West Side Story

Is West Side Story too old for today's world? Somehow, I got that feeling when my husband and I watched the musical yesterday at the Meralco Theater.

We caught the matinee at 3pm and caught none of the performers that I had wished to see. I had hoped I would get to watch Joanna Ampil as Maria and Rowena Vilar as Anita but it was not to be.

We knew this was not a Repertory Philippines production when my watch said 3pm and the show had not yet started. We waited a few minutes and the performance actually started at 3:10pm.

Did I enjoy myself? Well, it was alright. I don't really feel like raving about it but it wasn't bad either. Have seen better theater productions before though. Am not really a fan of Christian Bautista to begin with but I was interested to see if he could perform the role of Tony with credibility. He was okay but something was missing that I couldn't put my finger on. His voice was nasal (and cartoon-character like) at times and he has a very slight lisp.

I thought Karylle came across much better as Maria but also felt that Christian and Karylle were exerting much too much effort in their singing and performance. At times, I felt their strain as a viewer. They weren't Tony and Maria. They were Christian Bautista playing Tony and Karylle playing Maria. Maybe that's the problem with getting big-name stars to perform in theater. It's hard to separate the "star" from the role -- from both the actor's or actress' end and the viewer's end.

I was initially disappointed when I heard that Rowena Vilar would not be playing Anita. If I heard right, it was Pam G? Well, I liked her. She sang well (No strain. She made it sound so easy.); danced and moved fluidly; and was really, truly Anita. She actually saved the day for me, together with Filharmonika, the orchestra, whose music and playing I really appreciated.

Which brings me to the story in West Side Story. I think it was good during its time but nowadays, it kind of feels old and dated. The first half of the musical is actually quite slow and it only begins to pick up towards the middle and particularly towards the end. More than the story in West Side, it is really the songs that have made it last this long. So many hit and popular songs from there. Unfortunately, even some of the better-known songs were not performed as heartwarmingly. I didn't feel the emotion.

West Side Story still has a few shows remaining at the Meralco. If you are truly a fan of the musical or of Christian Bautista, then you may still want to catch it. Most likely, you already have caught it though. If you are neither, well... that's another story. Getting a CD of the songs might be an alternative.

[By Angelica Viloria | Sunday, October 5, 2008]

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