Thursday, November 24, 2011

Photo Flash: Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID Opens in Manila

Pop singers Rachelle Ann Go (Ariel) and Erik Santos (Prince Eric) make their
professional musical theater debuts in Atlantis Productions' Disney's
The Little Mermaid; photo by Jaime Unson
by Oliver Oliveros,

New York, November 24, 2011 -- Manila-based theater company Atlantis Productions Inc.'s Asian premiere of Disney’s The Little Mermaid could have been a spectacular float addition in today’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Times Square.

One shouldn't wonder at Atlantis’ Disneyesque feat because The Little Mermaid’s co-director, Bobby Garcia (the other director is Chari Arespacochaga), happened to work at Disneyland Hong Kong as its entertainment director when the theme park opened in 2005. Needless to say, working on Disney theatrical materials is second nature to Garcia by now.

Rachelle Ann Go as the little mermaid, Ariel, has been
earning raves and praises from critics and audience
alike; photo by Jaime Unson 
The original Broadway production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, based on the 1989 2D animated film, which boasts the popular songs “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea,” and “Kiss the Girl,” created by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, opened at Lunt-Fontane Theatre in 2008 and ran nearly 700 regular performances. Additional 10 songs, co-written by Menken and Glenn Slater, and a book by Tony Award-winning playwright Doug Wright have been incorporated into the stage adaptation, which garnered generally mixed reviews from critics.

Broadway’s The Little Mermaid had starred the talented, incandescent Sierra Boggess in the title role (Ariel); while Manila’s production has found a new ingénue in strong pop singer Rachelle Ann Go. Tony Award-winning actress Lea Salonga, who’s also a columnist in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, only had praises and raves for Go’s opening night (November 18) performance, “As for Go, I don’t know that the superlatives in my vocabulary could cover just how wonderful I thought she was. Bundles of charm oozed from her, as well as an easy sense of humor and adventure. Her voice was also a great mix of that clean and pristine Disney sound, plus a deep pop sensibility that made this score (and her Ariel) accessible to everyone. She was a perfect Ariel, and her portrayal will only continue to deepen and improve. She blew me away on opening night.”

Power belter Jinky Llamanzares as the sea witch, Ursula,
brings the house down in every performance;
photo by Jaime Unson
Other standouts are powerful female vocalist Jinky Llamanzares as the evil sea witch, Ursula and 2011 BroadwayWorld Philippines Awards' nominee OJ Mariano as the red Jamaican crab, Sebastian; as well as Eric Pineda’s around 150 gorgeous and intricate costumes whose unique Asian touches had to be approved by Disney Theatrical Group, no less. Go’s Ariel wears a pair of giant seashell sleeves that resembles the typical Filipiniana terno’s large, puffed sleeves. On the other hand, Calvin Millado’s King Triton, the Sea King and Ariel’s father, dons a traditional Balinese royal costume.

On the other hand, what the production lacks in expensive set pieces and flying harnesses, which are common currency in Broadway musicals nowadays, it makes up for with 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. By the way, merfolks are not strapped on rollerblades in this production!

Go, Llamanzares, Mariano, and Millado are joined by Erik Santos as Prince Eric (his professional musical theater debut), Lee Villoria as Flounder, Enrique Canoy as Scuttle, Felix Rivera as Flotsam, Jamie Barcelon as Jetsam, Raymond Concepcion as Grimsby, and Juliene Mendoza as Chef Louis.

The Little Mermaid also features choreography by Cecile Martinez, set design by Lex Marcos, lighting design by Jay Aranda, puppetry design and execution by Liz and Benny Batoctoy and Sam Fuentes, projection design by GA Fallarme, musical direction by Ceejay Javier, vocal coaching by Manman Angsico, and production management by Liza Camus.

Catch the show’s last three weeks (it runs until December 11) at Meralco Theater. For tickets, visit

For more photos, click HERE.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lara Fabregas Makes a Theater Comeback Via HEDDA GABLER, 11/25-26

Hong Kong-based actress Lara Fabregas makes a
much-awaited theater comeback via Henrik Ibsen's
Hedda Gabler; photo by Juan Caguicla
by Oliver Oliveros,

New York, November 23, 2011 – I just have to write about Lara Fabregas; she’s my kind of a leading lady of the theater: enigmatic, elusive, complex, sultry, and divine. If she were to star as Hedda Gabler, the original, quintessential “desperate housewife” in Henrik Ibsen’s 1890 play, in the big city, which versatile and accomplished actresses Cate Blanchett and Mary-Louise Parker did in 2006 and 2009, respectively, I’d be the first to fall in line for show tickets. Alas, Ms. Fabregas’ much-awaited stage comeback after almost seven years is happening back home in Manila. At times like these, I wish I were a bridge that could stretch across the Pacific.

