REVIEW: Ampalaya The Musical

 It has been a while since I’ve seen a play that has an orchestra pit and I was immediately delighted when I saw that Ampalaya The Musical has one. Orkestra Sin Arco, translated orchestra without bows or orchestra of plucked instruments, is a rondalla consisting of bandurrias, octavinas, la-ud guitars, a bass, and the Bajo de Una. Conducted by the renowned Maestro Michael Dadap, the orchestra welcomed every audience member with a relaxing journey to the town of Sariwa through an overture. This reminded me of cultural performances in the province, such as the ones in Villa Escudero. It was a nostalgic trip worth making and effective in waking my sense of wonder to prepare me for the coming symphony of colors, sound, and language.

A Nuno sa Punso opens the play with a reminder that it is okay to be different and that you should never let your greed tear your heart. This coming from a wise man who is taking a break from meditation. Yes, even wise men deserve a vacation from gathering wisdom.

Ever wondered how it would be if vegetables were alive and had feelings? This musical, based on Augie D. Rivera Jr.’s book, depicts the different personalities of playful vegetables and how they might relate to each other. With the help of the imaginative costumes designed by John Carlo Pagunaling, kids and adults alike would definitely develop a fondness for at least one of the characters. Being youthful vegetables, they played Filipino street games including patintero, luksong tinik, palo sebo, sipa, and tumbang preso. It was good that the kids in the audience were exposed to such.

Being produced by the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee, Bisaya was used as one of the three languages in the musical. The other two, Filipino and English, played well with the former so much that I did not need to be a Bisaya speaker to understand the whole show. 

As a musical for kids, movements were very playful and despite the numerous characters, each vegetable was easy to identify and know early in the show. The script was also made to be interactive as there were parts where actors elicit audience participation. Of course, Ampalaya The Musical has a moral lesson, which actually appeared to be a plot twist at first.

Ampalaya The Musical, ended its most recent run during the 53rd Cultural Season celebration of Silliman University last July 15, 8PM at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo, Cultural Center of the Philippines. Earlier during the same month, it was performed at the Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium, Silliman University. The musical started as a short play year 2000 in Boston and it’s full-length version was first staged last year. I look forward to seeing the next staging as its message is timeless without being cliche. You should too.

Review by Saul De Jesus.

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