Sabel, Love and Passion: A Musical Production is an original Filipino musical inspired by the life of National Artist for Visual Arts Benedicto ‘BenCab’ Cabrera‘s long-time muse, the crazy dancing lady named Sabel. Throughout his artistry, BenCab created numerous variations of Sabel. And the thought of a Sabel variation as a musical constantly challenged BBC journalist, art collector, BenCab’s friend, and brainchild of this project Rico Hizon since 2003.
Hizon, who graced the audience with a short introduction prior to the much-awaited showcase, candidly shared that everything started over a decade ago, when they saw in a coffee-table book a feature on dancers interpreting Sabel at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Sabel, a musical, he asked himself. He then turned to musical director and composer Louie Ocampo, who then went to Director Freddie Santos. The challenge was, indeed, accepted. However, amidst several talks of a production, the musical had not seen light until April of this year. Finally, last Thursday (April 30), thanks to the collaborative work pursued by Ocampo and Santos, and everyone behind BenCab’s 50 Creative Years, a sea of guests flocked to the Theater at Solaire to witness the successful World Premier Gala of Sabel, albeit the heavy traffic caused by the coinciding concert that evening.
Reverb Manila first found out about the production when Ms. Iza Calzado started posting tidbits about Sabel via her Instagram account over a month ago. And although only a few articles surfaced in the weeks that followed, we had to rely on the cast members to spoil us with updates regarding the progress via social media.
With The Antoinette Taus for Sabel.❤️ Exciting times ahead!😊 #fanmodemoment #Repost @antoinettetaus with @repostapp. ・・・ At rehearsal last night with this lovely lady and her amazing voice!🙌🙌 Twas fun chatting with you @aicellesantos! Hehe.😘 Watch out for our super special project #comingsoon to #Solaire! 🎶🎹🎻❤️🙏 @missizacalzado #Sabel #BenCab
#Sabel rehearsals at Solaire with @aicellesantos, Bo Cerrudo, @timmypavino and @missizacalzado 💜🌟🙆🎶 #BenCab ||| Please do not miss this exclusive one night affair. "Sabel: Love and Passion" a musical theater production featuring The Philippine Ballet Theater and the incomparable @missizacalzado as #Sabel. I will be singing as Sabel side by side with such incredible voices @aicellesantos, @timmypavino, Bo Cerrudo and Audie Gemora.🙌🙌 See you all tomorrow night, April 30, at The Theatre at Solaire. 🌟🌟🌟 <<FOR TICKETS: Please call 0928.691.3334 or 0915.741.2362>> #SabelLoveAndPassion |||
We knew instantly that Sabel, Love and Passion: A Musical Production was relevant.
For those who missed out, Reverb Manila gives you ten reasons why Sabel is not your average musical production.
10 | In a world where even visual art has gone digital, it’s quite hard to find avenues that strike a balance between modern and traditional visual art forms. However, the production had allowed its viewers to experience the best of both worlds, in fact even marrying other art forms imaginable – song, ballet, poem – which all came together as one grand production that is Sabel.
The stage employed a rather minimalist design, consisting of asymmetrical canvasses that were assembled to frame and add dimension to the stage. It was beautiful enough being simple. But wait until it drastically transforms through the help of strong imageries projected via LCDs, transporting us to different eras, unraveling the deepest emotions in the story. There was even a scene where the paintings projected on the panel would follow the young character Miguelin‘s hand as he painted on the canvass. It was refreshing to have witnessed such visual effects.
9 | It’s the only time you get to see all of BenCab’s works since most, if not all, of them now belong to somebody else.
8 | Iza Calzado makes a grand theater debut. In her Instagram account, Calzado said: “I am over the moon with joy because I’m finally doing my first theater/stage production! Though it is not exactly a straight play I think it’s a great start to doing stage work. Yes, I am still nervous but I hope my angels guide me so I can give a heartfelt performance on Thursday. Here with me in the photo is Bianca Trocino from the Philippine Ballet Theatre dancing as Sabel. She is amazing on stage. And so are Antoinette Taus and Aicelle Santos who will be the voice(s) of Sabel. Brilliant Women! Together I hope we get to bring Sabel to life! See you at Solaire at 8pm on Thursday.”
She’s a mainstream success as a TV/Film actress, but the beautiful Calzado was such a delight even onstage. She delivered deeply moving narrations that made us shed a few tears here and then, and we’re pretty sure the audience, too, felt her joy, her pain, her longing through every word and movement. Iza’s angels had, indeed, guided her well throughout the night.
7 | The Power of Dance. It’s one of those few musicals that put the spotlight on dancers.
We seldom get to see a musical that gives an amazing amount of credit to dancing since productions tend to focus more on the singing aspect to judge if a musical is good over all. It was great to see these ballet dancers dominate the stage. They were composed of very young and talented individuals who are part of the Philippine Ballet Theatre, by the way. They stood out on their own, without being overshadowed by the stellar voices behind each of the main characters.
