By By Pablo A. Tariman
posted 6-May-2018  ·  
699 views  ·   0 comments  ·  
Cast and creative team of Binondo led by director Joel Lamangan. A love story simply told through song and dance.

What could be the country’s first Tsinoy musical is set in Binondo with a Chinaman from Beijing falling in love with a Filipina night club singer during the precarious time of the Cultural Revolution in China.

Based on a true story that producer Rebecca Chaunsu heard first-hand when she met a Chinese professor in Beijing in 1986, Binondocan be anything like Han Suyin’s autobiographical novel, A Many Splendored Thing which inspired a popular song.

Said Chaunsu during a recent presscon: “For the past 32 years, I’ve kept this story in my heart. I’ve etched this story in my memory and after I saw Maynila Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag The Musical, I asked director Joel Lamangan if he is interested in doing a Tsinoy musical. He said yes, and things moved quickly. I ended up one of the producers.”

The big task of writing the original music fell into the lap of Von de Guzman with libretto by writer Ricky Lee assisted by Gershom Chua and Eljay Deldoc.

Lee admitted writing a libretto is a tedious process because he has to work with both the composer and the director with the singers in mind. “I had so many questions in my mind but happily, I got the answers by just calling them (De Guzman and Lamangan) on a regular basis. I had many ideas in my mind but since this is a big collaborative work, I feel better if they know in what direction I felt I should take the story.”

And so, the cast and ensemble were finalized through auditions, the artistic team got going and by latest timetable, the musical is set to open at the Solaire Theater June 29.

Binondo is de Guzman’s second mainstream’ musical after Maynila.

To be sure, he has written other musicals for school consumption one of which was staged in New York University where he earned a master’s degree in musical theater writing.

Truth is he has written an honest-to-goodness Italian opera premiered in Citta Della Pieve (Italy) in 2016.

In Binondo, he has to incorporate Filipino-Chinese materials including gestures in music. “What I came up with is predominantly dramatic Philippine pop but Broadway in style. I had to work fast because I was only given over two months to write the music. My creative process always involves a lot of research. I listen to and survey various forms of music. This is not limited to Chinese music and musical theater only. Film music is one of my major sources of inspiration and my work in Mano Po series helped a lot.  A ready reference as I work is Puccini’s Turandot. The major challenge is always how to define the character through music. A composer defines the trajectory of the character’s development through songs and score. The nuances of the character are captured in the composer’s use of melody, harmony, timbre and texture. Because a composer of musicals is first and foremost a storyteller.”

He admits working with the librettist is an essential component in writing music for theater. Musical theater is after all a huge collaborative process. “But the production process of every musical is unique. Sometimes there are delays in the ‘assembly line’ which deny the librettist and composer the opportunity to work closely together. I always do some basic musical sketches of the characters in a musical as part of my writing process. This means that even before I write a song, I already have an idea as to how it would sound based on the personality of that character. This includes vocal range and quality. But I make sure to work with singers closely to check if they have concerns. I also take into consideration the vocal abilities of the singer originating/ performing the role in writing my melodies. I think that is vital in staging an original musical. After all, we are all creating something from nothing. The singers and I are basically inventing characters through songs. And that is the beauty of writing an original musical. It’s extremely exciting!

The special challenge for director Lamangan is to focus on the great love story between a Chinese scholar from China and a Filipina night club singer and what he had to sacrifice for his love.

His usual concern as director is how to make the story very effective through the wholeness of the characters, the correctness of the structure and the appropriateness and beauty of the songs together with the needed musical transitions. “I also pay attention to the clarity of particular realities expressed through music and choreography. All things considered, I just want to tell a story through song and dance through the sheer magic of theater.”

(Binondo: A Tsinoy Musical directed by Joel Lamangan with music by Von de Guzman and libretto by Ricky Lee and choreography by Douglas Nierras stars Shiela Valderrama-Martinez and Carla Guevara-Laforteza for the role of Lily, Arman Ferrer and David Ezra alternating as Ah Tiong, Floyd Tena and Noel Rayos as Carlos. The show will run for two weekends at Solaire Theater June 29 – July 1, and July 6 – 8.)

Binondo composer Von de Guzman in Beijing. The nuances of the character are captured in the composer’s use of melody, harmony, timbre and texture.
The Binondo writing team led by Ricky Lee. They have to work closely with composer and director.
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