Actor’s Actors Inc. (AAI), the Philippine theater company that gave me my first crack at handling theater publicity back in 2003, De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde, and the Vito Cruz Project, bring to the stage Norwegian playwright Ibsen’s four-act play Hedda Gabler, a psychological, dramatic portrait of the title character: Gabler, a daughter of an aristocratic general and a wife to a scholar, Jorgen Tesman, is getting increasingly bored and frustrated in her marriage; consequently, she will find herself meddling in the lives of others that could lead to dire consequences.

Directed by theater stalwart and political activist Bart Guingona, this campus-based production of Hedda Gabler, features a formidable cast that includes Kalila Aguilos, Linda Lupton, Angela Mapa, Paolo O’Hara, Leo Rialp, and Reuben Uy.

The last time I worked with Ms. Fabregas and Mr. Guingona was for AAI’s production of David Mamet’s cerebral psychological drama Oleanna in 2004; Ms. Fabregas was luminous as Carol, a young university student who accuses her professor of sexual exploitation. Three years ago, I had the chance to watch Hollywood film actress Julia Stiles playing the same role at Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Although, Ms. Fabregas and Ms. Stiles had tackled the role very differently, their performances were both riveting and memorable.

Again, I regret missing Ms. Fabregas’ turn as the neurotic Hedda. Theaterphiles in Manila mustn’t miss out this one.

Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler will have matinee performances on Friday, November 25 at 1 p.m. and on Saturday, November 26 at 3 p.m. at School of Design and Arts Theater, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, 980 Pablo Ocampo St., Malate, Manila. For tickets, call (63)915-9411055 or (63)917-5859294.

Oliver Oliveros is regional site editor, author, and photographer at You may follow him on

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Make Your Vote Count for the 2011 BroadwayWorld Philippines Awards

Collage work by Ching Nicolas of Overtures and Finales
By Oliver Oliveros for

New York, November 16, 2011 -- The first-ever BroadwayWorld (BWW) Philippines Awards, an audience initiative project that encourages BWW readers from the Philippines to nominate and vote for their favorite plays, musicals, and theater personalities of the past year, revealed its list of nominees two weeks ago to an overwhelming response. Related web pages on my blog and BWW have around 2,000 hits, 100 comments, 2,000 likes, and 100 shares to date.

Although, user comments have been mixed, for example:

“Sound of Music (SOM) for Best Sound? They must be kidding” (SOM’s current performance venue, the Newport Performing Arts Theater, had some acoustic problems lately);

“It’s about time we had something like this;" and

“This is a better venue for recognizing and levelling off the field for other theater companies especially those that aren't really mainstream… BWW Phils. Awards are a refreshing take from the usual award-giving bodies. This is a great beginning to empowering the theater industry. Kudos to BWW Phils.”

I'd rather look at these diverse and opposing views as healthy conversations between BWW and its steadily growing fan base of readers more than anything -- every point raised is important.

Nonetheless, BWW Philippines has been thankful for the warm response from nominees like OJ Mariano, Vince Tañada, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Jaime del Mundo, Christopher De Venecia, Gian Magdangal, Jerald Napoles, Joey Mendoza, Jett Pangan, Caisa Borromeo, Ciara Sotto, Bea Garcia, Skyzx Labastilla, Markki Stroem, Shamaine Buencamino, Dexter Santos, Pipo Cifra, and Jon Jon Martin, among others; and for some Philippine media outlets that have picked up the story like MyxPh.Com and Pep.Ph.

The BWW Awards were first launched in the United States and United Kingdom three years ago. But since there has been a large number of readers that's based in the Philippines, BWW Founder and Editor-In-Chief, Robert Diamond, and I had decided to extend the BWW Awards to the Philippines. Last month, Filipino readers sent in their nomination entries in 20 categories (Best Musical, Best Leading Actor [Musical], Best Sound et al.), which totalled around 500. From these nomination entries, we’ve shortlisted 85; and these nominees were very diversified productions: they ranged from commercial theater productions, non-commercial theater productions, and semi-professional, campus-based theater productions whose book or script was either in English or Filipino.

The BWW Philippines Awards are now open for voting and will close on December 31, 2011. To help BWW readers decide, I’ll do a weekly roundup of nominees starting with the nominees for Best Musical:

2011 BroadwayWorld Philippines Awards’ nominees for Best Musical

In the Heights (Atlantis Productions Inc.)

Atlantis Productions presents the Asian premiere of the Broadway musical 
In the Heights; photo c/o Atlantis Productions
Directed by Atlantis Productions’ Bobby Garcia (Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Next to Normal), In the Heights, penned by Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, presents a portrait of the Hispanic community in Washington Heights, Manhattan. Its original Broadway production, which features high-energy musical numbers with hip hop, salsa, soul, and merengue (music and dance from the Dominican Republic) influences, won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2008. The production returns to Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in March 2012.

Sweet Charity (9 Works Theatrical)

Meet the exuberant cast of 9 Works Theatrical's production of the Broadway musical
Sweet Charity; photo by Jory Rivera
Directed by 9 Works Theatrical’s Robbie Guevara (Rent, The Wedding Singer), Sweet Charity, which had starred television host and singer Nikki Gil (Seussical, Legally Blonde) in her third stage outing, highlights Tony Award-winning composer Cy Coleman’s catchy-but-naughty tunes (and sometimes with dark tones in the same vein as John Kander's musical Chicago) and dance numbers based on Bob Fosse’s original choreography.

