Review: 'Bluebird' soars with visual delight
MANILA – The Christian theater group Trumpets quickly reclaimed its reputation for producing quality yet entertaining family fare with its brand new original musical “The Bluebird of Happiness,” which opened last Friday at the Meralco Theater.
The musical, which is based on the 1908 Belgian play by Maurice Maeterlinck, received a standing ovation on opening night, particularly for its two young leads, Chimmi Kohchet-Chua and Anton Posadas, as siblings in search of the mythical creature.
Like Trumpets’ previous productions, which included musical adaptations of well-loved children’s classics “The Little Mermaid” (not to be confused with the Disney musical) and “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” “The Bluebird of Happiness” is similarly targeted at family audiences with an emphasis on dazzling production values that children will easily appreciate.
It also extends a string of recent productions from established theater companies that are meant for children such as Tanghalang Pilipino’s “Sandosenang Sapatos” and Repertory Philippines’ “Alice in Wonderland.”
Set on Christmas Eve, “The Bluebird of Happiness” focuses on two siblings, Tyltyl and Mytyl, who come from a poor family. Their father is away looking for work, while their mother is pregnant with another child, and with Christmas just around the corner, the two kids can’t help but feel sad that they don’t have gifts and can’t even afford to put up a tree.
As they despair, the fairy Berylune visits them and urges them to search for the bluebird, which will bring them happiness. She brings to life their pet dog Tylo, cat Tylette and their Christmas candle, Light, to accompany them on their journey.
Like Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” the two kids get to visit the past, where they meet their deceased grandparents, as well as the future as they come face to face with their soon-to-be-born baby brother. In between, they learn lessons about the environment, greed and materialism. The kids were also forced to battle their own fears and nightmares.
“The Bluebird of Happiness” succeeds as family entertainment largely because of the creative vision of director and book writer Jaime del Mundo, set designer Mio Infante and lighting designer John Batalla. The musical is really more of a visual feast, a children’s pop-up book made larger than life. Trumpets spared no expense in bringing the story to the stage, notably in the Land of Luxury sequence that opens Act 2, with a candy-colored ramp, a large ceiling-to-floor chandelier and the cast in outrageous costumes. Even more eye-popping was “The Forest” scene with the cast dressed as towering dead trees.
It also helped that Rony Fortich composed pleasant melodies patterned after old-fashioned Broadway musicals ranging from light operatic arias to fun numbers, such as Tylo’s solo backed up by a group of energetic kids.
The highly professional cast gave the musical the polish to elevate it from being just another kiddie show. The chorus, for instance, were gifted with strong voices that ring even in ordinary numbers with the harmonies tight and clear.
“The Bluebird of Happiness” also has a star-studded cast, filling even minor roles. Veterans Joy Virata and Steve Cadd exuded warmth in their roles as the grandparents, while Carla Guevara-Laforteza’s pristine soprano was aptly radiant as Light. Robbie Zialcita, who will soon be seen in “The Producers,” was cuddly as the loyal dog and his scenes with jazz singer Lynn Sherman as the sly pet cat lent the musical much of its humor.
Joel Trinidad, another Repertory Philippines’ regular, relished the deviousness of his role – and punk frock – as Night without going overboard with the creepiness.
The presence of these seasoned performers all the more made the performance of the two child actors truly remarkable. In particular, Kohchet-Chua showed maturity beyond her years as the older, brattier child, while Posadas had a restraint that is unusual for a young performer. The two really held the musical together with their believable, natural acting and confident singing.
“The Bluebird of Happiness” may be more ideal for younger audiences but Trumpets once again proved that its brand of family entertainment can also be serious and sophisticated.
"The Bluebird of Happiness" runs until October 20 with shows at 8 p.m. on Fridays and 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays at the Meralco Theater.