6 | You’ve got a Triple A powering all-original compositions plus two balladeers to complete an outstanding vocal showcase.
TRIPLE A. Theater veteran and Audie Gemora, Former child star Antoinette Taus, and Rak of Aegis’ Aicelle Santos exceeded expectations in their moving solo performances of Look at Her, In Love, and Smoke and Mirrors. Balladeers theater veteran Bo Cerrudo and The Voice of the Philippines Season 1 contestant Timmy Pavino excellently lent their voices to the characters of Luis and Miguelin respectively, alongside Philippine Ballet Theatre’s Ian Ocampo and Matthew Davo.
5 | Put two bigwigs in the live performance industry Mr. Freddie Santos and Mr. Louie Ocampo together as director and musical director and you get a production that’s no less than world-class.
Kudos to a masterfully written narrative poetry by Direk Freddie Santos and musical direction by lyricist and composer Mr. Louie Ocampo.
4 | The storyline screams Pinoy. It’s pretty simple yet it works.
The plot is simple and realistic for anyone to understand and relate with. The audience didn’t need to rack their brains to understand what the story was about. The story has a certain teleserye twist to it. It would reveal how the motherless protagonist would lose her father in his sickness, fall in love and get her heart broken by a man who abandoned her. Her misfortune drives her mad, causing her to abandon her son. It would then take years for them to find each other. Oftentimes a family memento would help, which in this case, was in the form of a necklace. See, these elements make the material unmistakably and genuinely Pinoy. The values demonstrated by these characters are very much reflective of the Filipino culture, with emphasis on often abstracted concepts, such as: family, love, hope, and resilience.
3 | So we just mentioned that the story was simple; and yet, Sabel had to be portrayed by five characters.
The material somewhat reminds you of Katy the Musical. If you would recall, Katy’s character was divided into three in order to define a particular stage in the character’s life. The intricate dimensions of Sabel’s character inevitably required that she be played by not just three but five characters (as narrating, dancing, and singing Sabels) to walk the audience through Sabel’s colorful journey from being a motherless child, losing her father, falling victim to war, to falling madly in love, and becoming a mother.
2 | The songs used in the production have the makings of a classic. The lyrics to each song was poetically written yet easily understandable. The songs had a lot of recall, thanks to their beautiful melodies. The emotions created were ripe; and the songs, undeniably heartfelt. Our personal favorites are Look at Her and Smoke and Mirrors.
1 | We finally answer the question, Who is Sabel? Long before she became the crazy bag lady slash taong grasa, and the muse behind BenCab’s artistry, she was a woman who loved to dance. The story introduces a beautiful love story between Miguel and Consolacion, who would then give birth to Sabel. Since she was born at a critical time of Philippine history, we would experience with her the unfolding of several historical events. It was a difficult time for a lot of Filipinos, and Sabel was no exception.
As Consolacion abandoned her and her father, Miguel was left to raise the helpless Sabel on his own. But the misfortune did not end there. Still very young and unaware of the dangers of the world, Sabel would lose her father after he suffered from a serious health condition, leaving poor Sabel to figure out her life through the next few decades, alone.
She would live through the World War II as a warrior, a comfort woman to the enemy soldiers, a nightclub headliner in the cabaret era, and a lover…
We also learn that even love can destroy you through and through. When Luis left her, both unaware that she was bearing his child – their child, her life began to fall apart. She had lost herself. A deranged woman would now take to the streets in search of scraps of plastic she finds and piece them together into something she could wrap around her body. It was a beautiful symbolism; Sabel wanders off to pick up the missing pieces of herself that was wasted away.
BenCab saw through her. She had many dimensions to her life. No wonder she’s come to be a recurring image in his works as a visual artist.
We saw through her, too. We can no longer perceive Sabel as the deranged lady who wandered off to nowhere. Sabel was a courageous woman whose spirit may have been crushed due to several unfortunate, heartbreaking moments in her life, but what we need to remember is that, Sabel had loved passionately – even foolishly – with all her heart. Only, she’s lost so much in her life that she in turn lost herself. The story offers stark insights on the dangers of loving selflessly. We can lose ourselves. But life also teaches us that hope abounds – that anything lost can be found.
That’s why Sabel is a story of hope. Sabel had the happy ending her heart truly deserved, as she reunited with a father she thought she had lost, and her son whom she had long abandoned.
And that, my fellow theater fans, is why Sabel, Love and Passion is not your average musical.
Sabel, Love and Passion: A Musical Production will hold its rerun at the Music Museum on June 26 and 27. And we dare all brave souls who have loved and lost to witness a compelling story you’ll forever remember. Get to know Sabel, and join Mr. Cabrera as he continues celebrating 50 remarkable years as visual artist.
Catch it while you can! We can’t wait for you to share with us what you think.
Stay tuned for updates via http://www.reverbmanila.com!