Sound of Music (Resorts World Manila)

London-based actress Joanna Ampil and stage actor and director Audie Gemora
topbill Resorts World Manila's production of the beloved musical Sound of Music;
photo by Dale Bacar
Currently playing at Newport Performing Arts Theater, The Philippine revival of Sound of Music, which stars London-based actress Joanna Ampil and young thespian Cris Villonco as Maria Von Trapp, is one of the beloved classics by Broadway composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein. For the Manila production, the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra provides live orchestral music, conducted by Maestro Rodel Colmenar with back-up vocals by Lyn Fabella; and independent filmmaker Paul Soriano produces larger than life visual effects and digital videos. The production runs until December 11.

Peter Pan (Repertory Philippines/Stages Production Specialists Inc.)

Repertory Philippines and Stages Production Specialists Inc. bring
to life Anthony Drewe and George Stiles' musical incarnation of Peter Pan;
photo by Dale Bacar
Directed by Jaime del Mundo (Shakespeare in Hollywood, N.O.A.H.) and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo (Little Women), Peter Pan, which had cast television actor and singer Sam Concepcion in the title role, is Broadway book writer and lyricist Anthony Drewe and composer George Stiles' musical incarnation of J.M. Barrie’s children’s classic. Their version of Peter Pan, which first opened in Denmark in 1996, won several awards including The Orchestra Award and Best Song for "When I Kill Peter Pan" at the International Musical of the Year, also in Denmark.

Noli Me Tangere (Tanghalang Pilipino)

Maestro Ryan Cayabyab updates his score for this revival of
Filipino musical Noli Me Tangere; photo c/o Tanghalang Pilipino
Directed by one of Philippine theater’s thought leaders, Audie Gemora (Equus, Disney's High School Musical) , Noli Me Tangere, which had starred pop recording artists Gian Magdangal and Mark Bautista as the revolutionary pragmatist Juan Crisostomo Ibarra, is multi-award winning composer Ryan Cayabyab’s musical adaptation of the Philippines’ national hero, Jose Rizal’s controversial novel published in 1887.

Care Divas (Philippine Educational Theater Association)

Care Divas is Philippine Educational Theater Association's (PETA) new
smash musical! ; photo c/o PETA
Directed by Philippine Educational Theater Association’s (PETA) Maribel Legarda (William), Care Divas, which features music by prolific musical theater composer Vincent de Jesus, tells the life stories (based on book writer Liza Magtoto's personal interviews) of five Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs): Chelsea, Shai, Kayla, Thalia and Jonee who work as caregivers of elderly Jews in the morning and perform as drag queens at night in Tel Aviv, Israel. The production returns to PETA Theater Center on December 1, 2, 4, 8 and 9.

Cory ng EDSA (Philippine Stagers Foundation)

The Aliw Award-winning team behind the musical Ako si Ninoy returns with
another critically-acclaimed production in Cory ng EDSA; photo by Dale Bacar
Recently awarded Best Musical at the 2011 Aliw Awards, Cory ng EDSA, is an original Filipino musical, created by Vince Tañada (Ako si Ninoy), which is based on the life and times of the nation's icon of democracy, the late President Corazon Aquino. The production is currently on a national tour.

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Oliver Oliveros is regional site editor, author, and photographer at You may follow him on

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dulaang Kalay’s New Play Tackles Filipinos’ Penchant for Soap Operas

Dulaang Kalay is Philippine theater scene's new
kid on the block; graphic artwork c/o Dulaang Kalay
by Oliver Oliveros,

Manila, Philippines, November 14, 2011 -- Dulaang UP's Rizal X's head writer Katte Sabate, and composer and lyricist William Elvin Manzano have just formed a new theater group called Dulaang Kalay whose inaugural offering is an original play titled Series Finale: Saan Hahantong ang Tagpong Ito?, a satirical look at Filipinos' incurable obsession toward soap operas.

According to Fr. Roland Dela Rosa, a columnist in the Manila Bulletin, "...less than 5% of the adult Filipino population in urban areas read books. Around 23% and newspapers. But, a whopping 72% depend on television [including soap operas] and the Internet for their daily dose of information." (J. Walter Thompson's survey, 2011) Dulaang Kalay's new play, Series Finale, would probe deeper into this phenomenon by dissecting the anatomy of a soap opera's final episode -- most of the time, formulaic and derivative -- and its implications and relationship to national scandals and sensational news reporting.

Except for actors Acey Aguilar (Orosman at Zafira) and Elora Españo (Rizal X, Orosman at Zafira), the play will feature several new faces: Janine Santos, Erika Estacio, Jules Dela Paz, Toji Salinas, Roxy Aldiosa, Dreps Tatad, Earle Figuracion, Harry David, JR Macanas, Zandrei Merced, Japo Parcero, Victoria Mañebo, Leah Galisa, Nikka Angeles, Keann Clemente, Gell-O Conferido, Lexy Lu, Claricel Estrella, Jake Tanchuling, and Tim Villareal.

