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 á 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are also available at Ticketworld at 891-9999 or www.ticketworld.com.ph.