Little Red is a hood

Little Red is a hood 
By Walter Ang
September 27, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

When I found out the British Council was staging a production of Roald Dahl's "Little Red Riding Hood" for its Performing Arts Season this year, I wasted no time in rushing over to the U.P. Theater to catch the show. I've only seen two shows at that venue, one about a King of Thebes marrying his mother and the other with a singing Indian prince and princess (and some dancing monkeys thrown in). Now I was going to watch a little girl and her run in with a wolf.

This production has already been performed by nearly every major British orchestra. The Cebu Youth Symphony Orchestra premiered it in the Philippines and now it was the Manila Youth Symphony Orchestra's turn. The first part of the show was a lot of fun as host Freddie Santos spent time to introduce the different parts of the orchestra and how the parts worked together.

When he started throwing out words like fortissimo and pianissimo, even the most clueless person would be able to understand as the orchestra demonstrated the terms. This is a great way to make this art form more accessible to everyone. In an effort to make the show more hip, the production incorporated a lot of flashy, roving colored lights moving across the stage and the musicians. The young musicians came out wearing all black outfits; not a single boring, staid suit or gown in sight!

Over and over
The orchestra began with Sergei Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" conducted by Arturo Molina. Some of you may be familiar with the animated version by Chuck Jones shown on TV some time ago. The only thing I dislike about listening to this piece is I always end up hearing the strain that represents Peter over and over in my head like an evil Aaron Carter song. Pam pam parampampam ? oh boy.

"Little Red Riding Hood" was up next, conducted by Adrian Brown. This version did not rely soley on the lines in Dahl's hilariously wicked book "Revolting Rhymes," it incorporated narration and dialogue. Audie Gemora narrated the piece with Jaime Fabregas as the wolf. Enchang Kaimo played both Ms. Hood and Grandmamma. It was very interesting to see how music worked with the fairy tale.

This is no ordinary fairy tale, with a drunk Grandmamma and a wolf that passes wind at the audience. Little kids would react every once in a while as the piece progressed. "I can see the wolf!" You can figure out the fun twist in this version when you hear the line, "The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers./She whips a pistol from her knickers." No need to worry, no gory violence here. Although director Freddie Santos still joked, "We're so incorrect! Teaching kids it's okay to shoot pistols!"

Behind the scenes
Both conductor Adrian Brown and composer Paul Patterson are professed fans of Roald Dahl and had nothing but praises for the Filipino production. Brown claimed that both youth orchestras played professionally. He also noted how resourceful and how fast the Filipino crew was when they whipped up some new set pieces. Several bolts of cloth had been brought over as part of the production. The local crew was able to paint up a couple of wooden boards with designs that matched the cloth -- overnight.

Patterson was amazed at how quickly the cast picked up from rehearsals and shared that one of his companions thought the Filipino cast was the best one to perform the piece yet. The original plan was to compose music for all the fairy tales in the book, but in the course of development, it was decided to compose just "Little Red Riding Hood." Interestingly, he's actually planning to compose a sort of sequel, "The Three Little Pigs."

In the book, Little Red Riding Hood makes a guest appearance in "The Three Little Pigs" and so does her pistol. In an effort to make orchestra music more engaging, Patterson is devising some audience participation in this one, "We'll make the audience blow the pigs' houses down."

The new piece will most probably come out in two years' time. What is it with the Brits for making everyone wait? J.K. Rowling is making us wait a whole year for the next Harry Potter book, and Dahl fans have to wait two years for the next orchestra piece! In the meantime, we'll have to make do with "Little Red Riding Hood." It's a great experience for students and everyone else, especially families with young kids, who'd like to find out more about orchestra music.

Call the British Council at 914-1011 to 14 for details.