Jean Tanchuco and Nissi Gatan are production designers; Niqi Granados is costume designer; Meliton Roxas is lighting designer; Dino Dimar is photographer and graphic designer; Gabe Ongkiko and Timothy Ng are video producers; Delphine Buencamino is choreographer; and Manzano is director.

Dulaang Kalay's Series Finale will run from December 5 to 18 at Vision 21, Crossroads 77, No. 77 Mother Ignacia Street, Quezon City.

Friday, November 11, 2011

BWW Phils. Interview: JM De Guzman Talks About Dulaang UP, ‘Angelito,’ and More

by Oliver Oliveros,
Television star, songwriter, and recording artist
JM De Guzman will always be a proud homegrown
talent of Dulaang UP; photo c/o Ivory Records

"I'll always find the time to go back to my theater roots; everything I know now, I learned it from my professors and directors." - JM De Guzman

New York, November 11, 2011 -- Whether here in the United States or in the Philippines, it's always been a cause for celebration among theater circles when a Filipino stage actor makes it to mainstream entertainment -- think of Glee's Darren Criss, Hannah Montana's Ana Maria Perez de Tagle, and Kitchen Musical's Karylle Tatlonghari and Christian Bautista; add to that growing roster JM De Guzman, ABS-CBN's newest afternoon soap leading man; an Ivory Records' songwriter and recording artist; and Dulaang UP's proud homegrown talent.

Although De Guzman started acting on television via ABS CBN's kiddie show Ang TV, his screen name "Butik," at age four, he considers himself as one of the biz's prodigal sons. With his consistent, personal conviction on improving his talent in acting, he had opted to take the longer route to mainstream stardom: At age 17 (he's now in his early 20s), he chose to pursue performance studies at the University of the Philippines (UP) instead, and took apprenticeship duties under Dulaang UP, the state university's semi-professional theater arm.

"I realized na I wasn't growing as an actor. I needed to study because it's my craft that I really love," said De Guzman in an exchange of emails with BroadwayWorld.

Just like everybody else enrolled in a theater program, De Guzman had to learn the littlest details in a theater production such as set and prop designs along with the basic tenets of theater acting prior to landing a lead role in a play or a musical. Dulaang UP's regular patrons last saw him as Basilio in the musical Isang Panaginip na Fili, directed by Floy Quintos, and as Zelim in the heavy dance musical Orosman at Zafira, directed by Dexter Santos.

"JM has always been a sweet kid since his college days. He started out as a happy-go-lucky student during his freshman year. But, when he learned that a pretty face would never be enough to become a true artist, he has changed to become [a] more focused and disciplined [student]. He knew that he has to give it all every time an opportunity arises," said stage director Dexter Santos in a separate interview.

JM De Guzman plays Zelim in Dulaang UP's critically-acclaimed
original production of Orosman at Zafira; photo by Jojit Lorenzo
"Sa teatro, nadisiplina ako professionally and personally. I remember buong araw akong nasa stage at nag-aayos ng set. Minsan, nasisigawan, namumura at napapahiya din...I'll always find the time to go back to my theater roots; everything I know now, I learned it from my professors and directors: Si Direk Dexter Santos, tinutukan ako; si Professor Tony Mabesa, nainspire ako; at si Direk Alex Cortez, nadisiplina ako," De Guzman said.

A man of his word, he has since stayed true to his commitment to Dulaang UP: Amidst his gruelling filming schedule for his last successful soap Mula Sa Puso, where he played the role of taxi driver-turned-haciendero, Gabriel Maglayon, and his recording and promotion schedule for his self-titled debut album, produced by Ivory Records, he still had found the time to compose "Curtain Call," which apparently made the cut as one of the musical numbers in Dulaang UP's recent Aliw Award-winning original Filipino musical Rizal X, a millennial multimedia presentation about the works and life of Jose Rizal, the Philippines' national hero.

"May boses at songwriting talent talaga si JM," said Jon Daza, Ivory Records' A&R manager. "I personally believe kasi na eventually magiging big star s'ya, at para magkaroon ng maliit na bahagi kami sa Ivory Records sa success n'ya, proud kami du'n. So far, we've a very healthy working relationship with him."

JM De Guzman's self-titled album is now available
on i Tunes; graphic artwork c/o Ivory Records
De Guzman recalled, "Naka-smile ako habang sinusulat ko ang thank you note sa album ko. Nagflashback sa akin ang mga taong talagang tumulong nu'ng nagsisimula pa lang ako. My original single 'Carried Away' ay 'yung kanta na masasabi kong pinakamaganda kong nabuo."

