Theater: Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady The Musical

"Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady The Musical"

Being a maid is tough enough, but when Mely lands a job under a group of superheroes, she steps up to the unique challenge for the sake of her family. Based on Carlo Vergara’s one-act play and graphic novel of the same title, Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady the Musical revolves around Mely and Viva’s sibling relationship, made complicated by an unsettling past and a budding romance, all in the context of an ongoing war between the superhero and supervillain teams. The musical takes us through the journey of the characters as each tries to find his/her place in the world.

I’m torn.

On the one hand, I liked the musical enough that I want people to watch it.

On the other hand, I really want to break it down and remake it into something else. Something that’s the same, but also very different.

I actually wrote a very lengthy piece about the things I didn’t like about the musical, before I erased the whole thing. Because I wasn’t talking about the musical I watched anymore. I was already molding it into becoming a different animal altogether. I was turning it into something that was mine. And it’s not.

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady The Musical is the truest form of a Carlo Vergara child that we will get… for now. And it is special child. Unique. Beautiful to many, and to its creator–but not to me.

And it pains me to say that. Because I really, really wanted to like Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady The Musical. Well, I really, really wanted to like it more than I do.

I don’t.

I’m not going to segregate my reactions from bad to good, because there really isn’t anything bad about the musical. But there’s a lot of good in here that I feel was wasted. Which is why I’m not one-hundred-percent raving about the musical.

And here they are:

Nena Babushka and the love triangle that had an imaginary angle. I loved Nena’s character. I loved how tragic her love was for Leading Man. (And I loved the innocence that actress Giannina Ocampo brought to her character’s affections.) Unfortunately, because Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady is really a story about Mely and her sister Viva, the love triangle between Mely, Leading Man, and Nena wasn’t explored. And this is one of the reasons why I am torn.

As already established, I loved Nena’s character. But if her story wasn’t really going anywhere, why include it in the first place?

Then, there’s the Kayumanggilas and Senyor Blangko–the scene stealers.

As the musical’s main villains, I know we were supposed to root against them. But from the moment they were first introduced, I couldn’t help but cheer whenever they would come on stage. They were just so much more fun than our protagonists. And, from the looks of it, the actors were having more fun too.

And Domi Espejo as Senyor Blangko was just… exceptional. As was Vince Lim as the adamant villain Henyotik.

This was a problem.

Because I was rooting for the villains. Even when I knew what they were doing was wrong and misguided. Even when they were doing despicable things. I prefered them because they were more fun.

This brings me to Viva. We got Kim Molina in the role and she was, quite simply, the star of the show. She carried the musical, and I don’t think she was supposed to. At least, I don’t think she was supposed to carry it alone.

But her character is the only one to actually take the hero’s journey. And although her character is the ditziest and easiest to manipulate–she’s also the only one you don’t want to hit in the head with a frying pan. Because you will feel for her. You will understand her.

And, as the curtains figuratively draw to a close, I wonder–did Carlo Vergara rewrite the premise of his one-act play to make the villain a hero?

I feel bad for Frenchie Dy, our Leading Lady, Mely, because she gave her heart and soul to the role–but her scenes were cheap change compared to the gravitas given to the Viva character.

Now, at the end of it all, can you see why I’m torn?

I can list down so many things I wanted the musical to do right, and to change–but I can’t bring myself to say that it was bad. Because it wasn’t.

It’s just a work in progress.

Which is why I want to urge everyone to watch the musical, to support it–and to speak their mind about it. Because I want it restaged. And next time, I want it to be better than it is now.

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady The Musical continues its weekend run until June 7.

Book: Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady

"Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady"

Being a maid is tough enough, but when Mely lands a job under a group of unconventional employers, she steps up to the unique challenge for the sake of her family. When Mely’s sister enters the picture, Mely is reminded of a disturbing past, made complicated by an unsettling romantic revelation. All this in a tragicomedy about domestic help, sibling rivalry, and shattered dreams.

And Carlo Vergara is back!

Sort of.

The creator of the beloved Zsazsa Zaturnnah has written a new superhero-centric story in Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady. It’s sold as a graphic novel, but it’s not exactly written as one.

You see, Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady is a one-act play. Turned into a graphic novel. And it shows.

But first, the good:

The wit and fun dialogue that made Zsazsa Zaturnnah stand out is very much present in Carlo Vergara’s new work. The character of Mely is lovable, even though she’s not exactly the typical protagonist. And the love story works. Vergara is a master of unconventional pairings.

Unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good for me.

My biggest concern with Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady is the set-up. As a one-act play, I understand the need for situating the whole thing in one location. As a comic book, I don’t. This is something the publisher should have mulled over before deciding to publish it as such.

There are a number of ways to adapt the story without constraining it to the platform it was written for. Zsazsa Zaturnnah is a great example. It successfully transcended the comics platform to become a breakout musical hit. The movie would’ve been amazing too had it benefited from a good director, or at the very least, a decent main cast.

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady would’ve been a great way to do it the other way around. By turning a good one-act play into an interesting comics story. By allowing it to breathe. Or, at the very least, by allowing your characters to move locations.

And this brings me to my second concern: the heavy-handed delivery of information. Had there been movement in the setting, the dynamic between the characters would’ve been more fluid. Outside forces could then trigger the mile-long discourses each character had bursting out from their chests.

A one-act play doesn’t have the luxury of changing set-ups, so ultra-sensitive triggers are more acceptable. Comic books don’t have such limitations. So what was so hard about tweaking the script a little bit to do such changes?

This leads me to wonder if there was pressure involved on the side of the publisher to have a new release from Carlo Vergara, without regard for the quality of the eventual product.

And so, instead of an amazing comeback for Carlo Vergara, what we get instead is comic book with a lot of potential, but whose promise is wasted on a hastily put-together release.

I was expecting more from this. Much, much more.