Review: Ako si Josephine
Ako si Josephine is the latest jukebox musical created by PETA’s formidable artistic team—director Maribel Legarda, playwright Liza Magtoto, and musical director Myke Salomon. Using the music of singer-songwriter Yeng Constantino, the musical is set in a fictitious world called Alegra, where everyone tries to survive in its “musiconomy”. Here, citizens try to eke out a living by churning out HYP (happy, youthful, and purposeful) music that utilizes monotone sounds approved by their leader Monotomia. It is a harsh regime, where love songs are banned, and everyone is overworked and hungry.
The brave and idealistic Josephine threatens to topple the status quo. She wants to start composing love songs so that the people of Alegra may begin to feel again. She seeks the help of her boss and lead composer, Chinito, the same man who makes her heart flutter. Along with her friends, Josephine leads them in a quest to destroy the system and fight for a better tomorrow.
Brave Casting Choices
PETA oftentimes gambles with casting choices but always succeeds – whether it’s Nicco Manalo and Gold Villar alternating as the leader of the rebellion in 3 Stars and a Sun, the vastly different Aicelle Santos, Kim Molina, Tanya Manalang, and Alisah Banaobra alternating as lead protagonist Aileen in the record-breaking smash hit Rak of Aegis, PETA seems to have a knack for picking principal players who would drive productions to epic proportions.
In Ako si Josephine, PETA chose two very different but equally talented stars as our heroine: Via Antonio and Maronne Cruz.
In the matinee performance last October 9, Maronne Cruz played Josephine and Ricci Chan played Monotonia, alongside Joaquin Valdes who played the heartthrob boss Chinito. Cruz and Valdes, who mostly appear in English theater, crossed over to an original Filipino production successfully, making their roles even more memorable.
Reflection of Current Society
Magtoto successfully created a dystopic world by juxtaposing art and music with the issues of today. It is a clever premise, especially since there is nothing that speaks to the soul more than art. And what was even more impressive was how Salomon weaved together Constantino’s music and injected it into the story. For someone quite unfamiliar with Constantino’s discography, there was much surprise and admiration when it was revealed that there were very little to no changes made in the songs, since they seamlessly fit the scenes. Each aided in propelling the story forward without forcing plots to suit the lyrics of the songs.
One of the weaker points of the production lies in the conflict. The show gave reference to an Isla Sintonado, where perpetrators of the peace were sent to as punishment for their crimes. Its constant injection into the storyline gave it an unwitting importance that was never explored. Isla Sintonado remained a speculation until the very end.
The second act also laid out plot twists that left the build-up on the first act seemingly trivial. The conclusion was simplified, and basing it from the premise (and promise) of the first act left a gaping hole in the storyline that begged for something more compelling.
Formidable Leading Lady
Maronne Cruz has successfully established herself as a formidable leading actress. She manages to strike a very good balance between comedy and drama, giving amazing depth to her character. You’re there with her during the hilarious moments, and the heartbreaks; you’re there with her when she struggles to fight for her relationship. She makes you believe that hers was the plight of someone in love, and it was definitely more than a simple infatuation. Her voice conveys conviction: it was them fighting for a common ideal, a common philosophy, and that is a far deeper connection than most relationships can ever have.
From beginning to end, the crowd went wild, their energy nothing short of electric. The intermission alone had audience members exclaim “Ang sulit.” Their reactions can only solidify an assumption that this successful rerun will be repeated more times in the near future.
Ako si Josephine ran from September 8-October 9 at the PETA Theater Center.