HONOLULU THEATRE FOR YOUTH
Alvin Chan, clockwise from lower left, BullDog, Kala'i Stern, Herman Tesoro Jr. and Kristian Lei bring a Filipino folk tale to life in Honolulu Theatre for Youth's production of "The Magical Bird."
Filipino folk tale flies high
Ibong Adarna is a mythical bird who will spit, throw up on stage or put a fellow to sleep.
'The Magical Bird'
Presented by Honolulu Theatre for Youth
On stage: 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Saturday and May 5 and 12
Place: Tenney Theatre, St. Andrew's Cathedral
Tickets: $16 general; $8 youths and seniors
Call: 839-9885 or visit www.htyweb.org
The Honolulu Theatre for Youth's musical comedy "The Magical Bird" delights with its funny characters, arresting arrangements, fabulous costumes and good acting.
Playwright Elizabeth Wong concocted a play from an original Filipino story. Although I grew up in the Philippines, I have never seen the story of Ibong Adarna staged in such a beautiful setting and through such interesting characters.
The story centers on a sultan who has trouble sleeping. His three sons go in search of Ibong Adarna, who, it is hoped, can help their father sleep -- although they are warned that the bird could also turn them into stone.
The bird, a puppet beautifully done in blue feathers with an orange beak, sometimes comes on stage with a carabao. Folk tales have it that the bird loves to sit atop the water buffalo and boss the poor animal around. In this production, the carabao is a multicolored bicycle, equally resplendent with colored sequins and beads.
Other set pieces also are colorful and creative: A tall piece made of straw mat, topped by round shells, colorful ribbons and clever cutwork turns to become a headboard for a fancy bed. On the other end of the stage, an enormous tree with long leaves beams with myriad twinkling lights.
Kudos especially to Kristian Lei, who plays three roles -- a doctor, a singer and a witch -- and animates the puppet bird. She sings sweetly, or shrieks, as necessary. Her finale song is beautiful.
The fancy footwork by the men of the cast -- BullDog, Herman Tesoro Jr., Kala'i Stern and Alvin Chan -- is worthy of circus performers. They play with sticks and poles and even attempt a Filipino folk dance widely known as the tinikling, a tricky form of dancing.
Art, as the saying goes, creates beauty. This production, directed by Eric Johnson, provides much magic and beauty at various levels. Ibong Adarna's magic had to do with making people drowsy, but this show keeps the audience wide awake, and laughing, too.