'N.O.A.H.' new musical by Jaime del Mundo

'NOAH' new musical by Jaime del Mundo
By Walter Ang
August 31, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Jaime Del Mundo once tried his hand at doing administrative work for a school. It was the same time that rehearsals were ongoing for a musical he had just co-written with Luna Inocian and composed by Lito Villareal. After theater company Trumpets premiered Jaime's "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," he promptly resigned from what he called his "grown up job."

"When I saw how people were moved by the material, it took me aback. I realized I couldn't give up my life in theater. The potential of reaching people through the stage outweighed any desire out of the stability that a full time job could give," he says with a laugh.

Since then, he's penned several other musicals, such as "The Little Mermaid" and "The Young King" for Trumpets and "The Happy Prince," "Fisherman and His Wife," and "Good as Gold." This September, audiences will see his "N.O.A.H. (No Ordinary Aquatic Habitat)," a reworked version of his children's puppet musical "Mr. Noah's Big Boat," with additional songs and with actors this time around. For this musical, Jaime collaborated with first time composer Rony Fortich, current music director of Hong Kong Disneyland.

Arguably, Jaime has become one of the most prolific and produced Filipino librettists in English. His chamber musicals have been staged "from living rooms to basketball courts." His large-scale musicals like "Lion" has enjoyed several restagings throughout the years and "Mermaid" was performed as part of the festival of performing arts in Qatar and will be touring various Asian countries before the year ends. He humbly dismisses this notion, saying, "I like to think of myself as a director who just happens to write and act."

Jaime has been working professionally in the local theatre scene since he joined Repertory Philippines in 1978. He started from bit parts and graduated to lead roles in plays and musicals like "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum."

He eventually started directing in the late 80s, not just plays, but operas as well. "I never studied music formally and I didn't grow up in a musical family, but my mother took the trouble to make sure her children learned about classical music. I also loved to read," he says. Jaime's passion and interest for words, images, stories, and music evolved into a love for opera. "The combination of music and drama made sense to me," he adds.

Jaime was invited by the Singapore Lyric Opera and Lyric Opera Malaysia to direct "Tosca" in both countries. He went on to direct many operas abroad including "The Merry Widow," "Eugene Onegin," "Cosi Fan Tutte," "Macbeth," and "The Magic Fute." He helmed the U.S. tour of "Mayo, Bisperas ng Liwanag."

His love for and work in opera informs the way he crafts musicals. "I see the structure of writing and directing a musical in music terms. I'm more aware of the tempo, rhythm, and pacing of the material, of what an audience can grasp through the music and the lyrics, of how a line carries," he says.

Jaime recounts, though, that it was not so easy in the beginning. "I originally wanted `Lion' to be a sung-through musical. The first draft that my co-librettist and I came up with would have ended up seven hours on stage," he says with a laugh. "Even now, I don't usually get it right the first time. I write lyrics down or type them into my cellphone when I'm inspired. I do my research and collaborate with the composers and actors. We work though the material till we get it right. When we do get it right, however, it's really a miracle."

Jaime points out that "writing English musicals in a third-world country is a challenge," which is why it is a craft he handles with thought and care. For "N.O.A.H.," Jaime modernizes the re-telling of the Bible tale by incorporating an environmental angle. He has infused a garbage problem into the plot as a metaphor for "self-cleansing."

His characters will be brought to life by actors Carlo Orosa (Noah), Sheila Francisco (Mrs. Noah), and Sam Concepcion alternating with Fred Lo as the Narrator. Production design is by Mio Infante (who is tasked with creating an ark and life size animal puppets and costumes) and choreography by musical theater director and actor Audie Gemora, modern ballet danseur Gerald Mercado, tap expert Patricia Borromeo, and hip hop dancer Alfred Luason.

"Musical theater is a great opportunity to explore stories, to change perceptions, to allow audiences to take an emotional journey," he says. "Musical theater is a wonderful, fantastic, loveable, majestic, and magical place to share important messages."

"N.O.A.H. (No Ordinary Aquatic Habitat)" runs from Sept. 4 to 27, 2009 at Meralco Theater.
Call 631-7252, 0921-7263642, 0917-8842105 or email trumpetsinc@gmail.com. Tickets also available at Ticketworld 891-9999. 

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