Viva Voce Lab, just about the country’s foremost vocal ensemble, is downscaling in its current…
What will Viva Voce Lab do next to top its recent show-stopping “Viva Voce on the Great White Way” at the Power Mac Spotlight at Circuit Makati? Perhaps a repeat performance of the same “Journey Through the Golden Age of Broadway” (the show’s subtitle)?
For people of a certain age, the musical revue brought back fond memories of student productions in the ’60s and early ’70s directed by James B. Reuter, S.J., for the then St. Paul College of Manila (Showboat, Carousel) and St. Paul College of Quezon City (South Pacific, Oklahoma!). It was on the Fleur de Lis Auditorium stage on the former Herran Street in Malate where one first watched such thespians as June Keithley, Noemi Manikan Gomez, even a promising Maniya Barredo, who interpreted The Ballet from Carousel, Jeanne Young, Tommy Abuel, Butz Aquino (then a Reuter boy) give Manila a taste of Broadway.
For this 2019 edition of the best of Broadway, director-stage designer Ed Lacson Jr., a young artist to watch, set the presentation in the radio era with mock microphones onstage. Voice-over artist Arnel Carrion served as “disc jockey” for a live show, helpfully annotating the songs and identifying the singers.
Lacson and Viva Voce Lab artistic director Camille Lopez Molina knew when to open the show with a bang with The Music Man Medley that included, among others, “Goodnight, My Someone,” “Lida Rose (Will I Ever Tell You),” “Till There Was You,” the ballad that had this writer in tears, the snappy “76 Trombones.”
This was the first time one saw Viva Voce do rapid formations with some basic choreography. Such fresh developments did not distract from the singing that consistently pleased. After all, this was just about the topmost vocal ensemble in the country.
The Nicole Pugeda-Marvin Bautista tandem put a lot of heart in their “People Will Say We’re in Love” one almost believed that they were that…in love! In “Make Believe” and “After the Ball” from Showboat comebacking soprano Iona Ventocilla proved how much she and her voice have been missed. One remembered her heart-breaking Mimi in the Puccini opera La Boheme. Lending her support was tenor Carlo Angelo Falcis who also channelled a cad in his version of Lerner and Loewe’s “On the Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady.
Roxy Aldiosa should be given more solos as shown by her charmingly funny “Vanilla Ice Cream” from She Loves Me.
The same could be said for Tanya Corcuera who showed through “Bill,” also from Showboat, that she owned the song. To use the current expression, she slayed it. She took the audience’s heart and walked away with it as she exited. Her clear enunciation of these words by Oscar Hammerstein II appealed to the listeners, maybe all the women who were ever smitten by plain-looking, plain-spoken men. The song made one think: who still writes songs like this and who can sing it the way Corcuera did?
“I used to dream that I would discover / The perfect lover / Someday / I knew I’d recognize him if ever / He came ’round my way / I always used to fancy then / He’d be one of the godlike kind of men / With a giant brain and a noble head / Like the heroes bold in the books I've read / But along came Bill / Who’s not the type at all / You’d meet him on the street / And never notice him…/ He can’t play golf or tennis or polo / Or sing a solo / Or row / He isn’t half as handsome / As dozens of men that I know…/He’s just my Bill, an ordinary man / He hasn’t got a thing that I can brag about / And yet to be / Upon his knee / So comfy and roomy / Seems natural to me / I love him because he’s, I don’t know / Because he’s just my Bill.”
Tenor Nomher Nival and soprano Anna Migallos, whose last effective pairing was in another Viva Voce production, the opera La Traviata, underscored through their duet “Stranger in Paradisse” and ensemble work “And This Is My Beloved” why they are The Tenor and The Soprano of the hour.
In contention for the title is another soprano, Myramae Meneses, who sang “I Could Have Danced All Night” for her own Manila comeback that night after being away for two years to finish her masters at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
As she exited, Kevin Chen, Miguel Espiritu, Isaac Iglesias and Zuriel Valbuena entered, simultaneously gave her back an admiring glance and segued in four-part harmony to another crowd favorite, “Standing On the Corner,” from The Most Happy Fella.
Hearing Roby Malubay’s solemn“Ol’ Man River” with the ensemble made one wish there were more baritones and basses in the country to add a richer variety to choral music.
With a repertoire like this, the evening ached to end on a dramatic note. The medley from Man of La Mancha culminated with a chorus of “Impossible Dream” that raised goose pimples on one’s arms.
Kudos to guest artists Cocoy Laurel, Jay Valencia Glorioso and Teenee Chan, a.k.a. friends of Viva Voce, for lending their names and their voices. The one-man orchestra that was collaborating artist Gabriel Paguirigan gave the support that each and everyone needed.