Folies de Mwah takes risk with revamp to stay on top
To deconstruct literally means to take something apart. When performing artists-entrepreneurs Cris Nicolas and Pocholo Malillin of Club Mwah in Mandaluyong sat themselves down late last year to take a critical look at their successful 11-year-old girls-and-gays Vegas-type revue, they ended up revamping it almost entirely.
Almost, because obviously many aspects of it had to stay intact. The flamboyant costumes, for one; the eclectic music, the gay-ness of the concept that somehow slides smoothly into occasionally lyrical, always eye-popping numbers; the runaway audience favorite, Folies de Mwah’s take on “Cell Block Tango,” from “Chicago.”
“Even the best live shows should adjust to changing tastes and new audiences, and upgrade if necessary,” Malillin, who sits on top of business management, told the Inquirer.
Changing tastes came with the new audiences, actually. “Folies de Mwah,” (which refers to both the revue and the troupe) has been performing outside of its home on Boni Avenue for the past several years. It has done private functions and bigger halls like Newport Theater in Resorts World Manila.
Possibly, new audiences came with rave reviews, including an equivocal thumbs-up from Lonely Planet, which described “Folies” as Manila’s best tranny show, and the club as “incredibly shiny, sparkly and simply fabulous.”
Malillin and Nicolas, the creative partner (choreography, design, direction, costumes, music), are taking a chance on the current revamp without one of the previous versions’ big stars, the comic Chaka.
More male roles
“We’ve asked several girls and gays to take a break,” said Malillin, “some only because they’ve failed to take care of themselves, physically.”
There are more straight men in the new show, taking on roles not available to the few male performers previously, among them a dancing prince in the Singkil number. Every number is meticulously outfitted, lit and executed, but none as painstakingly as this Maranao suite.
And to the apparent approval of longtime patrons, Nicolas has upped his stage exposure (priceless impersonations) by 200 percent, in both frequency and power wattage. His Patti Labelle is compelling; his Tina Turner, a hoot—which should leave his Jennifer Hudson and Diana Ross cross, but they measure up in hilarity.
“Cris loves to perform,” said Malillin. “I still can’t explain how he does it—I mean, everything—when there are still only 24 hours in a day. He even designed and supervised the installation of our new lobby displays.”
It helps that they own the building (Tower Venue), which also houses a rehearsal studio.
“These are tough times for independent entertainment businessmen like us,” Malillin noted. “We stay one step ahead of ourselves by constant innovation and practice. It’s not easy, but at the end of every show, we always feel this is what we were born to do.”
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