De Guzman's debut album contains the track "Carried Away," a bittersweet love song, as well as remakes of other OPM (Original Pilipino Music) and pop hits such as "Pagdating Ng Panahon," "Out Of My League," "Bizarre Love Triangle," "Collide," "Kiss Me," "True," "Yakap Sa Dilim," "Give You The World," "Sa May Bintana," and "Nothing Compares 2 U." As of this writing, Ivory Records has informed BroadwayWorld that the record company is all set to release a repackaged edition of De Guzman's album; it will include the singer/actor's cover version of The Script's strong ballad "The Man Who Can't Be Moved," arranged and produced by DJ Myke Salomon.

Furthermore, starting Monday, De Guzman's steadily growing fan base in the Philippines and among TFC (The Filipino Channel) subscribers here in New York and elsewhere will be glued to the television anew for the premiere episodes of ABS CBN's newest afternoon soap Angelito: Batang Ama, where he plays the title role who faces the responsibilities and challenges of parenthood as a teenager.

"Pinaghahandaan ko to take on big projects like 'Angelito.' I stopped show biz when I was young to study theater arts at UP where I learned more about the craft that I love. Masasabi ko na ready na ako, and I'm equipped to tackle lead roles," De Guzman said.

"Tiwala sa Diyos at sa sarili. Ito lang ang pinanghahawakan ko."

To JM: BroadwayWorld Philippines and the Philippine theater community are so proud of you.

Follow JM De Guzman on Twitter: @hukbong_JM and @JM_DeGuzman; and download his debut album on iTunes:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Breaking News: Lea Salonga to Star in GOD OF CARNAGE Manila; Auditions Announced for ROCK OF AGES, NINE, SHREK

Tony winner Lea Salonga will star in the
Philippine premiere of Yasmina Reza's
black comedy God of Carnage in July 2012;
graphic artwork c/o Atlantis Productions
By Oliver Oliveros,

Manila, Philippines, November 10, 2011 -- It's rather unusual to see Lea Salonga, a Tony Award-winning actress whose name has been synonymous with all things musical, flexing her acting muscles in a straight play; she did that once in the Manila run of David Auburn's Proof back in 2001, and she's set to do that again via the impending Manila premiere of Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage in July next year.

Atlantis Productions (Dogeaters, Next to Normal) has just announced that Salonga will star in the black comedy God of Carnage, the company's first straight play offering after four years, and its only straight play production for its 2012 season, which boasts of three big Broadway musicals -- Rock of Ages, Nine, and Shrek.

According to Bobby Garcia, Atlantis Productions' resident director, Salonga has been tapped to portray the role of Veronica, a writer and wife to a wholesaler Michael, whose son, Henry, was hit with a stick in a public playground in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

The 2009 Tony Award-winning play God of Carnage, whose original text was in French, is a 90-minute debacle of two couples -- Veronica and Michael; Anette, a self-proclaimed wealth manager and Alan, a corporate lawyer -- who meet and discuss about their kids' recent playground squabble.

Roman Polanski, a film auteur, has recently released his film adaptation of the play, which has been retitled to Carnage and has starred Jodie Foster (Penelope; Veronica in the play), Kate Winslet (Nancy; Anette in the play), Christopher Waltz (Alan), and John C. Reilly (Michael).

On the other hand, Atlantis Productions has also announced its auditions for adult actors and singers for its upcoming productions of Rock of Ages, Nine, and Shrek on Wednesday, November 23, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Spotlight Artists Center, Jupiter Street, Barangay Bel-Air, Makati City. Auditionees should sing a rock song and a musical theater song with either a piano score or an accompaniment CD. For more information, call Atlantis Productions at (632) 892-7078 or 840-1187.

Editor's note: We'll update this news item with a statement from Salonga as soon as possible.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

BWW Phils. Awards’ Nominees Lauchengco, Glorioso, Tañada et. al. Win Big at Aliw Awards

Menchu Lauchengo-Yulo won the Best Actress
trophy at the recent 24th Aliw Awards for her
critically-acclaimed portrayal of Diana Goodman,
a mother who's suffering from manic depression,
 in the rock musical Next to Normal; she's also one
of the Best Leading Actress (Musical) nominees
at the 2011 Broadwayworld Philippines Awards.
(Graphic artwork c/o Atlantis Productions Inc.)
By Oliver Oliveros for

Manila, Philippines, November 9, 2011 -- BroadwayWorld (BWW) Philippines Awards' nominees Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo (Best Leading Actress [Musical] for Next to Normal); Jay Glorioso (Best Leading Actress [Play] for Love, Loss, and What I Wore); Vince Tañada (Best Direction of a Musical and Best Leading Actor [Musical] for Cory ng EDSA); Frances Makil Ignacio (Best Actress in a Featured Role [Play] for The Joy Luck Club); and Cory ng EDSA (Best Musical) were big winners at the 24th Aliw Awards, an award-giving body that recognizes excellence among Filipino practitioners in the fields of theater, opera, dance, live vocal performance, and instrumental performance.

At the Aliw Awards, Lauchengco, Glorioso, Tañada and Ignacio clinched the top acting prizes for their performances in Next to Normal (Atlantis Productions), In the Heights/A Little Night Music (Atlantis Productions), Cory ng EDSA (Philippine Stagers Foundation), and The Joy Luck Club (Repertory Philippines) respectively, which were announced during a dinner show held at Newport Performing Arts Theater, Resorts World Manila last night.

