Carlo Vergara. Well, a hasty generalization. But nevertheless worth mentioning. In all honesty, I don’t know all his works. This post is just an immediate result and impact of watching his one-act-play born from Virgin Labfest turned to a full-grown almost three-hour musical.
I just saw Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady: The Musical just a while ago. Of course, I already had expectations before going into this Carlo Vergara story: appeal to the masses – the gritty language of the urban poor, gay lingo here and there, pop culture references That Moment first glance – and the dumbfounded afterthoughts. These were, after all, what I got after I put down his Zsazsa Zaturnnah.
See, Zsazsa was a recommended reading by a friend. We have been exchanging – borrowing and lending each other- books, especially the home-grown ones. Zsazsa is not a comic book I would pick up at the bookstore, the cover being a scantily-clad superhero and the title being in Filipino: Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah. But said friend encouraged me to read it, and it didn’t take much time for me to finish it because 1) it was funny, and 2) you just don’t put down a book once you start reading it.
After reading Zsazsa, what got me thinking was that it was a superhero comic – a reimagining of Darna, a superhero I wasn’t really a fan of (well, I’m not really a fan of superheroes in general.). Zsazsa is a story of a gay man managing a small town salon – setting takes care of the gritty urban poor language. The protagonist is very much aware that he is gay and that his hopes of love are but fantasy – gay lingo, check; but he is undeniably attracted to a man working at the bakery across his salon – That Moment sparkles. One day, a stone the size of his two fists drops from the sky and he decides to eat it the way Darna does, and of course, it has the same effect of turning the devourer into a strong woman – pop culture reference, check. Now here comes the dumbfounding part: the protagonist battles Amazon-like women who are at their core man-haters. So, here’s our hero who is depressed that his manhood cannot give him romance and happiness and the villains who also despise mankind. Plus, what gets me unsettled is that I think the main villain is also gay (for those of you who haven’t read it, here’s a spoiler, and for those of you who have read it remember that part when the main Amazona gets her ponytail taken off? Yeah. Am I the only one who thinks that villain is gay, too?). Go wrap your head around that.
Now, for Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady. The genre itself, I think, takes care of the first quality: appeal to masses. I haven’t watched a lot of plays, but for those that I’ve seen, there seems to be the need to make the audience laugh – whether from a slapstick character cursing or macho-dancing extra. And trust me, among all minor characters, these kinds always get the loudest claps from the audience. But I digress. Let’s get to the more important point: what’s so dumbfounding about Leading Lady?
For one: Well, whose story is it? Who is the leading lady?
I came to the venue thinking it would be the big name on the poster: Frenchy Dy. She’s Mely, the first character who gets up on stage, and possibly the biggest celebrity there too (considering she has been on TV). That first scene set me up that Leading Lady is her story. But, as the play progresses from one scene to the next, it seemed that Mely’s character doesn’t seem to be changing much And – SPOILER – she even fails as the superhero named Leading Lady; and she even says at the end “Handa ka na bang maging leading lady, Viva?” (Are you ready to be a leading lady, Viva?) to her sister. So, what a play on roles and character!
Another aspect of Leading Lady that’s possibly overlooked (just because we don’t normally overanalyze something that’s so commercial) is the two superhero factions and the language they use: Fuerza Filipina, the league of English-speaking superheroes, and Kayumanggilas, the Tagalog-speaking, English-carabao-trying anti-heroes. The former treated as superheroes and the latter treated as the villainous ones. I am most struck by the production number of the latter faction singing about their jolog-selves, asking how or why the people of the Republic trust the English-speaking, celebrity-stat, foreign-named superheroes than their balut-and-isaw-eating neighbors, the fair-skinned over the dark-skinned. And who wins in the end?
None. Both factions were killed by — Maybe, I should stop spoiling and just get you thinking. After all, that’s what Carlo Vergara did to me.
Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady: The Musical is still on stage: ticketworld.com.ph.