Faded faux-brick walls, dim lights, and eerie writings made by the projectors near the stage are enough to raise the hairs of any patron who walks through the theater doors. Upon entering the venue, however, the props speak of the emotional weight that is to come once the even eerier story begins. Written by Erick Dasig Aguilar and directed by Riki Benedicto, Solomon: The Musical is a single-act musical that portrays the story of Lasallian brother (and now Saint) Solomon Leclercq and his battle with an unjust reformation that threatens to take away his true vocation and his ability to be of service to the people of France.
In the play, its namesake Solomon, then a French Roman Catholic priest, struggles with unjust impositions made by the civil government as a result of the new civil constitution passed. The new fixture in the government forces him to choose between prioritizing his safety or educating underprivileged children who have promising futures in spite of their background and lack of support.
Although the story is factual, the musical adds a twist that not only adds a certain quirkiness to the story, but also shows the timeless aspect of Solomon Leclercq’s life story: it is set in the latter part of the twentieth century. Instead of swords, melee weapons are replaced with guns, and panniers and breeches are replaced with cargo pants and steampunk accessories such as goggles and combat boots. The stark difference between the play’s visual layout and the image given by Solomon Leclercq’s biography makes no difference in the fact that his story is still very much relevant and applicable even in times where almost everything has changed.
However, the dystopian aspect of living in eighteenth century France is also found in the musical’s setting, where destitution, famine, and public unrest are recurring themes. Overall, negative themes plague the storyline of the play, giving a certain realization that Solomon’s life post-French Revolution was a daunting challenge that required willpower and determination.
Photos by Patricia Oliveros
Willpower and determination aren’t the only themes in the story that aim to send out an inspiring message to its viewers. One slogan that is repeated in most of the musical’s scenes is “Equality, Freedom, and Brotherhood,” a slogan that would later on be represented and put into action by Solomon and his fellow brothers in their quest for improving the lives of their countrymen.
Under the musical direction of TJ Ramos, the score for Solomon enhances the emotional appeal of the plot, helping deliver the true emotion behind Solomon’s monologues and dialogues with those around him. Hand-in-hand with choreography, the musical pieces featured in the story make the emotional strife even more recognizable than one may perceive as compared to a normal dialogue, and even add a notable addition of grace to the overall flow of the production.
Equality, freedom, and brotherhood are the play’s main themes that are apt for reflection during this year’s Lenten season. The arduous tasks of Lent are not possible without the freedom to choose the path of discipline and sacrifice, the equality amongst all people to partake in religious tradition, and brotherhood and solidarity shared by all people involved in difficult Lenten traditions, all of which are exemplified by Solomon and his religious brothers in the story.
In addition to the extensive list of lessons that one may take from the musical, the value of faith and service may be learned by patrons as well. Solomon’s never-ending dedication to serving his countrymen and vocation reminds to not only partake in Lenten tasks, such as fasting and abstinence, but to also serve people in the community as well.
The creation of Solomon: The Musical was commissioned by De La Salle Philippines in partnership with De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, De La Salle University, and Benilde Office of Culture and Arts. It premiered at the College’s School for Design and Arts (SDA) Theater from February 28, to March 4.