The Kitchen Musical: A Premiere Review

Ever since I heard that Filipino pop star and theater actors Karylle and Christian Bautista were tapped to star in a musical series which would be shown throughout Asia, I was rooting for the series to work so that Asia may know true Pinoy talent. I caught the premiere of the 13 episode first season last night on cable and was a bit underwhelmed by the outcome.

The story does not deal with rocket science. Rather, it goes the route of many other romantic comedies or series widely popular in Asia and the US. It deals with an irrepressible poor little rich girl by the name of Maddie Avilon (Karylle), whose father is the owner of a high end restaurant in Singapore. Maddie, along with her childhood friend Daniel (Christian Bautista) land jobs as sous chefs in her father’s restaurant The Avilon. At Maddie’s urging, the restaurant hires top chef Alex Marcus (Stephen Rahman Hughes) as the executive chef. However, the straitlaced Alex becomes hostile towards the boss’s daughter because of her experimental style of cooking and her adventurous spirit when it comes to food. Also, he believes her to be a talentless heiress who only graduated from Le Cordon Bleu because of her father’s money. Adding to the conflict are supporting characters Arthur Acuña as the Avilon’s general manager Harry Shaw and Rosemary Vandenbroucke as Selena Argon, the sommelier of the restaurant who wants to ignite a romantic relationship with Alex.

As custom with a series like this, the female lead will have to spar a lot with the male lead (Alex) in a battle of wills, while of course, another character(s) fills the role as the other guy/girl to complete the love triangle, or square for that matter. And for all intents and purposes, the show’s creators managed to establish that.

The show is off to a good start because they put together a great pool of talent from various areas of the entertainment sphere to form their cast. Cast members even went to a boot camp to learn behavior and the system in cooking and operating restaurants.

However, what I found problematic was the way that the character of Maddie was written. Maddie should have been headstrong and determined, talented to boot but in the premiere episode entitled The Critic, she came off rather as a stubborn brat who wouldn’t listen to her superior and become part of the team just to make sure that the critic visit will go off without a hitch. Some of her actions (such as waiting around in the kitchen weeping after she was literally chewed off by Alex) are inconsistent with her character.

The musical numbers were, in my opinion a bit lengthy and should have been cut short to be more interesting. The song arrangements were nothing special compared to other series with musical content such as Glee, where production numbers are seamlessly integrated into the flow of the story. For The Kitchen Musical, there were a lot of pregnant pauses in between transitions that gave the feel of the theater (during scene intervals) rather than a well edited series.

In all fairness, the cast is filled with great singers and actors, Asia’s best in fact, so I am holding off judgment until I see more episodes of the series. It has been reported that Pan Asian musical drama, has been picked up for a second season, and that the producers are in talks to bring the series to the US so there must still be something I have yet to discover about this musical drama. I’m keeping my fingers crossed because I would really like this series to boom.

The Kitchen Musical premiered last October 15 and is aired over nTV7 (Malaysia), Studio 23 (Philippines), Metro TV (Indonesia) and AXN in 19 Asian countries.