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The Miracle Worker: A Preview Of 'Himala: Isang Musikal'

‘Himala: Isang Musikal’ was this year’s big winner at the Gawad Buhay Awards, our version of the Tonys, and a rerun starting this month is an opportunity to see the kind of theater miracles performed by its director, Ed Lacson, Jr.

The local theater scene is a thriving hothouse of activity. For some years now, we’ve witnessed new theater troupes appear, and take exciting gambles on profitability and survival, in the name of art. If one has a firm eye on the bottom line, conventional wisdom will dictate that one stages musicals. And admittedly, one seemingly, surefire route to take is to utilize the canon of hits of an established musical act and stitch them into a storyline that guarantees nostalgia, and song familiarity. Aegis, APO, Eraserheads—if you’re a theater fan, it’s a stroll in the park to match these recording artists with their musicals.

And that’s why last year’s re-staging of Himala: Isang Musikal was like a gust of fresh air. Yes, it is based on the 1982 movie that starred Nora Aunor and was directed by Ishmael Bernal, as written by Ricky Lee. But providing original music and lyrics is Vincent de Jesus (first staged in 2003), and it was masterfully directed by Ed Lacson, Jr. Quite literally, it was, for me, the one theater experience I had last year that made me proudest of Philippine theater, of the talent that abounds—how something serious and with gravitas could still be so exhilarating and a joy to watch unfold.

From September 20 to October 20, the Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical’s Himala returns to the Power MAC Center Spotlight at the Circuit Makati. Presuming it’ll be staged once again “in the round,” you shouldn’t miss this opportunity to experience how this type of stage design can truly be more immersive, and surprise and astound in a manner that will leave your mouth hanging in appreciation of Filipino ingenuity and improvisation. For those who didn’t get a chance to watch it last year, I’m not going to give away any spoilers—so just take my word, and book your seats now.

Aicelle Santos in the lead role copped Gawad Buhay’s Best Female Performance in a Musical for Himala, and she’s back to show us why she was so deserving of the win. Celine Fabie alternates in the role of Elsa, and it should be interesting to watch how different her attack will be. Sandino Martin and Vic Robinson are the alternates taking on the role of Pilo. And as an ensemble piece, Himala is nothing short of miraculous. I understand some of last year’s cast won’t be available for this run; but knowing Lacson’s deft touch, we can be sure that this year’s cast will be just as impressive—and once again, they’ll be performing without lapel mics.

Taking on themes of mass hysteria, the power of religion, the fragility and fickle nature of celebrity, and then doing all this in a very Filipino context, is all part of the magic spell cast by this musical. Himala is a “miracle” happening at the Power MAC, and shouldn’t be missed if you love theater.

Himala: Isang Musikal will run from September 20 to October 20 at Power MAC Center Spotlight, Circuit, Makati. Tickets are available via TicketWorld.

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