Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Photo Flash: BIKE WRECK at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, 5/20-6/18 -

by Oliver Oliveros,

New York, May 25, 2011 -- Filipino actor and Obie Award winner Arthur Acuña shares the stage with Michael Louis Wells and Charlie Hudson in Ensemble Studio Theatre's (EST) repeat of Qui Nguyen's 2007 one act dark comedy play Bike Wreck. The play is part of EST's "Marathon 2011: The 33rd Festival of 1Act Plays - Series A" running from May 20 to June 18 at the EST Theatre on West 52nd Street.

In Bike Wreck, Acuña revisits the role of a Chinese food delivery boy, who gets entangled in violent relationships involving an African-American bike messenger (Hudson) and an arrogant white businessman (Wells), he originated four years ago.

Bike Wreck director John Gould Rubin "excellently paces the action so that it's laugh-out-loud funny one moment, then deadly serious the next. He also gets terrific work out of his trio of actors (Acuña, Wells and Hudson) who all deliver finely nuanced performances," said theater reviewer Dan Bacalzo.

Apart from Acuña's current acting stint on Off-Broadway, he's also in town, along with fellow Filipino actor Maritina Romulo, to promote the U.S. premiere of John Sayles' new feature film Amigo slated for August. Amigo, which features Acuña and other Filipino actors, tackles America's first forgotten war: the Philippine-American war in 1900.

EST's "Marathon 2011: The 33rd Festival of 1Act Plays - Series A" also includes In the Middle of the Night by Billy Aronson, directed by Robert Davenport; School Night by J. Holtman, directed by Abigail Zealey Bess, Ten High by Ben Rosenthal, directed by John Giampietro; and Tennessee by Romulus Linney, directed by Harris Yulin.

For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit

For more photos, click HERE

Friday, May 20, 2011 Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID Premieres in Manila, 11/18

by Oliver Oliveros,

Manila, Philippines, May 20, 2011 -- Filipino theatergoers should feel extra grateful to Atlantis Productions (Next to Normal, Legally Blonde) for going the extra mile in bringing some of the most recent Broadway shows to the country, and for creating new audiences for contemporary theater.

Young, bold and enterprising Atlantis Productions wraps up its 2011 season with the Asian premiere of Disney's stage adaptation of The Little Mermaid from November 18 to December 11 at the Meralco Theatre. This comes right on the heels of Atlantis Productions' own productions of Broadway's smash musicals Next to Normal, Disney's Aida and In The Heights.

Atlantis Productions' upcoming staging of the Disney franchise will deliver a slew of firsts:
  • This will be the first international production of Disney's The Little Mermaid in Asia. The show opened on Broadway in 2008 and ran 685 regular performances and 50 preview performances.
  • The production will launch the musical theater debuts of mainstream recording and concert artists Rachelle Ann Go and Erik Santos. Go will play the little mermaid, Ariel; Santos will play Ariel's one true love, Prince Eric.
  • This will be the first production of Disney's The Little Mermaid that incorporates Asian elements into its virtual under the sea scenes. A majority of the cast members will play puppeteer-actors, who control wayang or shadow puppets , bunraku or traditional Japanese puppets and nang kaloung or Cambodian puppets, during certain parts of the show.
The show's Co-Director Bobby Garcia told us that his theater company is so thrilled to be "bringing another beloved Disney classic to the Philippine stage. (Atlantis Productions staged Disney's Beauty and the Beast six years ago) Disney's The Little Mermaid had started the renaissance of Disney's animation department and had some of the most memorable songs written for a classic animation such as Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's 'Part of Your World,' 'Kiss the Girl' and the Oscar winning Best Original Song 'Under the Sea.'"

"Rachelle Ann possesses all the qualities of Ariel. She's spunky, adventurous, kind, generous and she's a dreamer too. She also has one of the most beautiful voices we've heard. I'm sure she'll thrill audiences the way she thrilled us during the auditions. On the other hand, I've known Erik since he started his show biz career. He's one of the most hardworking and passionate performers around. He has an incredible singing voice. And I'm thrilled that he's finally making his musical theater debut as Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid," Garcia, who will be co-directing the show with Chari Arespacochaga, added.

Staging Disney's The Little Mermaid is no easy feat to pull off. Even the show's songwriter, Menken, at first, had his doubts.

"I really hadn't thought about The Little Mermaid for the stage, for the challenge of being under the sea," he said in a previous interview. "As everyone knows, that was one of the difficulties. But once the show's Broadway director Francesca Zambello started working with scenographer George Tsypin -- his sets use light in this brilliant way that takes it on to look aquatic or look like the sea, along with all the other stage craft that's available to us -- then it became possible."

