Francisco Baltazar’s “Orosman at Zafira” Musical (A Review)

Francisco Baltazar’s “Orosman at Zafira” Musical (A Review)

Written by Fritz

Topics: Entertainment, Reviews, Theater

Orosman at Zafira, directed and choreographed by Dexter Santos originally for the Komedya Fiesta in 2008 of Dulaang UP, is still currently being staged at the SM Mall of Asia Centerstage Theater for a limited time until February 26. It was a little too late for me to plug the show in 2008 because I only got to watch it on its last day. Bummer. I was, still am, and will probably remain forever in total awe of the play’s production value and wonderfully orchestrated modern-sounding-yet-local-in-ethnic-feel music coupled with top notch contemporary movement, showcasing yet again the essence of true Filipino talent.

The play is classified as a “komedya” and written by the revolutionary Francisco Balagtas. Most, like me for example, who are not really in the know of the lesser popular works of even our esteemed playwrights, may not give this production a second look. As nothing can stop awesomeness from spreading by word of mouth or in blogs and status updates, much to the disappointment of the growing fan base who can’t stand seeing the cast perform just once, each and every air date and time of the play in 2008 got sold out. On August of 2010, for Dulaang UP’s 35th Season, being a truly magnificent play to showcase, Orosman at Zafira was hand picked as the first of five plays to be restaged in “Return Engagement: Plays Deserving a Second Look.” It enjoyed the same “box office hit” status prompting the producers to extend with one more staging on the show’s last day. Orosman at Zafira has since been hailed as “a breakthrough production of the Baltazar classic.” In some circles, even, the play has been dubbed as the “300″ of local theater, where well sculpted 6-pack abs could well be the top casting requirement for the male actors (in this year’s run, however, all the abs have perished save for Orosman’s LOL).

Some enhancements got incorporated with this run of Orosman at Zafira at the SM MOA’s Centerstage Theater since the seating capacity and the stage got ridiculously bigger. Though the grasses got taller, scafoldings were made to good use in the chorepography, dancers started doing acrobatics as they are lowered onto the main stage from above with carabiners, and almost every one of the cast getting lapel mics, the production still managed to deliver the same quality of entertainment both old fans and first time audiences will surely enjoy.

I can still remember fondly how tired I’d be as a spectator right after a show owing to the movements on stage (seeing the landscape change before your eyes as part of the choreography) and the overwhelming beauty of the sound of both modern and native musical instruments (heard of the “gangsa, sarunay, tungatong, balimbing, kubing/kullibaw, and kullitong?” Exactly!) : a perfect fusion of modern and native elements (original, read ORIGINAL, music composition by Carol Bello) accompanying the actors’ sincerest vocal renditions conveying the right emotions at the right moments. It still gave me chills to witness the burial scenes and the dance styles during the war scenes, meticulously directed and choreographed to distinguish one tribe’s innate culture from another.

Maita Ponce’s Zafira and Jay Gonzaga’s Orosman, from my perspective, gave the strongest portrayals of their respective characters compared to other actors who have done the roles in the past. Not only do they have great vocals, they also easily project feelings with a dimension so raw and thick, one would have no trouble believing and empathizing as the drama of their lives and tribes unfold. So believable, in fact, that they’ve raised Orosman and Zafira as the hands-down lead characters of the play, unlike in the past when both seemed rather weak. Santos’ direction of Orosman at Zafira gives any one of the major actors the ability to steal the show depending on how feirce they become on set. There this Zelim character, for example, leader of the tribe Duquela (portrayed in the past by both JC Santos and JM De Guzman who gave fight scenes during the second run a complete turn around with his epic choreography), who may easily overshadow everyone on the stage with his characteristic strong moves and badass overall vibe.

Of course, Judith Javier’s Gulnara and Tao Aves’ Zelima are classics. They’ve both been very bankable in their roles since the first run in 2008 to the point that I probably can’t picture nor accept anybody else being Gulnara (Zafira’s mother in law) and Zelima (the narrator-slash-daughter of the Tedenst “pacha’s” right hand). Fanboy much? LOL

Three years from the first time Orosman at Zafira first graced the stage, it still hasn’t lost its magic. I won’t be writing down a synopsis because letting the plot unfold before your eyes and letting the production assault your senses as the scenes progress is, again as I saw it, part of the delight that is your own personal Orosman at Zafira experience (if you fear becoming lost in traslation with the language used in the play, go buy the souvenir program from the gate. It’s got the Acts written down in sizable bites and in English for your enjoyment).

Show Details:
OROSMAN AT ZAFIRA’s Playdates are Feb 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 25 and 26, 2011 at the SM Mall of Asia Centerstage Theater. OROSMAN AT ZAFIRA’s Friday and Saturday Gala Shows will be at 8:00 p.m. and the Saturday and Sunday Matinee Shows will be at 3:00 p.m. OROSMAN AT ZAFIRA tickets are now available at all SM Cinema Ticket Booths nationwide and all TicketWorld outlets in major National Bookstore branches, Robinsons Department Stores, and at Greenbelt 1, Glorietta 5 and Trinoma Cinema ticket booths. Call SM Tickets at (02) 470.2222 or TicketWorld at (02) 891.9999.
As a special treat to all students, here’s your chance to watch OROSMAN AT ZAFIRA for only P350.00 per ticket. This is applicable on all matinee performances on the following dates: February 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, and 26.
For more information, call or text (0949) 434.5239 / (0917) 842.7346 or (0922) 842.7346 or log on to orosmanatzafira.com or like the official OROSMAN AT ZAFIRA Fan Page on Facebook.

Three runs of Orosman at Zafira evidenced by three souvenir programs

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