laughing aimlessly at the comedic parts, oohhing and aawwing at the romantic moments, and booing at the villainous scenes. It was electrifying. By the end of the show, they treated the actors like rock stars, cheering for them as loud as they can during the curtain call, and grabbing them by the arm to ask them for selfies. I even heard one girl yell, “Hindi na ako maghuhugas ng kamay!!!” after shaking the hands of the actors. I wanted to cry.
Thank you Gantimpala Theater Foundation and director Roeder Camanag for showing the youth the beauty of the theater and for finding a way to educate them with the use of this extraordinary art form.- FT
The show will be running on Aug. 7 (9am, 12 pm, 3 pm) at the Star Theater, and on Aug. 14-15 (11 am, 2 pm) at the SM Southmall Cinema 3.
Have you seen the show? What did you think?