The expensive production cost also took toll on the original Broadway venture, which had a full-scale ship with sailors on board; lavish sets and costumes; and merfolks strapped on their rollerblades instead of their flying harnesses. The show closed on Broadway two years ago. Its first U.S. national tour was scheduled to begin in the fall of 2010. However, Disney later announced that the tour will be rescheduled this year.

We saw one of the last performances of Disney's The Little Mermaid on Broadway, which starred Chelsea Morgan Stock as the lovelorn mermaid, Ariel; Drew Seeley as Ariel's love interest, Prince Eric; Faith Prince as the sea witch, Ursula; and Norm Lewis as the sea king, King Triton two summers ago. Even though some of Menken and Broadway lyricist Glenn Slater's additional songs were rather plain and unmemorable and the towering King Triton on his rollerblades was downright distracting, the show was perfectly tailored fit for young theatregoers.

We highly recommend Filipino parents to bring their children to see Disney's The Little Mermaid.

Atlantis Productions' upcoming staging of Disney's The Little Mermaid will feature choreography by Cecile Martinez, set design by Lex Marcos, costume design by Eric Pineda, lighting design by Jay Aranda, puppetry design and execution by Liz and Benny Batoctoy and Sam Fuentes and vocal coaching by ManMan Angsico.

Disney's The Little Mermaid at the Meralco Theatre is made possible through a special licensing agreement with Music Theatre International.

Atlantis Productions 2011 Season also includes Disney's Aida from June 24 - July 10, In The Heights from September 2 - 18 and a repeat run of Next to Normal from October 7 - 16. For tickets and for more information, call Atlantis Productions at (632) 892-7078 or 840-1187 or visit

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 Repertory Philippines Defies the Typical Fairy Tale

by Oliver Oliveros,

Manila, Philippines, May 16, 2011 -- Repertory Philippines (Rep), the country's premier English-language theater company, lays off Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and other fairy tale conventions for its children's theater season running from August 13 to December 11 at the Onstage Theatre, Greenbelt 1.

For that season, Rep has picked Tony Award winners Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens' Broadway musical Seussical, which assembles an amalgamation of American writer Theodor Seuss Geisel's whimsical, far-out and unconventional characters from children's books The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who!, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Lorax, Green Eggs and Ham, Yertle the Turtle and other Dr. Seuss books.

Seussical centers around Horton the Elephant, who finds himself faced with a double challenge -- not only must he protect his tiny friend Jojo (and all the invisible Whos) from a world of naysayers and dangers, but he must also guard an abandoned egg that the irresponsible Mayzie La Bird left in his care. Although Horton faces ridicule, a kidnapping and a trial, the intrepid Gertrude McFuzz never loses faith in him, the only one who recognizes "his kind and powerful heart." Ultimately, the powers of friendship, loyalty, family and community are challenged and rewarded. - Music Theatre International

A Two-Act Seussical opened on Broadway in 2000 to mixed critical reviews that were largely negative due to its "huge cast of characters and unrelatable storylines." The Broadway production ran 198 performances and 34 preview performances. However, a much more streamlined version of the show was reworked during its two U.S. national tours and its U.K. tour. Seussical has since become hugely popular among school, community and regional theater organizations.

"Rep's new goal is to bring the most current, the most interesting shows back here, like Seussical, so we can renew interest in our audiences. We also want to cast the show properly. We've been opening our doors to actors who haven't done shows with us yet -- so our experience will be richer, so we can learn from one another. We certainly want to give new energy to the company," Associate Artistic Director Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo said.

Rep's production of Seussical includes stage actors Red Concepcion as Cat in the Hat, Bituin Escalante as Sour Kangaroo, Liesl Batucan as Mayzie La Bird, Cara Barredo, Rem Zamora, Oliver Usison and Dingdong Rosales.

For more information and tickets, call (632) 571-6926 or visit ,

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


by Oliver Oliveros

Why do we care to save a disastrous Broadway musical about a classic superhero that most theater insiders think is too problematic and New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley claims is "so grievously broken in every aspect that it's beyond repair"? It's because we saw the professionalism and the hard work the actors put into that show amid the bad press and poorly written material.

We watched the matinee preview performance of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark on the same day producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris announced to the cast that its director and co-book writer, Julie Taymor, was leaving the production and its opening date was moved yet again to midsummer to install more script revisions.

