Written and photographed
By Jude Bautista
A baby elephant heralds the entry of a royal parade. Rockets shoot up, igniting the sky; confetti falls in a kingdom-wide celebration, honoring the birthday of Prince Chulalongkorn (Anton Posadas). The scene is almost impossible to produce inside a theater but there it is on stage. Audiences see the background lit up with fireworks and in later scenes the moon and stars.
The onstage effects make the experience real and you are no longer in the New Port Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World watching the ‘King and I.’ You feel like you really are in 19th century Siam. The secret is a giant and movable LED screen in the background. The screen size encompasses nearly the whole stage both in length and height. No wonder it is able to create the illusion of the sky. The claim of it being the biggest LED screen in a theater in Southeast Asia is believable.
The advantage of having an LED screen is its ability to show an actual transition between night and day or afternoon slowly turning into dusk. Golden, orange hues turn into light purple then to a very dark blue completing the illusion of a sky complete with clouds.
The most high tech equipment is only as good as the people who use it. Resort’s World very own Video Producer Carlo Manere was charged with creating the animation and effects used on the enormous LED screen. He cut his teeth working for South African digital designer Andrew Botha. The two worked on KAOS, a light, sound and music extravaganza starring Gian Magdangal as the Prince also at RW Manila.
Painted gold in front of the screen are two gigantic elephants rising nearly to the heights of the ceiling. The white elephant is a royal symbol in Siam. At the foot of the left elephant is the throne of King Mongkut (Leo Valdez / Bo Cerrudo), three tiered stairs with large gem like embellishments. Behind the throne is a large gong. Set designer Jo Tecson needed to employ his company Light and Space concepts to design the many elaborate pieces for the show. Tecson earned his reputation setting up “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” exhibit in Shangri La Plaza Mall.
For King Mongkut’s royal robes, no less than the current king of Philippine fashion Rajo Laurel was tapped to design them. The designs have their expected colors of magenta, purple and yes even a sparkly, silken gold on black. The cuts are very comfortable with pants up to the knees revealing golden sandals. There may not have been a more confortable royal attire in the world that lets the King execute the grand gestures and choreography for the musical.
Anna (Monique Wilson / Sheila Valderrama) has a more traditional western dresses of the 19th century. Of note was the later scene when she attends a ball. Her rose colored gown takes the King’s breath away. Rajo designed the memorable and dazzling costumes for both lead roles.
Resort’s World resident costume designer Aksana Sidarava came up with the costumes for the rest of the cast. Lun Tha (Lorenz Martinez / Floyd Tena) is the dashing lover of Tuptim (Tanya Manalang / Marian Santiago). Sidarava made his character bare chested accented with an elaborate necklace of gold and rubies. Arm bands also encrusted with rubies actually made his character look more masculine.
The adorable royal children were color coordinated silk according to age the two eldest Yingyaowalak (Alexi Rodriguez) and Chulalongkorn were in purple, the twins (JC and Miguel Urquico) were in blue, the babies (Audrey Sy and Alexa Villaroel) were in pink.
Music and Dance
Musical director Rodel Colmenar may have had the most difficult task since the songs are familiar to a lot of people and theater enthusiasts. Knowing how to tweak and update some of the music however miniscule is challenging. He also masterfully conducted The Manila Philharmonic Orchestra. The Philippine Ballet Theater was instrumental in creating the royal play within the show.
The diabolical creative genius that is director Freddie Santos conducted the whole production team to the cast, to make it come together. All the performers from Leo Valdez, Bo Cerrudo to Gina Respal and Apple Chiu were such larger than life personalities. They are able to inhabit their roles and combined with the lavish production, take you on that wonderful journey that is “The King and I”.