Kids Acts Philippines’ Luigi Nacario and Eugene Belbis admirably mount an original musical based on Hans Christian Andersen’s children’s classic — The Emperor’s New Clothes.
The company turned this children’s book into a 1.5-hour musical, exceeding expectations with its colorful, majestic costumes that will easily enthrall its audience. With the help of the resplendent and well-conceived clothing, the cast, composed of a big ensemble, was able to smoothly transition from being country folk, to members of the royal court.
We all know the story quite well. The proud emperor searches across the kingdom for the best weavers who can make him a new garment for the parade. He is won over by a couple of tricksters who pose as master weavers. In order to receive payment without doing any of the work, they convince the emperor that they were going to use invisible wool, and said that the ones who are unable to see their garment are stupid and incompetent. Afraid of being deemed stupid, the entire kingdom, including the emperor and the empress, pretend that they could see it. The charade comes to an end during the parade, when an innocent child reveals the truth by exclaiming that the emperor isn’t in fact wearing any clothes.
The original story, though seemingly simple, has a lot of underlying layers about pretentiousness and ostentatiousness, showing how the characters were more concerned about preserving their social status above anything else. The company, however, has decided to deviate from the original story, and instead focused on the concept of forgiveness.
Two scenes that could have been impactful, had it been left to coincide with the main theme of vaingloriousness involved the child seeking forgiveness for revealing what the Emperor is about, and the tricksters trying to turn over a new leaf (and therefore seeking and eventually receiving pardon.)
Both contradict the main message of the tale — vanity and its impact to people. It could have been a powerful message to impart, instead, forgiveness took front and center, therefore trivializing the effects of narcissism on people.
While the children — the main audience of the play — appeared to love the production, it is still important to be wary of the risk when veering away from the original intent of such an iconic tale. Inconsistencies tend to arise and mixed messages can leave some of the viewers perplexed. In this case, the message could be read as an encouragement of committing mistakes by highlighting forgiveness, instead of imparting the importance of avoiding major ones such as placing priority on vanity, or actively choosing to deceive someone.
While the story has some room for improvement, the performers more than made up for it, as they were quite a casting coup. Young acting scholars were thrust in with the professionals, an effort that paid off quite well. Red Nuestro was THE perfect emperor, proud yet comical at the same time. The tricksters played by Derrick Gozos and Ina Salonga, were very natural and convincing as the conniving antagonists on one end, and the repentant protagonists on the other. Zscharmaine Barretto as the empress has quite the enchanting voice, most fitting from the Stephen Sondheim-esque music that Belbis has written. And teen actor Jewel Yu holds her own as one of the major scene-stealers in the production.
It may have been different from what we expected, but kudos to the artistic team for producing such important, original work.
The show will continue to run from August 5-7 at the St. Cecilia’s Hall of St. Scholastica College.
Have you seen the show? What did you think?