Below were some of the winners:

Best Non-Musical Production: Rajah Indarapata (MSU); Best Musical Production: Cory ng EDSA (Philippine Stagers Foundation); Best Stage Director (Non-Musical): Tony Mabesa for Fake (UP Playwrights' Theater); Best Stage Director (Musical): Audie Gemora for Noli Me Tangere (Tanghalang Pilipino); Best Actor (Non-Musical): Joel Lamangan for Fake (UP Playwrights' Theater); Best Actor (Musical): Vince Tañada for Cory ng EDSA (Philippine Stagers Foundation); Best Actress (Non-Musical): Frances Makil Ignacio for The Joy Luck Club (Repertory Philippines); Best Actress (Musical): Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo for Next to Normal (Atlantis Productions); Best Actor in a Featured Role (Musical): Joel Trinidad for Kaos (Resorts World Manila); Best Actress in a Featured Role (Musical): Jay Glorioso for In the Heights and A Little Night Music (Atlantis Productions); Best New Group: Opera Belles (Philippine Opera Company); and Lifetime Achievement Award (Theater): Tony Mabesa.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Photo Flash: Salonga, Jacobs, Llana et al. in SUITES BY SONDHEIM -

Lea Salonga in Suites by Sondheim, a tribute concert
to Broadway musical composer Stephen Sondheim, at
Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center; photo by Dom J Manalo

by Oliver Oliveros,

New York, November 8, 2011 -- Lea Salonga, Adam Jacobs, Ali Ewoldt, Jose Llana, and Angel Desai led a company of mostly Filipino-American Broadway actors in Suites by Sondheim, a tribute concert to American musical theater icon Stephen Sondheim, at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center last night. The Book of Mormon's co-book writer, co-composer, and co-lyricist Robert Lopez, who's part-Filipino, was also honoured with an Award of Excellence at the concert.

"It's certainly historic, if nothing else. Not this many Filipino performers in one place will get [got] to perform this material that's just classic and intelligent," Salonga told in a previous interview.

Directed by Victor Lirio and music directed by Tom Myron, Suites by Sondheim has included Sondheim-penned solos, suites, and medleys such as "Company," "Another Hundred People," "You Could Drive a Person Crazy," and "Multitude of Amy's/Being Alive" from Company; "One Hand, One Heart," "A Boy Like That," and "Somewhere" from West Side Story; "What More Do I Need," "Class," and "So Many People" from Saturday Night; "Green Finch and Linnet Bird," "Johanna," and "Pretty Women," from Sweeney Todd; "Night Waltz," "The Miller's Son," "Everyday a Little Death," "A Weekend in a Country," and "Send In the Clowns" from A Little Night Music; "Not a Day Goes By" and "Our Time" from Merrily We Roll Along; and "Finishing the Hat," "Move On," and "Sunday" from Sunday in the Park with George.

The Philippine Development Foundation USA (PhilDev), a non-profit organization that supports community and entrepreneurship programs in the Philippines, was the concert's sole beneficiary.

For more photos, click HERE.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

BWW Phils. Interview: Lea Salonga Talks About ‘Suites by Sondheim’

Lea Salonga sits down with
and talks about Suites by Sondheim, her concert at
Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center; photo by
Oliver Oliveros
By Oliver Oliveros for

"You better be smart singing Sondheim." - Lea Salonga

New York, November 6, 2011 -- It's always been a pleasure to interview Filipino Pride and Tony Award-winning actress Lea Salonga (Miss Saigon, Les Miserables) in person, especially when the rare opportunity to meet and sit down with her in a rehearsal studio or at a theater in New York comes along. During our past interviews, she had always imbibed a unique blend of a Manileño-meets-New Yorker attitude: one that's warm and friendly, and doesn't mind braving a subway ride just to hop her way from one interview to another.

Although it's been more exciting to personally conduct a tape recorded interview with Salonga, there had been instances that I needed to engage in online interviews with her especially on reporting breaking news. I remember I had to break the news on her special participation in Concertus Inc. and Lunchbox Theatrical Productions' first international touring production of Cats in Manila two years ago, and her very recent judging stint at the 2011 Ms. Universe Pageant in São Paulo, Brazil. During those two instances, we're at two opposite ends of the world; so we had to exchange messages on Facebook and email (Thank, God for Facebook and email!), and wait for the green light to spill the beans.

But then again, nothing beats the real thing: meeting your interview subject in the flesh.'s (BWW) Richard Ridge and I, on two different occasions, have recently caught up with Salonga to talk about her newest project in the city: Suites by Sondheim, a tribute concert to Stephen Sondheim, an American musical theater legend who had penned musicals such as Sweeney Todd and West Side Story. The show will feature Filipino-American Broadway actors, and singers in a one-night-only performance at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center tomorrow, November 7 at 7:30 p.m. Speaking of Sondheim, how difficult is it to sing his songs? [Sondheim's infamously known for his uncanny ability to create beautiful yet tricky melodies and inhumanely wordy lyrics.]

