Lately, I’ve been fond of watching theater musicals, thanks to my sister’s free tickets. Just recently, we watched the play “Ghost,” lead by Christian Bautista and the comeback kid Cris Villonco. I have never watched the 1990 film starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, although I am familiar with that famous pottery scene, and of course the eternal theme song “Unchained Melody”.
I was expecting that we would just be watching the doubles of the two actors, since Bautista and Villonco are too famous for a 3 PM show. But lo and behold, when the curtain was raised, it was Villonco in her jumper suit acting as the visual artist Molly. Bautista subsequently appeared as Sam, Molly’s boyfriend, together with theater actor Hans Eckstein as their friend, Karl.
At first, the scene among the three actors was a bit off for me. They were speaking English as if they’re American actors, which did not make me comfortable. Nevertheless, I commend Villonco and Eckstein for maintaining their ‘twang’ throughout the play.
Looking at the set-up, one can say that it is not a big-budgeted musical. The house that Molly and Sam bought as their love nest and workshop for Molly’s craft reminded me of a mausoleum. Still, the space offered opportunities for the production to play with flexibility and tricks in simulating scenes. I was impressed with the transition of the scenes through the changes in lighting, choreography and visual effects. It was a pity that some of the props did not gave such positive effect. The pottery scene was horrendous. Sam seemed to be awkward with positioning himself behind Molly while the latter is busy with her pottery, as the chair they were sitting on was enough for just one person. It seemed that the awkwardness was reflected on Bautista’s face while he was singing Unchained Melody. Additionally, I was expecting a sensual spinning of the pottery wheel to add to the drama of the scene and of the song. But no. Molly appeared to be exerting much effort to make it appear that she was working on something like a clay vase. Later on, my father told us that he noticed that there was a plug in the pottery wheel and it was not used. Truly a pity.
Likewise, there were scenes wherein Sam gained power to remotely move things even if he is a ghost. One scene involved him moving a can of soda. But something happened with the nylon cord of the can that a dancer was tangled with it. Although it was not as disastrous, the incident manifested a flaw in the production.
Ima Castro as Oda Mae, the ‘clairvoyant’ who helped Sam communicate with Molly, stole the show. Castro’s Oda Mae sang perfectly and her energy reinvigorates the otherwise sleeper presentation. Of course, Villonco is a great singer too. She sang flawlessly, pouring her emotions into every song, yet composed. I was converted into a fan. Eckstein did very well with his supporting role. He was effective as an antagonist. As for Bautista, all I can say is that his acting is better onstage than on TV.
Overall, I can say that the Ghost the musical staging in Manila is greatly entertaining if you don’t expect much from it. Or maybe I should not watch a musical at 3 PM.