Monday, December 20, 2010

CHASING TOFF: Something is Stirring

No photoSomething is stirring
CHASING TOFF By Christopher De Venecia (The Philippine Star) Updated December 20, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

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The cast of The 39 Steps — Michael Williams, Rem Zamora, Jeff Arcilla and Liza Infante| Zoom
A couple of months ago, I was privileged enough to have been invited to the grand launch of Repertory Philippines’ 2011 season at the prestigious Enderun College. Aptly titled, “Something is Stirring,” a cut from Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece and one of my personal favorites, Merrily We Roll Along, I was delighted to see a bevy of Philippine Theater’s finest and upcoming actors coming together to celebrate a renewed promise and excitement over some fantastical new shows from the company that started it all.

More than 40 years in the industry, Repertory Philippines is home to many of our country’s finest talents who have graced both the local and international stage. Lea Salonga, Monique Wilson, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Michael Williams, Audie Gemora, Leo Martinez, Bernardo Bernardo, Ana Abad- Santos, Rem Zamora, Robbie Guevara, Chari Arespacochaga, Liesl Batucan, Miguel Faustmann, Baby Barredo, Joy Virata, and Bibot Amador, the household names that are part and parcel to Rep’s constellation of stars run the gamut.

Rep has been a training ground for many artists who have gone on to work in London, Germany, Macau, Singapore, New York, and Hong Kong, and done our country proud. It is thus befitting that a new home in Ortigas, a new associate artistic director, and five brand new shows for 2011 deserve a seasonal launch in true theatrical fashion.

It’s a known fact that not all great actors make great directors. But there are a few who manage to do both and excel as testament to their inherent talent, instinct, charisma, years of theater training and experience, and some truly great artistry. Enter Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, the “First Lady of Philippine Theater,” now a bona fide theater director, an actor’s director, and Rep’s newly minted associate artistic director. Menchu was at the directorial helm of the 2008 restaging of Stages’ West Side Story (her first!) and the recently concluded Little Women (her second, and for me, one of the best theater pieces of 2010). Both musicals have earned her accolades from amongst the local theatergoing set. Her addition to Rep’s in-house artistic team is one that truly excites.

She relates, “We’ve picked an exciting selection of shows that are sure to stimulate theatergoers.” Enter: The Joy Luck Club (Feb. 4 to Feb. 20). Based on the beloved book by Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club is a chorus of eight voices telling scores of tightly woven stories. It tells of the lives of four Chinese immigrant women and their four American-born daughters, brought together through a single vision of rich complexity — maternal bonds, filial frustrations, native superstitions and cultural divide. The Joy Luck Club will be helmed by famed director, Anton Juan.

Enter: The 39 Steps (March 4 to 20), a comedy thriller based on Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece. I recently saw this on Broadway, and quite frankly didn’t enjoy it. Then again, the material hadn’t yet encountered the genius of Aliw award-winning actress and director Ana Abad Santos. 39 Steps is a fast-paced whodunit “with over 150 zany characters played by a cast of four,” says Yulo. She adds, “There will be non-stop laughs as audiences witness missing fingers, a plane crash and some good ol’ fashioned romance!”

Enter: Shakespeare in Hollywood (April 1 to 7). This is the play that excites me the least. There’s something about Shakespeare that is off-putting to a contemporary theatergoer, more so, the horrific title and ridiculous premise. Shakespeare’s most famous fairies, Oberon and Puck, end up on the Hollywood set of Max Reinhardt’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Smitten by the glitz and glamour of showbiz, they end up playing (who else?) themselves on the silver screen. It sounds to me like a DVD movie you can buy off thetiangge. Unless Rep manages to put a spin to it รก la what Abad Santos did in her fabulousMad Max re-imagination of Hamlet, I’m not so sure that this would be the best way to conclude a Rep season. Then again...

Off to better things: Seussical the Musical (Aug. 13 to Dec. 11). Repertory has always had a special place for young audiences through its Children’s Theater. Conceptualized by Joy Virata, Rep’s former associate artistic director, its aim is to train the new generation to make theatergoing a regular habit. Now, if only schools would make an effort to train their students to observe proper theater etiquette as Lea Salonga has previously written about in her column. For Seussical, Tony Award-winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Ragtimeand Once on this Island) bring to life the colorful characters from the Jungle of Nool to the Circus McGurkus to the invisible world of the Whos.

