Phantom It’s Not
Written and photographed
by Jude Bautista
“I’m the Phantom always with this tuner, hear me gurgling in this tuner, when the song’s a bitch and I’m slightly under pitch they just flick the reverb switch from left to right. And I’m the greatest of the night! Ethel Merman (Caisa Borromeo) : Whaat? Phantom (OJ Mariano): I’m the Phantom here to screech the position,‘til the intermission. Merman: Speak up! What kind of a voice is that???”
The only place in the universe where Michael Crawford (original lead in Phantom of the Opera) and Ethel Merman (loud & proud star of early Broadway hits ‘Anything Goes’) can meet is in “Forbidden Broadway.” The uproariously funny musical by Upstart Productions is running until May 25, 26 and 27 at the RCBC Plaza Theater.
Worlds collide when Ethel Merman’s loud, theater voice meets the almost whimpering style of Crawford. No musical is spared. The biggest celebrities like Barabara Streisand, Liza Minelli, Mandy Patinkin, John Travolta and more are mercilessly spoofed. Zingers come at lightning speed. You get each one because of the skill of each performer. The lines and delivery are clear (as the case may be).
The real “Phantom of the Opera” is coming this August from Lunchbox Theater Productions / Concertus but “Forbidden Broadway” now may even be more loads of fun. Director and producer Joel Trinidad had been a fan of the musical for years, “Well I’m directing it through my production company. I demanded that I do it. I’ve always wanted to do the show. When I first saw it I loved it. I never thought in a million years that I’d be able to get to do it. When my wife and I were online looking for shows we could buy the rights, to our surprise the rights to ‘Forbidden Broadway’ were available, affordable.”
Four talented theater performers pulled off an insane number of roles of at least a dozen or more each. Liesl Batucan is a grown up cigarette smoking Annie and a nasal, frantic, overacting Liza Minelli. Caisa Borromeo is the loud-mouthed Ethel Merman. OJ Mariano is the Phantom and also a marketing wiz Cameron Mackintosh. Lorenz Martinez is the overindulgent Mandy Patinkin and Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof.
Director Joel talks about his requirements for casting, “I want to explain to everyone why I hand picked these actors. But I don’t think I have to because when you watch the show it’s obvious. I wanted to have people who had a combination of talent and a sense of humor. For a show like this talent’s not enough and a sense of humor is not enough. These actors have to be strong in both aspects. And that’s what I got.
OJ Mariano’s roles have been varied including a Flying Monkey in Wicked. But the challenges have been surpassed by the enjoyment, “Obviously there were a lot of challenges all throughout the rehearsal process. But actually starting now, I’ve forgotten all the difficulties because it’s so much fun to do.” Both OJ and Lorenz Martinez were previously cast in RENT. They both reprised their roles here as well, “It was ok, as Joel said it was in good fun. It actually felt good. Parang we went back and reminisced what we did with RENT.”
OJ Mariano said the good outweigh the difficulties, “Even during rehearsals we were having so much fun laughing a lot. So all the challenges we had to go through were washed away after each night. It’s just a lot of fun to be working with all these very talented people. Joel is an excellent director.”
For some of the characters even the actors were personally unfamiliar with the early theater icons they spoofed. Liesl Batucan was especially well praised for her version of the husky voice and persona of Carroll Channing, “I AM Carroll Channing! What I did was without having the opportunity to see her I tried to capture her spirit. Aside from Joel telling me to take certain features to highlight, I studied her well. She has that spirit. That’s what I aimed to do I’m glad it showed.”
Liesl Batucan who also plays Annie and Liza Minelli relates what goes on behind the curtains, “Nothing is left to chance. In the theater you just suspend your disbelief it looks like it’s happening just like that. But actually a lot of meticulous planning has gone on including the costume changes. As Caisa said we have a fantastic crew!”
This entry was posted on May 24, 2012 by jude bautista. It was filed under Film, Music, People, Theater and was tagged with Annie, Anything Goes, Barabara Streisand, Cameron Mackintosh, Carroll Channing, Ethel Merman, Fiddler on the Roof, Flying Monkey, Forbidden Broadway, John Travolta, Liesl Batucan, Liza Minelli, Mandy Patinkin, Michael Crawford, Phantom of the Opera, RCBC Plaza Theater, RENT, Tevye, Upstart Productions, Wicked.