Carlo Vergara's buxom superheroine with red, flowing hair is back and she never ceases to amaze. Already on its sixth run, ZsaZsa Zaturnnah Ze Muzikal, Tanghalang Pilipino's musical adaptation of the comic book original, rocks the Little Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines on February 14 and 15.
Eula Valdes reprises her role as ZsaZsa Zaturnnah with Tuxqs Rutaquio and Vicent de Jesus alternating as Ada, the human counterpart of the superheroine. Joey Paras and Nar Cabico alternate as Didi, the faithful sidekick of ZsaZsa. Arnold Reyes and Lauren Novero alternate for the macho role of Dodong. And taking turns as Zaturnnah's nemesis, Queen Femina Suarestellar Baroux, are Kalila Aguilos and Meliza Reyes-Uy.
THE PLOT. The story unfolds in an obscure provincial town where Ada quietly embraces his homosexuality and struggles to maintain independence by running a small beauty salon with his motor-mouthed assistant Didi. Fearing society's ridicule, Ada dodges romantic encounters with Dodong, who works just across the street.
On an uneventful night, a mysterious stone the size of a fist falls from the sky while Ada is practicing her karaoke skills in the shower. Suspecting that the enormous stone has magical powers, Didi persuades Ada to swallow it. After much deliberation, Ada obliges and transforms, with the aid of a revolving door covered in smoke, into Zaturnnah, a superhuman bombshell possessing extraordinary strength. Together with Didi, her self-proclaimed sidekick, she saves the town from giant frogs, zombies, and extraterrestrial Amazonistas led by Queen Femina.
THE VERDICT. Zaturnnah is a musical that would be delightful on a big stage, aided by extraordinary special effects, as in the 2006 movie version. But we are thankful that Tanghalang Filipino opted to use traditional theater devices in this latest run.
The production lacks extravagant special effects, of course, but creative blocking and pristine comic timing, as well as the actors' ability to keep the audience hooked, more than makes up for that limitation.
Nar Cabico is so adorable and belly-hugging funny as Didi that without him, Zaturnnah would have been only half a success. His antics make the musical pure entertainment. Eula Valdes, too, does it again as the perfect babaeng bakla, giving an uninhibited performance as Ada's powerful alter ego.
Celebrating gay pop culture in its silly, sweet, and wacky
splendor, Tuxqs Rutaquio has created a kitschy set design that gives carnival appeal to the nutty town where Ada and Didi live. The duo's quaint beauty salon is painted with '70s flower-power colors such as pink, yellow and neo-green. Not to be missed is Ada's love interest Dodong, who materializes in a cylindrical space with a dance pole fitted inside. This setup provides a great view of the man with the "packed noodles," allowing audience members to ogle him just as Ada and Didi are doing from across the street.
Meanwhile, Vince de Jesus's soul-infused music and lyrics help to convey the madcap characters' sincerity and innermost feelings amidst the mayhem.
Director Chris Millado really went for exaggeration by having confetti or loin-clothed macho angels suddenly appear to express Didi or Ada's whimsical imaginings and pink feelings.
The musical runs too long though at almost three hours (including the 15-minute break) for a story with a predictable plot and a happy ending. A lot of time is spent on sing-and-dance showdowns between Zaturnnah and Queen Femina's Amazonistas. The fight scenes, too, could have been better choreographed (maybe in the vein of those shown on GMA-7's Masquerade) to achieve a more comic effect.
For all that, Zaturnnah has the sincerity of many gay-oriented productions seeking gender acceptance and equality in society. It shows the gay characters' sacrifices, their inner struggles, as well as their perception of society.
ZsaZsa Zaturnnah Ze Muzikal (2009)
WHEN: February 14 and 15, 2009, 3:00 matinee and 8:00 p.m.
WHERE: CCP Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (Little Theater)