And finally: Peter Pan (Sept. 29 to Oct. 30), an exciting collaboration between Repertory Philippines and Stages which will be staged at the Meralco Theater. With the exception of Peter Pan, all Rep shows are usually staged at the Onstage Theater in Greenbelt 1. With actor Sam Concepcion in the title role, joined by Tippy dos Santos as Wendy, the show will be co-directed by Jaime del Mundo and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo. George Stiles and Anthony Drew (Honk! and Disney’s Mary Poppins) are composer and lyricist of the show. Peter Pan is a spectacular musical where the actors will fly right before the audience’s eyes.

Something is indeed stirring for Repertory Philippines. With the addition of Yulo and five new shows for its 2011 season, audiences will surely realize why nobody does a show like Rep does. For ticket inquiries and other information, call Repertory Philippines at 571-6926, 571-4941, or email Tickets are also available at Ticketworld at 891-9999 or

Friday, December 17, 2010


It's been six years since you passed away. Hope wherever you are, you're well and okay. Love you very much KC =) I know I don't think about you as much anymore - but you're always in my heart =)

By Christopher de Venecia

I dreamt once of a child who walked by her mother’s side,
She ran through valleys, scaled mountains, and crossed oceans far and wide.
She spoke her mind, loved adventure, and set off to conquer the world
One journey after another, her legacy unfurled…

There was a hunger in her eyes that showed so much spark,
Her insatiable passion could overthrow the dark,
She was a light that brought fondness to all of our hearts,
Until such time tragedy tore us apart.

I dreamt once of a child who spoke with so much hope,
Who, despite extraordinary circumstances, had learned to cope,
Cousin, daughter, sister, and to most, a friend,
Her unwavering loyalty transcended ‘til the end…

She was unique, in any form, shape or way
Her radiance was unlike any that had ever seen the day,
She was a ray of sunshine that always shone bright,
But the flames were overwhelming that one awful night…

I dreamt once of a child who waited for life to start,
Her future ahead of her – so much excitement in her heart
She could’ve sang a few songs, taken up fashion, or law,
She had a way of seeing things that kept us in awe…

She was everything a star had destined to become
Living life to the fullest would become her solemn psalm
She became her own woman, tore away the silver spoon,
But like a thief in the night, her life was gone too soon.

I dreamt once of a child that had simply been away
on a very long sojourn, in Paris, Rome, or Saint Tropez,
That I’d walk into a room, and she’d finally be back
as we catch up on her travels and I help her unpack…

Her absence has made my heart grow fonder,
I talk with her continuously, hug her tight, then wonder,
“Will this beautiful reverie ever come to an end?”
And then I awoke, short of breath – my tears all spent.

It was just another dream – happiness and then pain,
The thought of your passing is more than I can take,
KC, my dear KC who left me all too soon,
How are you? Are you happy? I look towards the moon.

Six years have passed KC since you left us here,
The wounds are less, but not completely healed,
I know that we can rendezvous in the happiest of dreams
But happiness is not always what it seems.

I am happy that you are with our Maker
But I’d be happier if you left us much, much later,
When we’re all together old, and all together grey,
For now, as forever, I solemnly pray:

I look forward to the day that I’ll get back my friend,
Dear Lord, strengthen me, comfort me ‘til the end.
For now, I’ll take comfort in passing butterflies,
Pick up the pieces, strive to live, as my hopeful compromise,

I love you KC with all my heart,
Dear Lord, through my countenance, KC will never depart.
Six years will be seven, and seven will be ten,
‘til such day, we finally will meet again.


Saturday, December 11, 2010


Grab a copy of this month's issue of STATUS Magazine =)
Wrote a piece on New York-based photographer Jimmy Fontaine...

Monday, December 6, 2010


No photo'Coz everything is 'Rent'
CHASING TOFF By Christopher De Venecia (The Philippine Star) Updated December 06, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

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Fredison Lo as Mark Cohen, Mian Dimacali as Maureen Johnson, and Jenny Villegas as Joanne Jefferson in Rent, which will have a limited run of eight performances at the Power Plant Cinema 2 starting Dec. 8| Zoom
If there’s one musical that perfectly captures the angst and essence of our generation, it’s probably Jonathan Larson’s rock opera, Rent — a Tony and Pulitzer award-winning neo-contemporary masterpiece based on Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme. The show, which opened in Broadway back in 1996 and holds the record of being the ninth-longest-running show on Broadway before closing in 2008, tells the story of young bohemians struggling to survive in the Lower East Side boroughs of Alphabet City during the rise of a mysterious virus known as AIDS. The show is also responsible for popularizing the hit song Seasons of Love, which is sung by the entire cast during the opening of Act 2.

