Jaya, Melai, Atak: More than just laughs

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Zola Gonzalez-Macarambon

 
When the “Just for Laughs Pinoy Style” show opened on Saturday night, 7 October 2015 at L’amour Reception, St. Albans, on stage was a portly man in a platinum afro and bubble gum pink ball gown. It’s Showtime’s funny man Atak delivered some self-deprecating Pinoy-style humor standing on a set draped in satin and lined with vases of delicate looking flowers on pedestals like a young girl’s on her debut. Later on in the show, Jaya makes a backhanded comment about the décor looking exactly like the one at her mother’s, the great comedienne Elizabeth Ramsey’s memorial. When another comedienne, Melai took the stage dancing in a flaming jumpsuit and gold leggings, Pinoy comedy as equal parts grotesque, heart-breaking, and hilarious was delivered hot and whole. What the audience had was more than just beautiful music but the feeling of home.
 
A good part of the front acts Atak and Melai’s comedy were personal stories of rising above the difficulties of life in the Philippines. Melai told stories about starting out in a Pinoy Big Brother audition in General Santos and the simple dream of putting up a vulcanising shop. Atak’s comedy material was his rags to making-do life as comedian in Manila. Excessive modesty was their medium of funny and both can disparage themselves to such lows that Atak would admit to having just a head attached to a body, while other humans have necks. Melai was generous on the self-belittling and calls herself T-Rex. She sent the audience to raucous laughter with her performance of Waray-Waray, a tribute to recently passed Elizabeth Ramsey.
 
At Jaya’s turn, the long trip to the venue was more than worth it. It was a surprise to see such a small woman – only a little over 5 feet tall – when all my life, she was the biggest voice in Philippine television. The vocal control and soulful depth she lent the Basil Valdez classic ‘Sana ay Ikaw na Nga’ deserved a stadium. Even the overplayed pop hit ‘Titanium’ sounded new again when the sharp points in this screaming piece was lent Jaya’s fuller, rounder tone. She also sang the timeless crowd-pleasers, such Ogie Alcasid hits as ‘Nandito Ako,’ ‘Bakit Ngayon ka Lang,’ and ‘Pangako’. There was one bitter-sweet moment when she sang ‘O Holy Night’, making the homeland of early carollers (as early as September) seem far away. But what is a ‘Pinoy style’ show without leaning on the sentimental end of things.
 
There was no shortage of audience participation. They were onstage almost as many times as she was with the crowd in photo ops while singing. Jaya was quick to deliver upon audience request and sang a cappella the folky ‘Matud Nila’ and the Chaka Khan ‘Through the Fire’. Towards late evening, everyone was on their feet singing and dancing to ‘I Will Survive,’ ‘On the Radio,’ and old-time hits like ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody,’ and ‘I’m so Excited’. Indeed, the show was more than just laughs, it was celebration. It was joy. It was profuse gratitude in reflex Pinoy humility (i.e. infinite ‘Thank you, Mams’ and ‘Thank you, Sirs’). It was Filipino community.

(The show was produced by Liz Honey Promotions & Entertainment )

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