It's been nearly seven years since Francis Magalona passed away, on March 6, 2009 to be exact. But the Pinoy rap icon's music remains current and relevant, as evidenced by the successful staging of the musical 3 Stars and a Sun.
3 Stars and a Sun is inspired by the works of the revered singer-songwriter tagged as the Master Rapper.
It opened on February 4 and will close, fittingly, on March 6, the 7th death anniversary of Francis M.
It is produced by the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), the company behind the megahit musical Rak of Aegis and other notable stage productions.
3 Stars and a Sun is set in 2026, into a utopian/dystopian future. What we now call our country, the Philippines, has survived a Third World War caused by the massive depletion and ultimate death of many natural resources.
A giant steel dome, called Stormdome, has been constructed to house the survivors and protect them from severe nuclear bombings and other harsh environmental conditions. It is divided into two sectors: the highly developed Lumino and the woeful wasteland Diliman.
The economic disparity between the two sectors, plus the totalitarian rule of Grand Vidame Inky have given rise to a small rebel group that call themselves Tropang Gising.
Apparently, ancient social issues never go away even in the faraway future. And that's why the use of Francis M's timeless songs is quite apt for the musical's theme.
What the Tropang Gising's leader Sol and his members want are enumerated in the song Ito ang Gusto Ko.
Katarungan, kalayaan, kapayapaan, karapatang pangtao, kalikasan, kabataan, kaibigan--yes, we in this lifetime and those before us also want them all. And more: karangalan, kalusugan, kabutihan, kagitingan, kasipagan, kapatiran.
Nicco Manalo gives an intense portrayal as Sol, the leader of the motley group of rebels who want to initiate change in the Stormdome. He shows strength and toughness when needed but he is also able to show his tender side, especially when recalling the plight of his mother.
Che Ramos shows excellent form as Grand Vidame Inky, the dictator in the post-apocalyptic world. The clarity of her voice and her melodious tone makes her a delight to watch, even as she sows fear and terror among her subjects.
There's hope for change, as embodied by Grand Vidame Inky's enlightened daughter Diane and likewise immortalized in the lyrics of "Kabataan Para sa Kinabukasan":
Nasa palad mo ang kapalaran
Kabataan para sa kinabukasan
Oras ay ginto, gamitin nang mahusay
Dahil ang oras ay walang hinihinay.
The two children of Grand Vidame Inky demonstrate two opposing ideologies.
Chino (played by Paolo Valenciano) wants to maintain the status quo while Diane (played by Giannina Ocampo) actively seeks for a solution to the growing discontent in the Diliman zone.
Paolo has a tendency to be drowned out by the background music and even by his co-actors but there is no doubt about his vocal ability, being the son of Gary Valenciano and Angeli Pangilinan.
Giannina, the daughter fighting for equal opportunity, has a lovely accent and sweet voice to boot.
Anna Luna plays a rebel named Nazty (middle) while Paolo Valenciano is cast as Chino
The musical, through the old and seemingly crazy Mang Okik (played by Bodjie Pascua), reminds audiences not to forget Philippine history and be proud of our national identity, just like the words to the "Mga Kababayan Ko" proclaim.
Mga kababayan ko
Dapat lang malaman niyo
Bilib ako sa kulay ko
Ako ay Pilipino
Nicco Manalo (left) and Bodjie Pascua in a key scene
It is interesting to see the way multimedia elements are used creatively in the the play, from the high-tech monitors to the use of characters' clothes as a projection screen.
As a whole, 3 Stars and a Sun is an engaging and instructive theater piece that makes the audience recall (for the older set) and discover (for the young ones) Francis M's musical genius and, at the same, and that warns everybody about the horrors of dictatorship and political dynasty.
The musical benefits from the collaboration of seasoned playwright Rody Vera and young writer Mixcaela Villalon, who are able to fuse the old and the new, the serious and the light, and the substantial and the showy--with enjoyable results.
Musical director Myke Salomon, fresh from the success of Rak of Aegis, succeeds anew in the judicious selection of songs to utilize for the particular scenes. Be prepared to experience one of Francis M's classic love songs in an unexpected but satisfying way.
Credit also goes to production designer Gino Gonzales, light designers Shoko Matsumoto and Ian Torqueza, sound designer Teresa Barrozo, choreographer Delphine Buencamino, and, most especially, to director Nor Domingo for bringing out the best in the creative and technical aspects.
Under the direction of Domingo, the actors give inspired performances. On the night this writer watched the musical, the cast consisted of, among others, Nicco Manalo as Sol, Che Ramos-Cosio as Grand Vidame Inky, Bodjie Pascua as Mang Okik, Giannina Ocampo as Diane, Paolo Valenciano as Chino, Anna Luna as Nazty, and Nar Cabico as Poy.
But, of course, there is ample room for improvement. The backstory is not that clear especially when it comes to the creation of the Stormdome.
For instance, the latter part, which served as the climax, can be more suspenseful and gripping.
As Sol climbs to the top of the Stormdome, real danger or threat should be felt by Grand Vidane Inky and, in the process, affect the audience.
Shows are Tuesdays to Sundays (Tuesday to Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday to Sunday, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.) For tickets, contact PETA at telephone number (02) 725-6244 and website petatheater.com. Or call TicketWorld at Tel. No. (02) 891-9999 and website ticketworld.com.ph.
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.