When I think of Christmas, I think of the cold night breeze on the dawn of simbang gabi, the smell of puto bumbong and bibingka wafting in the air, and the inevitable Christmas rush traffic. But, most of all, when I think of Christmas, I hear the songs of Jose Mari Chan and the Christmas carols we have listened to from when we were young. This year, 9 Works Theatrical and Globe LIVE! is bringing a different kind of Christmas carol: familiar but with a twist. It’s Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens’ A Christmas Carol The Musical presented in a way that’s never been done before.
A Chilly Christmas Carol
Based on Charles Dickens‘ well-loved and critically-acclaimed novel, A Christmas Carol has been adapted in different media throughout centuries. 9 Works is adapting the musical version by Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens, while bringing back the spookier elements of Dickens’ original cautionary tale.
A Christmas Carol is the spiritual (pun intended) journey of Ebenezer Scrooge (Miguel Faustmann), an old, miserable man who despises Christmas. He doesn’t find joy in the holidays going out of his way to avoid celebrating the feast and spreading the glum mood to the people around him. One night, the ghost of his erstwhile business partner Jacob Marley (Ariel Reonal) dissuades him from a life of greed and putting his wealth above the welfare of others. To drive this point home, Jacob warns that three spirits would be visiting him in his sleep, at the strike of every hour, to show Scrooge’s life as it was, is, and will be at Christmas time. These Christmas spirits help Scrooge realize his wrongs, coming out the next day as a much kinder, Christmas-loving man.
9 Works’ Biggest Production Yet
9 Works artistic director Robbie Guevara has always reitarated how they strive for each production to be bigger and better than the previous one. A Christmas Carol exceedingly proves this point. Based on their previous partnership with Globe, American Idiot, I already knew they would deliver something grand for the Filipino theater audience.
Back at the Globe Iconic Store in the Bonifacio Global City Amphitheater, its stage is even bigger than American Idiot‘s. Joe Caliro, head of Globe LIVE!, noted how they wanted to make this show look and feel different from the last one. You could say that this would be an easy task, given these two shows depict completely disparate themes and settings. But the technicalities involved with just putting up the stage (it took them two full weeks to build it!) and the venue being open and outdoors pose significant challenges for every performance.
While American Idiot made extensive use of LED screens all through out the stage, A Christmas Carol brought Dickens’ 17th century London to life using lighting projections on a three-dimensional painted backdrop. The stage for A Christmas Carol is likewise multi-dimensional, with stairs that go up three levels and satellite stages on both sides of the main stage. Smoke and lights gave a spooky and chilling atmosphere whenever the Ghosts of Christmas come to haunt Scrooge, but a warm, fuzzy feeling during the story’s resolution.
A Cast of Thousands (Well, Fifty Actors)
With a stage that enormous, you need a cast (a lot of them) to fill it up. And what an outstanding cast they assembled: seasoned thespians, 9 Works returnees and debutants, talented children not to mention different featured children choirs each weekend.
Miguel Faustmann plays the main character and he is just as I imagined him to be. He had previously performed this role in other productions, but he mentioned during the press preview, that he is giving a different take to this role now. He did have a bit of a hard time with the quick costume changes but he skillfully ad-libbed his way through it. A thespian through and through.
It’s such a delight to watch Norby David back on stage after his debut in American Idiot. At first, I didn’t recognize Norby minus his Niall Horan-platinum-blonde hair. This is as far-removed from his earlier role and now embodying the whimsical yet haunting Ghost of Christmas Past. Norby set the already dark tone (already laid by Ariel Reonal’s Jacob Marley) of the musical even darker.
Ghost of Christmas Present Franz Imperial is an imposing presence in his rather accurate characterization of Dickens’ character. Plus, that costume is so spot on. (Believe me, I researched! :)). Ghost of Christmas Future Ela Lisondra didn’t speak a single word but her moves made all the talking. The future segment was one of the creepier parts of the story, with the cemetery setting and the ghosts draped in blood-red.
Personally though, the person who stole the show is the young Tiny Tim. Oh how I, and everyone around me, awww-ed at his every scene. Rocco Buser played the role during the press preview, and boy is that kid going places in the future theater scene. Immense talent in such a small frame.
Ensemble and the Little Details
We were seated at the side and near the main stage. Although the main characters had their backs turned away from us for most scenes, we did have a closer look at the ensemble and dancers all through out the show. And I must say they were as entertaining and lively as the main actors in the scene. They even did most of the dancing and I couldn’t help but wonder where they get their energy for an almost two-hour show. The scene at Fezziwig’s Christmas ball is such a joy to watch each dancer showing off their snazzy moves. Nel Gomez can dance! <3
Major kudos also goes to the costume, hair and make-up team for a job well done. Being near the front, we were lucky to have observed the little details that couldn’t be seen from afar. Just look at how many layers of fabric goes into each actor’s intricate looks. Each one is unique with its own personality.
Nobody Likes a Scrooge
I’m positive that A Christmas Carol will become a new Filipino Christmas tradition. Anyone who watches the show will take home with them the warm and fuzzy feeling of Christmas. If you aren’t sold yet… well, [spoiler alert] it will snow! Yes, snow will fall in BGC. Not real snow, of course, but seeing it falling from the sky brought my inner childlike wonder back. I almost teared up. Seriously thrilling to watch.
Now, don’t be a Scrooge and don’t miss this one-of-a-kind heart-warming Christmas treat. I promise you’ll love it!
Meet the cast and characters of “A Christmas Carol The Musical”:
Catch 9 Works Theatrical and Globe LIVE!’s A Christmas Carol The Musical all weekends of December until Christmas Day, December 25, at the Globe Iconic Store, Bonifacio Global City High Street Amphitheater, Taguig City.