MANILA — Viva Voce didn’t just bring back the classic tunes of Broadway in the group’s recent show, “The Great White Way,” held last February 23 at the Power Mac Center Spotlight in Circuit Makati.
The classical vocal group and its artistic director, the soprano Camille Lopez Molina, also brought back the musical revue, theatrical song-and-dance shows that used to be regularly mounted at the Metropolitan Theater (with its “The Great White Way” series) and the Philam Life Auditorium. Even Repertory Philippines, at one point, included musical revues in its season with its “Celebration” series.
Viva Voce isn’t a theater group. The members are classically trained singers, which make them vocally perfect for the kind of songs they selected for the revue — classic Broadway show tunes from the 1960s and earlier, which required a certain formal singing style vastly different from the requirements of current Broadway fare like “Hamilton” and “Dear Evan Hansen.”
The 19-member Viva Voce (10 women and 9 men) opened the show with a suite from “The Music Man,” including that chestnut “Till There Was You” and the rambunctious ensemble number “Seventy-Six Trombones,” which immediately set the nostalgic tone for a grand night of singing, accompanied solely by Gabriel Allan Paguirigan on the grand piano.
Director Ed Lacson Jr. devised “The Great White Way” as a live radio broadcast as if to further stress the old-fashioned charm of the proceedings with an unseen radio announcer (Rep regular Arnel Carrion) introducing the songs and musicals. Lacson, who also designed the stage, also created a basic proscenium and backdrop with Art Deco patterns for a simple yet elegant look.
From the opening number which highlighted the tight harmonies of the group, the show highlighted the individual members, starting with Marvin Bautista singing “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” from “Oklahoma,” and Nicole Pugeda joining him in the duet “People Will Say We’re in Love.”
Soprano Roxy Aldioso then did the difficult “Vanilla Ice Cream” from “She Loves Me,” followed by the evening’s first guest, veteran theater actor Cocoy Laurel, crooning “Some Enchanted Evening” from “South Pacific.”
The two other guest artists that evening were Teenee Chan, who sang Cole Porter’s “So in Love” from “Kiss Me, Kate,” as well as a duet with Laurel on “One Hand, One Heart” from “West Side Story”; and Jay Valencia Glorioso, who ended Act 1 with the “Gypsy” showstopper “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”
To be honest, Viva Voce didn’t really need the extra boost as the group boasts of members who could well be cast in full stage productions. Carlo Angelo Falcis breezed through “On the Street Where You Live” from “My Fair Lady” (and again in “Make Believe” from “Showboat”), while Roby Malubay nailed “Ol’ Man River,” also from “Show Boat.” The perfect “Standing on the Corner” wouldn’t be out of place in an actual production of “The Most Happy Fella,” while “Tonight Quartet” from “West Side Story” was exciting even on its own.
But the group’s shining moment arguably was in the “Kismet” suite, which isn’t the easiest musical to sing. But led by tenor Nomher Nival and soprano Anna Dinnah Migallos, Viva Voce wonderfully brought the music to life with the songs “Baubles, Bangles and Beads,” the duet “Stranger in Paradise,” and the wonderful “And This is My Beloved.”
In an earlier interview, the group said they hope to stage “The Great White Way” with a full orchestra. Indeed, the potential for this is immense. -- Vladimir Bunoan, ABS-CBN News