Deconstructing the First Filipino Saint via a Rock Opera Musical
Like our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, the life of our first Filipino saint, Lorenzo Ruiz has a lot to explore and re-tell to our countrymen and to the rest of the world—it is what the latest attempt of the three-act rock opera musical titled ‘Lorenzo’ has tried to do—deconstructing him.
Will it affect the devotees’ faith in Lorenzo when they get to see this production?
When Paul Dumol, one of the collaborators of Juan Ekis and Joem Antonio in birthing the book and lyrics of ‘Lorenzo’ asked me what I think about the play, without any hesitation, I replied, “It’s disturbing. It’s disturbingly good, I mean.”
On its first act titled ‘Paglalakbay sa Kamatayan’, it showed Laurence, portrayed by OJ Mariano, an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) who was sentenced to die in the Middle East doe murdering his employer; met a reporter from Manila played by Camille Lopez-Molina to cover the said case.
In the course of the reporter’s visits, Laurence asked her to transcribe the musical for a possible future production, which the woman agreed to doing. Those encounters, developed that special bond between the OFW and the woman reporter. Each meeting is not just about digging deeper on Laurence’s real story, but as well as the story behind the parish assistant from Binondo Manila, who became a fugitive after killing a Spaniard.
Though the play is kind of long in its running time, this production is well-thought of for having three acts. It presented the point-of-views of the author, the subject, and its audience (which later, I will reveal).
Highlights and More
First off, let me mention the ‘briliance’ in the actors who gave life in the characters of the musical.
Shiela Valderrama as Rosario Ruiz gave an impeccable display of singing. Every bit of word that she sang, it spewed powerful emotions. After doing Anna Leonowens in Resorts World Manila’s ‘The King and I’—she deserves a recognition for her performance here.
Other two noticeable performers in the play are—Julienne Mendoza as Fray Antonio Gonzales and Rhenwyn Gabalonzo as Fray Vicente Shiwozuka. The former provided an underrated acting. His mere presence already justified the character with his stirring internalization of the martyred priest. Gabalonzo, on the other hand, though this is his first professional musical production—he pitted well in delivering a sensitive portrayal of the Japanese priest, who believed that Lorenzo is a fugitive.
All the singing parts were great, except for one—Aeriel Janelle Yu’s strained voice in the first appearance onstage of the Lorenzo’s children.
OJ Mariano as Luarence did essay the role of a convicted OFW with such moving interpretation of internal turmoils. If he did well as the alternate of Christian Bautista as Rama in Ballet Philippines’ ‘Rama Hari’ in 2012—this could be another feather on his cap. Singing-wise, no doubts about OJ. He was successful in conveying it with great intensity.
Noel Rayos, who is on a wheelchair, didn’t show any weak parts. To some, he is incapacitated, but he still showed that same level of commitment and performance as Rodrigues. Even if he’s just sitting—his voice still compensate for the lack of him to move around onstage. Another surprise was Lorenz Martinez’s understudy as Lorenzo—Poppert Bernadas. He brought the house down with his unique way of presenting Lorenzo to his audience.
Combining the geniueses of Cayabyab as the composer and arranger with Dingdong Fiel as the musical director, together they created a superb brand of music for this rock opera production. Also, having Paul Dumol, Juan Ekis and Joem Antonio—its story and the verses make this a must-see.
Lorenzo’s production designer Gino Gonzales depicted a mood that projected all the dreams of OFWs through all the ‘balik-bayan’ boxes that were built to make it as the story arc—imprisoning most of the characters in the play.With all the piled boxes utilized as a wall—connected Laurence’s and Lorenzo’s life stories altogether.
Nonon Padilla is Nonon Padilla. The entire play, though some parts may be dragging—it still showed how this production is worth watching, no matter what. Padilla was able to make it beautiful. Perhaps this is a relevant take on the life of Lorenzo—leaving the audience with such impact.
Coming back home to God
This production attempts to evoke opinions about the first Filipino saint without trying to put doubts on his holiness, but rather finding a way to make it more appealing and inspiring in the modern times.
In the final act, Laurence’s opera presented the trial of Lorenzo and his companions. Though it was given a title: ‘Ang Pasyon ni Lorenzo’—it was really not intended to show Lazarus’s struggles and for the audience, too.
The idea of paying-it-forward was subtly suggested. Just as she committed to the executed OFW, the reporter narrated to the audience the life of Laurence in the production she mounted, which served as a fulfilment to her promise as well. She, herself is a representation of the many people who have been touched by the parrallel stories of Laurence and Lorenzo—their coming back home to God.
‘Lorenzo’ may not be hard-core religious-themed production, but it is one that speaks to each of the audience’s heart to return to God and live a holy life.
Its production staff is under the Green Wings Entertainment Network, Inc. with Christopher de Leon as executive producer, Alvin Trono and Ed Lacson as production managers, Crisi Laumond as company manager. Aries Alcayaga as stage manager and Rards Corpuz as ist sound engineer.
It has its remaining playdates from September 12, 13 and 14 at De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde SDA Theater, 5th Floor, SDA Building, 950 Pablo Ocampo Street, Malate, Manila.