Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Hairspray

After years of not watching plays, I finally got a good excuse to watch one - my officemates were selling tickets! (I wanted to watch Wicked in NY but by the time I had a good idea of what my free days were, the shows were already sold out.) I was just too happy that Marian, Mich and Dette were also interested in watching Hairspray.

The only version of Hairspray I watched was the original (1980's) version. I just came across it while cable-surfing one evening and was instantly entertained by Tracy's dancing - she looked so huge but she was light on her feet and she danced with so much energy. She was so positive and bouncy that I really wanted her to succeed. Up til now, I still couldn't believe that Ricki Lake played Tracy in that movie.

The Manila version was also entertaining.

Mabel Ching was an acceptable Tracy. She also gave a positive vibe, was bouncy and she was effective in playing a love-struck teenager. She could dance but there were steps that she couldn't pull off. There were times when she was graceful and energetic but they weren't enough to convince me that she was the best dancer on stage. She was mostly in tune but her long notes made me cringe a bit when she lost control over her vibrato and she had the tendency to over-act the little-girl voice making her sound like a 4-year old instead of a high school student.

In contrast, Dulce really gave Motormouth Maybell a powerful singing voice but she couldn't pull off the role of a black diva. She just looked like a contestant for a Tina Turner-dance alike contest. But at least she had her moments and really took command of the stage when she sang I Know Where I've Been, unlike Tim Espinosa who was such a disappointment as Link Larkin. His voice was too thin, his dancing was average and he was never able to convince me that he was a hunk that girls would swoon for. It didn't help that he looked so ordinary.

Nyoy Violante as Seaweed also looked ordinary (and I'm being generous when I say this as he really looks like a troll) but his singing and dancing were impressive. I expected him to sing well but I was surprised that he could dance so gracefully and execute complicated dance moves. His moonwalk was amazing. He wasn't able to convice me that he was black (I didn't see the groove), but he was pleasant to watch.

Another person who was pleasant to watch was Christine Allado who played the scheming Amber. She was utterly convincing as a racist bitch. She had a powerful voice and she was a charming dancer. If Amber weren't so scheming, I would have voted her as Ms. Hairspray.

I also liked the performances of Leo Rialp as Tracy's father, Wilbur, and Monica Reynoso as the nerdy Penny, but the show-stealers were Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo as Velmo von Tussle and Michael de Mesa as Edna. Menchu and Michael were the obvious veterans - you could understand each word that they uttered and when it was their turn to shine, they dazzled me with their presence.

Menchu was amazing - I could really feel the venom in her voice when she sang, she was beautifully devious and she seemed to have complete control over her whole body, including her vocal chords. I really was convinced that she was a fame-hungry ex-beauty-queen who would use her body and connections to win. I found her performance of Ms. Baltimore Crabs more compelling than Dulce's I Know Where I've Been, because Menchu didn't only sing it powerfully, she also sang every line in character.

Michael was even more amazing. He didn't sing as well as Menchu but he really looked and acted like a doting mother to Tracy and a loving wife to Wilbur. I could almost forget that he was male. Of course, he wouldn't allow me to forget his masculinity when he deliberately switched to his deep male voice.

His acting alone was enough to keep me entertained the whole evening.

Hairspray was also a visual feast - the set was simple but the costumes were really beautiful - I've never seen so many colorful and beautifully patterned polka-dots in my entire life. All the dresses were so pretty that I wanted to wear them myself. I so covet the 2-toned raincoats that the girls were wearing in one scene!

Taken as a whole, the Manila version of Hairspray wasn't perfect but my experience was positive enough that I suppose I'll be watching plays regularly again.