Are faith and spirituality still relevant in an era that inspires cynicism, apathy and one-upmanship more than compassion and genuine kindness?
The reboot of the pop musical “Nasaan si Hesus?,” which will be relaunched on Aug. 18 at the swanky El Shaddai International House of Prayer in Parañaque, vivifies the faithful’s search for Christ in a world whose concept of right and wrong has seemingly gone to pot.
As timely as today’s headlines? You bet. This is precisely why producer-composer Lourdes “Bing” Pimentel thinks it’s the perfect time to revive the musical, to underscore the importance of a Higher Being in our daily lives.
Pimentel isn’t just the wife and mother of former Senate Presidents Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, respectively; she is the creative force behind such musical productions as “Pag-ibig sa Bayan” and “Cory, the Musical.”
“Now more than ever, we need Jesus in our lives,” Pimentel points out as she mulls over “Nasaan’s” unfading appeal and thematic pertinence. “A play that revolves around that theme will always have lasting relevance, because people will see themselves in its eight-part musical-comedy or dramatic vignettes. It doesn’t just aim to entertain; it encourages viewers to think, reflect and, hopefully, change for the better.”
For Dulce, the steel-voiced diva behind such OPM classics as “Ako ang Nasawi, Ako ang Nagwagi” and “Paano,” performing in the play doesn’t just allow her to keep her thespic chops sharp. It also gives her the opportunity to “pay it forward” and inspire the talented newcomers in its cast to appreciate the growth-evincing ability and discipline that the legitimate stage instills in its practitioners.
But, the production’s laugh-out-loud and three-hanky scenes are just as big a draw to Dulce—who couldn’t control her emotion the first time she rehearsed one of the two crucial roles she portrays in “Nasaan”—that of a doting mom convicted of a drug- and murder-related crime she didn’t commit.
“I have become friends with a female inmate whose story is very similar to the character I play,” disclosed the actress, who believes not just in “restorative” justice, but also in the healing power of second chances.
In another scene, Dulce plays a social worker who wishes to share her good fortune by looking after street children, who think her good deeds are more hypocritical than sincere.
For his part, actor-balladeer Bo Cerrudo, who has performed in previous incarnations of the musical, believes that the issues and themes the production tackles are as relevant as ever.
In it, he plays a respected community leader who has a difficult time shuttling between two families, as well as a priest who finds himself trapped in a crisis of faith.
Dulce’s forays into theater include “Katy!,” “Himala, the Musical” and “Magnificat,” while Bo’s theater credits include “Rama at Sita,” “Dirty Old Musical” and the Manila production of “Miss Saigon.”
Joining Dulce and Bo are singer-actors Russell Magno, Allan Mirasol, Zscharmaine Princess Barretto, Liza Schneider, Honee Jacob Gipulle, Rain Gibbz, Maricel Reyes, Paul Pareja, Tcel Maramag, Rubyrica Efren, Rhoger Escorial, Miguel Suarez, Johana Basanta, Hannah Victoria Marinduque and Albert Jimenez.
Another thing that makes the production doubly significant is the fact that its script was written and conceptualized by theater stalwart Nestor U. Torre with songs composed by Pimentel.
NUT, as Torre is known to friends and colleagues, is much missed by the avid followers of Viewfinder, his widely read column in Inquirer Entertainment. He’s currently on medical leave from his multihyphenate tasks as director, playwright and Inquirer columnist while he’s recuperating from a stroke.
The long-running musical, first mounted in the late ’90s and last staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in November last year, asserts its timelessness and relevance by plugging into the zeitgeist with a “reimagined” version that includes new arrangements by Jun Murillo and choreography by Stephen Viñas. (For details about the touring production, call Flor Ignacio at 0977-8177934.)
Aside from the aforementioned issues, “Nasaan si Hesus?,” which has been staged more than 80 times in schools and parishes around the country, tackles the plight of street children and child labor, our penchant for gossip and rumor-mongering, electoral fraud and drug addiction.
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