Movie and TV actress Iza Calzado made her successful stage debut via the musical theater production Sabel: Love and Passion, which had its world premiere last April 30 at The Theatre at Solaire, the 1,760-seat hall at the Solaire Resort & Casino in Paranaque City.
Iza will reprise her role as the narrator and, in the latter part of the musical, the adult Sabel in the stage production’s rerun on June 26 and 27 at Music Museum in San Juan City.
Sabel: Love and Passion is an extraordinary challenge for Iza not only because it’s her first theater experience, but also the titular role, Sabel, is based on the iconic figure in National Artist Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera’s famous and sought-after artworks.
The iconic figure, in turn, was inspired by the homeless and garbage-scavenging woman that the young BenCab often saw 50 years ago from the window of his house on Bambang Street in Sta. Cruz, Manila. Over the years, that forlorn woman became the artist’s muse.
In Sabel: Love and Passion, Iza narrates the fictionalized story of BenCab’s muse, as written by librettist Freddie Santos (also the stage director) and set to music by composer Louie Ocampo (also the musical director).
While the actress tells the story, members of the Philippine Ballet Theater provide dramatization through dance. In between scenes, singers Audie Gemora, Bo Cerrudo, Aicelle Santos, and Timmy Pavino perform, either individually or as a group, songs that help move the story forward.
Santos’s script tells with clarity why Sabel ends up in the streets scavenging for whatever’s useful to her, and his stage direction deftly weaves together the elements of dramatic narration, music, and dance.
Ocampo’s music is engaging in lively scenes (e.g. Sabel’s happy times with her parents and her romantic moments with her lover), and turns somber in tragic scenes (e.g. Sabel’s separation from her parents and her breakup with her lover).
The Philippine Ballet Theater dancers are uniformly delightful in performing their double duties of dancing and acting, with soloist Bianca Trocino earning additional shining moments as the young and vulnerable Sabel.
The singers are likewise evenly pleasing. Audie, Bo, and Aicelle show their ease and dexterity in live performance given their extensive background.
Audie and Bo are theater veterans while Aicelle recently starred in musicals Katy and Rak of Aegis. Timmy, a contestant in The Voice Philippines Season 2, also does well in his number.
Iza capitalizes on her expressive face and voice to narrate the story with dramatic flair and infectious energy. But she gets the loudest applause doing what she does best: acting. As the mature Sabel, on the edge of her sanity and dressed in rags and plastic sheets, the actress looks like she just jumped out of a BenCab painting and the viewer understands her character’s pain and, in the end, recovered joy and completion.
As a whole, Sabel: Love and Passion—which is part of the yearlong celebration of BenCab’s 50 creative years—is an enjoyable theater piece. But it can be a better viewing experience if adjustments and improvements are made, for instance, on the storytelling’s pacing and on the timing of interspersed song numbers.
(View gallery: Iza Calzado helps bring life to Sabel, dancing scavenger who inspired Ben Cab)
Proceeds will benefit BenCab Art Foundation and the arts and environment programs of its principal project, the BenCab Museum.
(To purchase tickets, call Tel. No. 891-9999 or visit TicketWorld Online)
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial staff.