Lea Salonga: "The thing about Sondheim is that it does get very cerebral. You do need a faculty with words and a love for the lyrics to not just pull it off, but to have an appreciation for it. I, as a younger person, [her first Sondheim show was playing the Witch in Into the Woods in Singapore in 1994]  and Sondheim versus being a little older and having lived a little bit of life and then looking at Sondheim again, I think one requires a certain amount of living in order to appreciate Sondheim, and I think there's a lot of life in a lot of what he writes."

She added, "You can do the music, you can sing the lyrics, but it's not as full as after having just lived a little bit. Victor Lirio [the concert's co-producer and director] is making me sing 'Not a Day Goes By' [a stirring solo number from Sondheim's musical "Merrily We Roll Along"] and if I had looked at that at the age of 22, I would've been a little like, "What is that about?" whereas being 40. So the reaction's much more visceral, much more immediate, and there isn't as much thinking involved."

"You better be smart singing Sondheim." So, how's your concert going to be any different from past, numerous tribute concerts to Sondheim?

Lea Salonga: "The cool part about this concert is that, I think almost every conceivable Filipino-American or Filipino that has performed on Broadway in recent history is going to be a part of this. It's certainly historic, if nothing else. Not this many Filipino performers in one place will get to perform this material that is just classic and intelligent; and interestingly, it falls on the anniversary of my solo show at Carnegie Hall with Diversity Theater six years ago."

Joining Salonga at the concert are equally accomplished Filipino-American theater performers that will include Adam Jacobs (Les MiserablesLion King), Jose Llana (WonderlandFlower Drum Song), Paolo Montalban (Pacific OverturesCinderellaJoan Almedilla (Miss SaigonLes Miserables), Alan Ariano (Miss SaigonThe Encounter), Emy Baysic (Miss SaigonMamma Mia), Angel Desai (Company), Rona Figueroa (Miss SaigonLes Miserables), Lydia Gaston (The King and I, Miss Saigon), Deedee Magno Hall (WickedMiss Saigon), Orville Mendoza (Pacific OverturesMiss Saigon), Emily Morales (South Pacific); Jennifer Paz (Miss Saigon, Les Miserables), and Diane Phelan (South PacificWest Side Story), among others. Broadway composer Robert Lopez, who's Filipino American, will be honored with the Award of Excellence for his Tony Award-winning compositions for hit Broadway musicals Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon.

The Philippine Development Foundation USA (PhilDev), a non-profit organization that supports community and entrepreneurship programs in the Philippines, will be the concert's sole beneficiary.

As of this writing, I was told that the Alice Tully Hall Box Office has released additional 50 tickets at $150. The show's nearly sold out. So, if you're in New York and you're a Salonga or a Sondheim fan, make sure you'll get in. will catch up again with Salonga at the concert tomorrow night; expect for more related news and features.

Oliver Oliveros is regional site editor, author, and photographer at You may follow him on

Friday, November 04, 2011

Photo Flash: Leviathan Lab's TWELFTH NIGHT, 11/4-11/19 -

Roger Yeh plays Fabian and Tina Chilip,
Viola, in Leviathan Lab's production of William
Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at Arclight Theater;
photo by Oliver Oliveros
by Oliver Oliveros,

New York, November 4, 2011 -- Leviathan Lab, a newly-established professional creative studio that's helping Asian American artists in advancing their careers in theater and film, recently met with some members of the press and presented excerpts from its inaugural production of William Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night, which opens tonight and will run until Saturday, November 19 at Arclight Theatre (152 West 71st Street).

Under the direction of Nelson Eusebio III (assistant director, All's Well That Ends Well, The Public Theater/NYSF's Shakespeare in the Park 2011), Leviathan Lab's Twelfth Night transports the seaside city of Illyria to Hong Kong in the 1960s, where the alluring scent of romance pervades the atmosphere. Viola, the play's young protagonist, sets a series of events that create a tangled knot of mistaken identities, bewildering desires, and practical jokes that only time and fortune can untie.

Tina Chilip (Flipzoids, Joy Luck Club) as Viola and OBIE Award-winning actor Jojo Gonzalez (The Romance of Magno Rubio) as Feste the clown lead an All Asian American cast in this yet another reimagining of Shakespeare's play.

"We (Asian American actors) don't get a lot of opportunities to do Shakespeare plays. I haven't done it since grad. school, and I had a lot of Shakespeare trainings in school. But since I graduated, the opportunities are not there. We're very grateful to Leviathan Lab for giving us the opportunity to exercise these muscles -- It's an actor's medium; we love doing this," Chilip told

Along with Chilip and Gonzalez, the production features Kurt Uy as Orsino, Eileen Rivera as Olivia, Andrew Eisenman as Malvolio, John Roque as Sir Toby Belch, Marcus Ho as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Karen Tsen Lee and Ka-Ling Cheung as Maria (alternating weeks), Chris Doi as Sebastian, Roger Yeh as Fabian, and Eugene Oh as Antonio.

