Posted on 2 Comments

Movie Review : In the Heights

One of the most exciting composers/creators of the music industry at this time is surely Lin-Manuel Miranda. He is currently most known for the hit musical Hamilton which retells the story of the American revolutionary via rap and involves a diverse cast and crew.

Miranda’s first musical was In the Heights, which premiered off-Broadway in 2007. At that time, nobody knew who he was. The New York Times published, “his name was a household name only in his household.” Since then, he has received much recognition and awards through his song “See the Line Where the Sky Meets the Sea” in Disney’s Moana, his role in the revival of Mary Poppins, and eventually Hamilton.

One of the best movie-musical to date

In the Heights was very recently produced into a movie-musical, and I must say it is THE BEST movie-musical up to date. It brings the genre up to another level. It is both movie and musical, and the final product here is a sum far greater than each of its parts.

What struck me most and left me breathless was how the movie was able to get out of the box of cinematography to create unforgettable, magical moments. The two most mesmerizing scenes were Benny and Nina’s dreamy duet “When the Sun Goes Down” and Abuela Claudia’s showstopper subway solo “Paciencia y Fe”. I mean, I’m a huge believer in the power of old ladies. Anthropologist Frances Bowden Affandy once told me that she believed old ladies are the apex of human evolution. They carry so many memories and wisdom in their minds and bodies, that it is no wonder old ladies as often seen as powerful witches. Yet, I have to say, I never see musical solos of glorified old ladies. Here, In the Heights pulled it off with hair-chilling choreography.

Motifs that hit home

The immigrants’ theme is a leitmotif with Miranda, as he himself is also an immigrant. This show focused on Latino-Americans’ lives and values: work hard, save up, make a better future for yourself than where you came from. This is always touching for me. There is one line where Nina’s father says what made me cry:

“This is where you become greater than me. Not because of some fancy degree, but because you can see a future I cannot.”

In the heights

This hit me personally because you know what? My father never said that to me. Never ever. Many times I share my dreams, my work, my passions. But for him, it didn’t matter. All that mattered to him was that I was not living the life girls should live, according to him. He saw one future for me, and that was that. It didn’t matter that I saw a thousand possible futures for myself. It took a long time for me to learn to distrust his figure of authority, and instead go with my guts.

This is why I love In the Heights and Miranda, because all of his work has a strong angle of women empowerment. From Elisa Hamilton to Nina, he always writes women alongside men in the narrative.

The music? Was there any doubt from the beginning? Never.

Posted on 1 Comment

The Last 5 Years, An Off-Broadway Musical

I had the great challenging call of co-producing The Last Five Years in this pandemic. During the process of filming this musical, the cast and crew engaged ourselves in a game of sides. Are we Team Jamie? Or are we Team Cathy? And why? Let’s dig a bit deeper into their relationship.


Cathy


She gives herself completely to Jamie in the relationship and is left “Still Hurting” (according to the title of the first song) after he cheats on various women and leaves her. It’s easy to sympathize with Cathy because she got burned! She got cheated on! Plus she is not as successful in her career, so we feel a certain pity for her.

Her insecurities as an actress affected her sense of self; eventually taking a toll on their relationship.


Jamie


He tastes success quite early on in his career, soon after they began their relationship. He was smitten with Cathy and “all of the ten thousand women” that she was. However, when his writing career continues to bloom, his ego gets inflated. He starts being unsatisfied with their relationship which leads to infidelity with various women.

We can see that in both situations, the relationship deteriorated in accordance with their sense of self. Where Cathy feels smaller and smaller, Jamie feels bigger and bigger. Neither is healthy. Both contribute to the end of the relationship, and both feel they are in the right.

How often do we deal with this in our daily lives! Sometimes we are Cathy, feeling worthless and demanding our loved ones to continuously take care of us. Sometimes we are Jamie, feeling ourselves better than the people around us, thinking we don’t need them anymore.

Ouch.

I think if there is anything I learned from The Last 5 Years process, it is to reflect upon my own sense of self and the relationships I have with the closest ones around me. I am imperfect, and so are them. We are all just doing what we can. Perhaps the question here is, what will happen in the next five years? Will we have learned, will we evolve or change? Or will we be stuck in our same old mindsets and make the same mistakes even if our partner is someone different?

The Last 5 Years is streaming now on kiostix, featuring Andrea Miranda as Cathy and Taufan Purbo as Jamie. Directed by Fonnyta Amran, you can purchase the streaming tickets on Kiostix.

Posted on Leave a comment

Women in Theatre – Podcast Episode 7

About the same time I established the Bandung Philharmonic in 2016, I heard exciting news of a West Side Story production in Jakarta by a community theatre: Jakarta Performing Arts Community. I’m a thespian (musical nerd), and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story has always been a favorite. So imagine my excitement.

To give some context, please know that theatre in Indonesia is still barely a scene. Cut that landscape by half when you’re talking about musical theatre. Now West Side Story is a HUGE production. The Jets, the Sharks, the choreography, the love and the deaths…it’s insane. When I watched the production at the Graha Bakti Budaya theatre, I was honestly impressed!

Fonnyta Amran during the Last 5 Years rehearsal

I remembered thinking who was the director that dared put on such a difficult show in Indonesia? When they called her on stage, it was this tiny figure of a lady, a head shorter than everyone else. Her name was Fonnyta Amran. And this was her first production as a director.

Whoa. I need to keep tabs on this person, I thought. I’d love to work together with them one day and support from the music side, or through other ways. Fast forward to 2021, and I interviewed Fonnyta for this very podcast episode on women in theatre. Not only that, we’re working together on The Last 5 Years, an off-Broadway musical by Jason Robert Brown.

In this podcast, you will hear someone speaking about their true love. And you will want to see this current show we’re working together on. Support women in theatre and buy your tickets now on Kiostix!