There is probably no man on earth who hasn’t heard of the popular jukebox tune. A permanent fixture on commercial sound systems and radio stations during the Holiday season,Seasons of Love is also a fail-safe go-to for most Valentine’s concerts and even during weddings (I recently attended one that played it during the processional). I mean, how can you not fall in love or get all fuzzy with a song that counts the many ways in which a person can measure a year in his or her life? “In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee,” the means are endless. But for Roger, Mimi, Maureen, Angel, Collins, and the bohemians of Alphabet City, audiences come to realize just this — in a year lambasted with poverty, adversity, disease, and existentialist struggle entangled with an artist’s plight for self-actualization, every minute counts.

525,600 minutes — Jonathan Larson conceptualized the powerful numeric that follows after the momentous opening beats of Seasons of Love, subsequently giving rise to the many pillars through which musical theater stands today. As we’ve mentioned, there’s Seasons of Love that strikes a chord in the hearts of young and old alike, not to mention the many other songs that comprise the powerful score that Larson created right before his untimely death on the day that Rent officially opened in the Great White Way.
Sheree Bautista plays Mimi Marquez
Also, the show, through its powerful message of love and “No Day But Today,” was able to shed light on such issues as AIDS, HIV, and homosexuality – matters that were once seen as taboo to the general populace. Rent also popularized “The Lottery” system, an avenue through which financially challenged theatergoers are able to afford premium tickets to go see a play on Broadway as Larson himself had dealt with financial struggle while serving as a waiter at the Moondance Diner.

Furthermore, the show was able to jumpstart the careers of Adam Pascal, Taye Diggs, and Idina Menzel who played Roger, Benny, and Maureen respectively in the original cast. Menzel would eventually play Elphaba in the hit Broadway show, Wicked and Rachel Berry’s mom in Glee.

Overall, the show’s greatest contribution to Broadway was that it was able to rehash and redefine the rules of musical theater through its rock-operatic score — eventually enabling such musicals as Spring AwakeningNext to Normal and American Idiot to conquer the Great White Way.

For the holiday season, 9 Works Theatrical and Power Plant Cinema proudly bring back “the musical that changed the face of Broadway forever,” Rent which had sold-out performances last February at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in RCBC. Due to insistent public demand, Rent is back for a limited run at the Power Plant Cinema 2.

Robbie Guevara directs 9 Works Theatrical and Power Plant Cinema’s Rent.
Returning to the show is Gian Magdangal as Roger Davis who will be sharing the stage this time around with real-life girlfriend Sheree Bautista as Mimi Marquez. Sheree, a former member of the Viva Hot Babes, will be alternating with stage veteran Amparo Sietereales who played the role of Mimi many years back in a previous staging of Rent. Also returning to the show are Fredison Lo as Mark Cohen, OJ Mariano as Tom Collins, AJ Bautista as Angel, Jenny Villegas as Joanne Jefferson, and Mark Tayag, Gary Junsay, Johann dela Fuente, Harold Cruz, and Peachy Atilano as part of the ensemble.
For the December run, they will be joined by Mian Dimacali who bravely tackles the role of Maureen Johnson, Lorenz Martinez as Benny, Sab Jose as Alexi Darling, and Pam Imperial as the Homeless Lady who sings the powerful high note in Seasons of Love.

The show is directed by Robbie Guevara, with musical direction by Onyl Torres and Ricky Villante, set design by Mio Infante, lights design by Martin Esteva, sound design by Chuck Ledesma, costume styling by Bek Soriano, and additional choreography by Francis Matheu.

Rent will have a limited run of eight performances at the Power Plant Cinema 2, Dec. 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 (8 p.m.), and Dec. 10, 11, and 12 (4 p.m.). Get your tickets now at the Power Plant Cinema ticket booth. For tickets, call 898-1440 or 898-1441, or 0908-8692988.

Rent is brought to you by Rockwell Land, Rockwell Club, Power Plant Mall, Metro Society, Velvet Channel, and Basement Salon, and is presented through a special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI), 421 West 54th Street, New York, New York 10019 – tel: (212) 541