For tickets, visit Ticket prices: $18 general admission, $15 students and seniors, with special prices for groups of 10 or more.

For more photos, click HERE.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

2011 BWW Philippines Awards Reveal Nominees

By Oliver Oliveros,

New York, November 3, 2011 -- Our theater scene in the Philippines, especially in Metro Manila, has never been as vibrant as in recent months, and we owe our hardworking, excellent theater practitioners the recognition and appreciation they deserve.

Congratulations to (BWW) Philippines Awards' nominees, whose names are below, and were shortlisted from around 500 nomination entries sent from October 6 to 31.

You may now vote for your favourite nominees; voting deadline is December 31.


2011 BWW Philippines Awards Nominees

Best Musical
In the Heights (Atlantis Productions Inc.)
Sweet Charity (9 Works Theatrical)
Sound of Music (Resorts World Manila)
Peter Pan (Repertory Philippines/Stages Production Specialists Inc.)
Noli Me Tangere (Tanghalang Pilipino)
Care Divas (Philippine Educational Theater Association)
Cory ng Edsa (Philippine Stagers Foundation)

Best Play
American Hwangap (Tanghalang Pilipino)
Ang Post Office (Philippine Educational Theater Association)

Best Direction of a Musical
Bobby Garcia (Next to Normal)
Jaime del Mundo and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo (Peter Pan)
Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo (Little Women)
Robbie Guevara (Sweet Charity)
Chari Arespacochaga (Aida)
Christopher De Venecia (Little Shop of Horrors)
Dexter Santos (Orosman at Zafira)
Vince Tanada (Cory ng Edsa)

Best Direction of a Play
Gary Labad (Ang Post Office)

Best Leading Actor (Musical)
Jett Pangan (Next to Normal)
Felix Rivera (Next to Normal)
Sam Concepcion (Peter Pan)
Gian Magdangal (The Wedding Singer)
Kris Lawrence (Sweet Charity)
Mark Bautista (Noli Me Tangere)
Melvin Lee (Care Divas)
Ricci Chan (Care Divas)
Jerald Napoles (Care Divas)
Vince Tanada (Cory ng Edsa)

Best Leading Actor (Play)
Martin delos Santos (Ang Post Office)

Best Leading Actress (Musical)
Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo (Next to Normal)
Ciara Sotto (Rent)
Mian Dimacali (Rent)
Caisa Borromeo (Little Women)
Nikki Gil (Sweet Charity)
Tippy dos Santos (Peter Pan)
Cris Villonco (Noli Me Tangere)

Best Leading Actress (Play)
Jay Glorioso (Love, Loss, and What I Wore)
Liza Infante (The 39 Steps)
Shamaine Centenera Buencamino (Fake)

Best Musical Direction
Gerard Salonga (Little Women)
Joseph Tolentino (Sweet Charity)
Pipo Cifra (Cory ng Edsa)

Best Choreography
Cecille Martinez (In the Heights)
Deana Aquino (Sweet Charity)
Dexter Santos (Orosman at Zafira)
John San Antonio (Cory ng Edsa)

Best Costume Design
Raven Ong (Peter Pan)
Mio Infante (Rent)
Emy Tanada (Cory ng Edsa)

Best Lighting Design
Shoko Matsumoto (Next to Normal)

Best Set Design
Joey Mendoza (Little Women)
Gino Gonzales (Peter Pan)
Jeffrey Ambrosio (Cory ng Edsa)

Best Sound Design
Chuck Ledesma (Rent)
 Bobbit Jacinto (In the Heights)
Rards Corpus (Sound of Music)
Art Grabentina (Cory ng Edsa)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role/Ensemble Role (Musical)
Markki Stroem (Next to Normal)
OJ Mariano (Rent)
Michael Williams (Peter Pan)
Jeff Arcilla (Little Women)
Johann dela Fuente (The Wedding Singer)
Jon Jon Martin (The Wedding Singer)
Miguel Faustmann (Sweet Charity)
Myke Salomon (Care Divas)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role/Ensemble Role (Play)
Jeremy Domingo (American Hwangap)
Nicco Manalo (American Hwangap)
Jonathan Tadioan (Bombita)
George de Jesus (Amphitryon)
Joshua Deocareza (Titus Andronicus)
Nic Campos (Shakespeare in Hollywood)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role/Ensemble Role (Musical)
Bea Garcia (Next to Normal)
Tex Ordonez (In the Heights)
Ciara Sotto (Sweet Charity)
Sheila Valderrama (Sweet Charity)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role/Ensemble Role (Play)
Cris Villonco (The Joy Luck Club)
Frances Makil Ignacio (The Joy Luck Club)
Liesl Batucan (American Hwangap)
Skyzx Labastilla (Titus Andronicus)

Best Theater Company
Atlantis Productions Inc.
9 Works Theatrical

Best Theatrical Venue
Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium
CCP Little Theater
PETA Center Theater
Newport Performing Arts Theater (Resorts World Manila)