Colma: The Musical

By some yard sticks (meter sticks – need to transition from imperial to metric) Tuesday night’s film festival operations were not incredibly busy.  But by other measurements, the day was really packed.

Of the eight shows Tuesday night, only two were sold out.  But both were the back-to-back 700 seat auditoriums and the first show started 10 minutes late and Q&A ran long afterwards.  So we had 400+ people lined up in the hallways outside of the auditorium.  For those of you who’ve been to the Kabuki, you know how small that space is.  For those of you who don’t, it’s a hallways about 150 feet long by 20 feet wide.  And about 300 people had to pass through that area to get to the two auditoriums at the far end of that hall.  Upstairs we have a 80 x 20 foot space where about 200 of the people queued up for the balcony.  Madness.

No comparison to tonight, where of the eight shows, five are sold out including both the large house shows.

But the highlight of the night was the world premier of Colma: The Musical (film by Richard Wong and music, lyrics and story by H.P. Mendoza).  For those who don’t know the Bay Area, Colma is a small town of 1100 between the City and the airport.  It is home to the cemeteries where San Francisco’s dead are buried.  There isn’t much else there except the Serramonte Mall, two Targets (yes, two!), and recently an In-N-Out Burger opened next door to a Krispy Kreme donuts.

The story, mostly plagiarized from their website:

“New York’s got New Jersey, San Francisco’s got the place where Colma stays.” Three friends, fresh out of high school, in the small San Francisco suburb of Colma, where the dead outnumber the living 1,000 to 1, tackle the age old question that has plagued humanity: “Now what?”

Billy is a young actor with big dreams. But there is nothing big about Colma. He is faced with the choice between the easy: being complacent and ending up in a dead end job; or the selfish: going after his dreams regardless of how it affects the people who care about him.

Rodel can be the life of the party – if he feels like it. But at home, with his brother in prison, he carries the pressure of being the “good” kid in his family. Coupled with the loss of his mother, Rodel finds his already waning relationship with his father further strained by a secret he desperately keeps from him.

Maribel basks in her youth and embraces its carefree lifestyle. Turning 19, she begins to realize that youth, like everything else, is temporary, and starts to question whether being young is based on one’s age, attitude or actions.

Together, they unwittingly begin the lifelong process of self-discovery and self-reliance – But at what expense?

The thing that really steals the show is the music.  CDs were available for sale after the show and 18 hours later, the grooves in the disc are noticeably deeper as I’ve been listening and re-listening to the tracks.  Many of the songs are highly infectious.

It was really fantastic in the style of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  I don’t know if Richard and HP will find a distributor, but hope they will.  With some further development I think this could be a really successful stage musical.

A lot of the success of the Festival can be attributed to the great volunteers.  Literally hundreds of people give their time and in theatre operations we have a special group of about a dozen volunteers who work as our House Managers.  They actually have their radios and headsets on, coordinating the start of each show, ensuring the audience is seated, guests are located, introductions are made, Q&A sessions are timely, etc.  It would be difficult to run the Festival without them.

Paul, Mabel, and Serena are three of those House Managers.  They’ve all volunteered for several years now and last night after the last show we went up to the Colma: The Musical after-party where they made silly faces for the camera.


Festival Interns showing their skill at Latin dancing:


I miss Tawn.  Still eleven days to go before I’m home in Bangkok.



3 thoughts on “Colma: The Musical

  1. hahaha… well, I just started the rating scores this year, because a lot people want to have a quick “feel” about my impression overall about a film instead of actually reading it, so I just throw the rating I put on over there. 🙂 It’s for people who don’t read. I should find a way to hide it. I will change the way to show the rating. 🙂 Yeah, tonight is the last day I will see you?

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