Tanghalang Pilipino kicks off its 27th season with its first play, “Sandosenang Sapatos.” Based on the Palanca award-winning children’s book by Luis Gatmaitan, the story is brought to life on stage by playwright Layeta Bucoy (of Stageshow and Walang Kukurap fame), musical directors Noel Cabangon and Jed Basalmo, and director Tuxqs Rutaquio.
Sapatos narrates the story of a shoemaker who is townwide famous for creating one-of-a-kind shoes for any occasion that one can think of. His dream is to have a ballerina for a daughter so that he can make the best ballet shoes for her. Karina, the shoemaker’s eldest daughter, attempted to fulfill her father’s wishes by enrolling in ballet classes, only to find her haven in fine arts instead. Thus, the father longed for another daughter who could hopefully make his wish come true. Life however had other plans when his daughter Susie (played by the captivating Trixie Esteban) was born with incapacitated limbs.
However, not all is lost for our little wheelchair- bound heroine. Every night in her sleep she visits “Dreamland,” a magical place where she can escape all of life’s harsh realities and do anything beyond the constraints of her condition. Here, she grows a pair of legs, puts on a specially- tailored pair of ballet shoes that her father made, and dances with the bubbly and lively personifications of her father’s “shoes” as they spring to life and invite her to dance with each one of them. However, on the eve before her twelfth birthday, the Diwata ng mga Sapatos (played by Tessa Prieto- Valdez) appears, and Susie makes a wish to grant her a pair of legs in the real world so that her father could see her dance before it’s too late. The succeeding events that slowly unfurl become an inspiring light at the end of the tunnel scenario that genuinely captures what it truly means to give and receive love, affection, and support from the people who matter the most.
Everything comes to life in this one-hour musical that showcases the love a family has for each other. It is also in line with the theme Tanghalang Pilipino set for this season, which revolves around the father figure as the hero. Underneath its light and colorful presentation lies a tearjerker story of unbreakable family ties, a differently-abled patient’s constant battle against discrimination, and most of all, a father’s unconditional love that transcends even the boundaries of dreams and reality. Indeed, the play is mainly targeted at children, but it also has the emotional capability to touch the hearts of adults as you empathize with Trixie’s impeccably placed notes during her solo parts. Moreover, she is a selfless daughter who wants to obtain nothing else in this world but the fruition of her father’s wishes before everything is too late. This is the type of story that will make you appreciate everything that life offers.
Simplicity is the key to Sandosenang Sapatos. It’s not a full blown musical that involves constantly-changing backdrops or elaborate moving props, because it involves only a simple wooden stage in the shape of an eight with two ramp-like outcrops on them and a small orchestra playing at the side. It is a very unique way of staging plays to be honest. The play brings forth its magic utilizing only a small orchestration, effective lighting, and vivid pastel-colored costumes, which can easily attract one’s attention. Special mention goes to the Diwata ng mga Sapatos, whose over-the-top dress strung with dangling little shoes and complemented by an equally elaborate headdress is simply a sight to behold. Bonus points to the fact that many of the actors had to perform the entire repertoire while wearing inline skates!
On the downside, the instrumentals can get loud at times, which can drown out the actors` singing (the fact that most of the actors had no microphones did not help at all). This is considering the fact that the lyrics hold the story in a musical. One has to pay close attention, which might mean leaning forward or sitting at the edge of the seats from time to time in order to be able to understand them.
From its basic set to the smooth plot, the one-hour musical gives viewers very powerful lessons to take home and contemplate on. Whether it is about being more respectful and fighting for the right of people who are differently-abled to loving one’s family, everyone will be able to take something from the show.