ON its 35th anniversary this year, Teatro Tomasino updated Hans Christian Andersen’s children’s tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and adapted it for the stage.

Directed by Hotel and Restaurant Management alumnus John Lapus and written by Carlos Palanca Memorial awardee George de Jesus III, D’Emperor was staged at the Albertus Magnus Auditorium Nov. 27 to 29.

The adaptation refocused the original story’s concerns from the royalty to the fashion industry.

The play begins at the struggling Le Fashion Empire du Jour Fashion House, where the staff is busy interviewing Benedicta Belen, an applicant for the fashion blogger position. Benedicta allows herself to be convinced that she needs to change her image in order to fit into her new job. Christened with a new name and wardrobe, Bebe is slowly inducted into the empire by Myra, the manager; Paul, the personal assistant; Pat, the public relations officer; and Peter, the photographer.

Garbed in fabulous fabrics and glistening high heels, Bebe is introduced to the vain and narcissistic fashion emperor, Emman. A man obsessed with extravagant fashion and with no concern for anyone but himself, Emman is slowly burning his fashion empire to the ground. In an effort to save it, and to keep the emperor pleased, the staff decide to showcase him in a new, one-of-a-kind outfit in the annual fashion show.

Tasked to create the emperor’s outfit are Coco and Sazsa, swindlers who dupe him into believing that they have created a unique fabric only those who are competent enough can see. During the show, the audience plays along with the emperor’s belief until a little girl from the crowd shouts that the emperor has nothing on. When the emperor refuses to believe her, saying that the opinion of a little girl with no credibility would not matter, Bebe exposes him in her blog as a pompous narcissist.

Feeding the little children

With gay themes and pop-culture slang, the play showcased a unique take on a classic tale. Witty one-liners and trendy topics were integrated into the script, eliciting laughter from the audience.

It helped that the art direction was aided by contributions from fashion designers Rajo Laurel, JC Buendia and Dada Suarez, stylists Bang Pineda and Bing Cristobal, and internationally-acclaimed shoe designer Kermit Tesoro.

But at nearly two hours and a half, the play was too long. There were too many drawn-out scenes, obviously made to flesh out the characters, who were mainly stereotypes, and make up for their basic one-dimensionality. The monotony was made worse by the amateur musical performances. And because the play aimed more at slapstick and pop-culture trendiness, the significance of its message might have been lost.

But perhaps the production could be refined. One should always hope for the best for Teatro Tomasino, which was established by Professor Myrna Hilario in March 1977 to gather and train students with a passion for theater and the performing arts. The passion has been by and large been sustained for 35 years, although one may have reservations if a more-than-two-hour production of what's basically a fashion-world and gay parody of a simple children's story could really be a fitting way to celebrate such a milestone.


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