We understand why Taymor had to make a graceful exit from the show. Apart from the occasions when actors literally fell into the orchestra pit or got stuck in mid-air, Spider-Man needs a lot of rethinking in the writing department: the "geek chorus," a bunch of high-school kids narrating the show, is too amateurish, and Arachne, a spiderwoman who bit Peter Parker during the early part of Act 1, and shopped for shoes in the middle of Act 2, creates a love triangle between Parker, Mary Jane Watson and herself that's utterly senseless.

Despite the show's flawed writing, it's the production's actors, who exude positive attitude and non-stop energy on stage, that got the audiences on their feet at curtain call.

We spoke with Matthew James Thomas, a young British actor who plays Peter Parker/Spider-man twice a week, right after his performance. In that brief conversation, we made a joke about audiences bringing their own plastic helmets because stuntmen in their Spider-man costumes had to fly high above the audience at some parts of the show. That joke didn't offend Thomas. He even shared with us that he's been "very proud" to be doing some of the flying stunts himself during the finale, and to be "working with a cast and crew who've been committed to make Spider-man work since day one."

While speaking with Thomas, we also noticed that Christopher Tierney, the stuntman who broke several ribs and needed back surgery after falling nearly 30 feet from the stage into the orchestra pit last December, was still part of the cast. Tierney can come back to the show "any time he wants," Cohl said.

Actors' Equity Association President Nick Wyman had also been amazed at the actors' resilience in times of crisis. "I love the passion that has been shown by Equity actors in defense of our fellow members; I love their insistence that we have to be taken care of and protected," he said.

Spider-Man temporarily closed at the Foxwoods Theatre on April 17 so that its new director, Philip William McKinley; its new co-book writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; and its original songwriters, Bono and The Edge of U2, could overhaul the production in the next three months.

With a production that costs around $65 Million, Spider-man has been often cited as Broadway's most expensive in history. Recent safety violations, stunning upsets and dramatic turns of events created media frenzy. Nevertheless, the people behind the beleaguered production would rather defy Broadway's economic realities and the public's clamor to shut down the show. We support that course of action because the high level of professionalism and the infectious optimism emanating from actors like Thomas and Tierney are more than enough reasons to make salvaging Spider-man the better option than calling it quits.

Thursday, May 05, 2011 Nikki Gil Tries Her Hand at Another Off-beat Role

by Oliver Oliveros,

Manila, Philippines, May 5, 2011 -- Nikki Gil, TV personality, actress and recording artist, seems to be fascinated playing off-beat characters in stage musicals. Gil made her theater debut as blonde sorority star Elle Woods last year. And she's set to grace the stage again starring as dancer-for-hire Charity Hope Valentine in 9 Works Theatrical's production of the Broadway musical comedy Sweet Charity in August.

Sweet Charity, which originally starred Gwen Verdon as Charity, premiered on Broadway in 1966. The original Broadway production had featured Cy Coleman's music, Dorothy Fields' lyrics, Neil Simon's book and Bob Fosse's Tony Award-winning choreography. The show was also adapted into a full-length film in 1969, which starred Shirley MacLaine as Charity, and had several remakes on Broadway. Sweet Charity's most recent revival on the Great White Way was in 2005, which had Christina Applegate and Charlotte d'Amboise as Charity.

Coleman's music for Sweet Charity boasts of catchy-but-naughty tunes (and sometimes with dark tones in the same vein as John Kander's musical Chicago). A couple of popular show tunes, "Big Spender" and "If My Friends Could See Me Now," are from the show.

In 9 Works Theaterical's upcoming production of Sweet Charity, the company has also announced that reality TV contest winner Kris Lawrence will make his theater debut as Oscar Lindquist opposite Gil's Charity. That adds Lawrence to the list of local mainstream artists -- Markki Stroem, Dawn Zulueta, Geoff Taylor and even Gil herself -- who've been recently bitten by the theater bug.

Also in the cast are Sheila Valderrama-Martinez, Ciara Sotto-Oconer, Sheree Vidal-Bautista, Miguel Faustmann, OJ Mariano, Tasy Garrucha, Caisa Borromeo, Chinie Nepomuceno, Vinia Pamplona, Carmelle Ros, Topper Fabregas, Job Bautista, Francis Matheu, Anthony Tarrosa Ong, Peter Alcedo and Chai Relucio.

9 Works Theatrical's resident director Robbie Guevara and assistant director Lorenz Martinez are at the helm of this new production of Sweet Charity.

Musical director Joseph Tolentino, scenographer and costume designer Mio Infante, lighting designer Martin Esteva and costume designer Hanna delos Reyes round out the creative team.

9 Works Theatrical's production of the Broadway musical Sweet Charity will open on August 5 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City. For fundraising and block-buying opportunities, call (632) 557-5860, (632) 586-7105 or (63)917-5545560 or email