REMEMBER the immortal scene where the ingénue Dorina Pineda tries to sing in her style “Magandang Gabi” which was first sang by her idol pop singer Lavinia Arguelles? Of course, we all know that the diva storms in and with a glower, insults Dorina.
And, of course, with bated breath we await that moment when Lavinia utters (and we utter along) the lines that we have committed to memory: You’re nothing but a second-rate, trying hard copycat!
And don’t ever, EVER forget that famous glass of red that becomes the exclamation point to the clipped, succulent, well-chewed, and contemptuously spat out derogation meant to make Dorina feel like she just crawled out of the woodwork.
“Bituing Walang Ningning” was one of the iconic movies to mark the 1980s. Written by Nerissa Cabral for a comic series, it became a movie directed by Maning Borlaza starring Cherie Gil as Lavinia Arguelles and Sharon Cuneta as Dorina Pineda, the avid fan.
Christopher de Leon played the role of Lavinia’s manager and boyfriend Nico Escobar. Because I was just a teenager when the movie came out, I’d like to say that that movie belonged to my generation. That is why it was really a thrill to watch it again this time on stage.
Last June 17, “Bituing Walang Ningning” had its premiere as a musical. Staged at the impressively luxurious Newport Performing Arts Theater of Resorts World Manila, “Bituing Walang Ningning: The Musical” is superbly cast and executed.
Leading the cast as Lavinia is Cris Villonco, Mark Bautista as Nico, and newcomer Monica Cuenco as Dorina.
Other wonderful members are Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Jon Santos, Michael Stuart Williams, John Nite gamely played Kuya Germs, cutie Jay Roa and Ronnie Liang.
The ensemble executed their parts with aplomb and the set will make you gasp.
The stage was prepared in such a way that transitions from scene to scene were flawless. There was a lot of help from technology by using video to cast the appropriate background for each scene.
To keep up with the 80s’ vibe, there were fashion touches such as big hair, a bare shoulder, jodhpur-style dancers’ costumes, and the music.
The melodies of Willy Cruz such as “Sa Duyan ng ‘Yong Pag-ibig”, “Pangarap na Bituin”, “Mahawi Man ang Ulap”, “Kumusta Ka”, “Init sa Magdamag”, and “Kapag Puso’y Sinugatan” were incorporated into the musical. Mon Espia’s “Paikot-Iko” was performed with oomph by Ronnie Liang whose tall, lean frame filled the stage with sex appeal.
One of the most unforgettable scenes was when Nico, Dorina and Garry sang out their feelings in this love triangle to the tune of “Sana’y Maghintay ang Walang Hanggan”.
The palpable emotions brought a lot of kilig to the moment.
Stealing the scenes a lot of times were Jon Santos (of course!) and First Lady of Philippine musical theater Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo who was “fabulosa!” to borrow her favorite expression.
Michael Williams has a calm and mature presence only years of performing on stage can develop. Hurray for the Filipino talent!
“Bituing Walang Ningning: The Musical” is a Full House Theater Company production in cooperation with Viva Communications, Inc. and Resorts World Manila. The Manila Philharmonic Orchestra accompanies the performers.
The musical runs until July 18, 2015 every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. The stage genius Freddie Santos is director.*