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A Brew of Divinity at Club Mwah

Years ago, people were delightfully applauding him as he sprinkled the audience with the Cabaret magic of Liza Minnelli. But tonight, Cris Nicholas was rocking the stage as Tina Turner.

This live entertainment grandiosity only happens on Fridays and weekends at the Club Mwah Theatre along Boni Avenue, a jeepney ride away from the big malls of Mandaluyong City.  As I grabbed my third bottle of beer, Cris was done doing a lip sync performance of Proud Mary.

Using recordings from concerts, Cris walked into the stage in between performances by the his "Follies de Mwah", the ensemble of resident dancers of the theater. In fairness to him that night, he was a degree away from being the real Tina.

The Making of Sixteen Years 

Performing is just one side of Cris who directs, choreographs, and does everything to create a good show for anyone heading to Club Mwah. 

Together with Pocholo Malillin, who co-owns the theatre, Cris thanked everyone in that night. The most recognizable from the audience were Mikey Bustos and his boyfriend. 

I was actually speechless, trying to think of the word that best describes the show. Deep inside me, I was wondering about the amount of effort, time and passion Cris and Pocholo have invested in the theatre just keep things running for 16 years.

The dancers, who performed Burlesque, Dreamgirls, Chicago, and other Las Vegas and Broadway-signature shows, were simply impressive. The dancers did their job well -- the feathers were just decors. 

According to Cris, it took him time to teach his ensemble who were mostly transgenders.  However, two of the dancers who did male characters were actually- without a joke - straight men!

In screening his dancers, the skill is a secondary requirement. For him, attitude is more important.

“Masarap magturo sa (dancer na) willing matuto,” scored Nicolas. 

Together with the Follies de Mwah, Cris and Pocholo did a risky attempt of recreating the splendid elements of elite productions in America. And the 16 years of continuous showbiz existence tells us the risk was merely an opportunity. 

The Legacy of Glamorous Shows

Club Mwah was a product of Cris' travel to the US during his days helping Filipino entertainers achieve their dreams in Japan. Upon his return to the Philippines, he decided to develop the Vegas type of entertainment. 

In conceptualizing, Cris picks only the classic entertainment characters and shows. This is the exact reason why the wig of Tina Turner has a space at Club Mwah while Britney Spears may require more work from the real Britney. 

Talking about the secret why the show is a perfection, Cris stressed about the importance of property variation and sequencing. 

My favorite act that night was actually "Singkil" which is an original. I realized that some Filipino folk dances - when properly choreographed - could also be turned into grand Vegas-type show. 

While the dancers were glammed up and decorated with excessive ornaments, the cultural  and moral value of the Maranao folk dance was totally preserved. It is my wish that this original act would get a full show from Club Mwah.


Upcoming: A Comedy Bar
In the final quarter of 2019, Cris and Pocholo are launching a comedy bar behind the theatre that would offer two promises.

First, the audience will laugh without hurting someone's dignity or feelings. It will have comic acts that require no form of bullying of someone from the audience just to deliver a cheap punch line. 

Second, the audience will give tip if they wanted to. The new unpleasant bar culture of demanding tip from the audience is giving comedy bars a bad taste. 

Of course, the Follies de Mwah will also be performing in the comedy bar-- if they do not have out-of-town schedules.

Asked what characters would he love to play in the coming shows, Cris admitted he really loved to do Beyonce. In fact, he already bought a wig in Dubai in case he finds Ms. Carter his next alter ego.

We were actually thinking of everyone favorite, Barbra Streisand. But Cris believed it would be a challenge to put Barbra's nose on his face. 

Adding to the secret why Club Mwah has stood the test of time, Pocholo said Club Mwah only gives “clean fun”. It is true that while the most dancers were transgenders, there was no nudity, vulgar words, or anything that were done with art as an excuse. 

However, I thought of another secret- the grand chandeliers hanging in many corners of the theatre. When you go there, have a count. 

To book Follies de Mwah for corporate events and celebrations in any offsite venues, contact Club Mwah now: 


Note from the Blogger: Special thanks to publicist Robert Silverio, and bloggers Raul Barque and Harold Uy.

Christian is a Marketing Communications practitioner in Quezon City. He is an Igorot from Sagada, Mountain Province. To get in touch with him, please shoot an email to christianaligonow@gmail.com.


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