Black Box Productions restages its Filipino musical adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac with Mula sa Buwan. First performed in 2016 in Ateneo’s Irwin Theatre, it now moves to the newly built Hyundai Hall in the Areté complex, and is able to house a more massive spectacle of stage design meant to immerse you deeper into its rich setting.
Love and melancholy fill the air, as Mula sa Buwan breathes European Romanticism in its soul, true to its origin as a French literary work. This adaptation, however, poetically marries romance with noble Tagalog culture. Composer William Elvin Manzano, together with Valera, creates music that harks back to kundiman, operas, and sarswela that blasts audiences with hopeful melancholia and endearment for the past.
Even the leads add nuance to their world. Boo Gabunada plays Cyrano, an ugly but loveable cadet and makata infatuated with the beautiful and intelligent Roxane, played by Cris Go. Also fighting for the feelings of Roxane is Edward Benosa playing Christian, a handsome, dumb, but good-hearted fellow cadet of Cyrano.
Gabunada provides jester-like wit and actions to the character of Cyrano with the playfulness of the character emanating from the stage even in times of tragedy and anguish. Go, meanwhile, is tender in portraying the lovely binibini. And Christian resembles a noble white knight who is capably acted by Benosa with his sharp features, chiseled physique, and gentle demeanor.
Everyone is aptly animated in accordance to their romantic archetypes. They are alternated by Nicco Manalo, Gab Pangilinan, and Myke Salomon, respectively.
The highlight of the production is truly its stage design and musical compositions, arguably stealing the spotlight more than the actual story. Director Pat Valera furnished the production with a vaudeville-esque vibe. From the traditional costumes of damsels and uniform-clad cadets to the props and architecture of the set, Mula sa Buwan is a love letter to the pre-war 1940s Manila by creating a delicate and colorful atmosphere with a life of its own.
This is not to take merit away from the narrative –– but one may be too distracted by its production design and musical compositions far more than the overly simplistic plot. It’s a fatally tragic love story against the backdrop of an impending war, cut into a jolly and hopeful first act and a gloomy second act.
Such may be the bane of Mula sa Buwan, as it focused more on the design and the music in exchange for telling a unique story that transgresses the plot formulas of the musical genre. Although, this can be reconciled considering the text from which it was adapted from.
The biggest weakness in the production is technical. The horrid sound system takes much away from the experience, whether it was due to the microphones and speakers or to the acoustics of the venue. For such a grand musical, it’s a pity that you can’t understand much of what they are saying or singing. Although not a flaw of the production itself, but a logistic one, this is still a mortal sin.
Mula sa Buwan is a feat nonetheless. It’s still great to see a local theatrical company handle such a majestic production. It’s a manifesto of the bustling theatrical scene we have now. With the constant importation of Broadway musicals that are being staged in the likes of The Theatre at Solaire and Resorts World Manila, it’s rare to see local theatre do a period musical that rivals Broadway. And what a treat it is to be able to watch one.
Mula sa Buwan will stage its final show on December 1, at the Areté Hyundai Hall in Ateneo de Manila University.