BWW Interviews: Pangan, Aguilos Shed Light on Working with Repertory Philippines

Kalila Aguilos and Jett Pangan in Repertory Philippines'
production of Broadway musical "Jekyll and Hyde"; photo by
Jory Rivera
by Oliver Oliveros, 

Co-written by Jude Cartalaba

Manila, Philippines, June 17, 2012 – The summer theater workshop season has officially ended; graduates from these summer camps would either go back to school or try their luck at auditions for upcoming theater productions, which include Repertory Philippines’ (Rep) children’s musical “The Wizard of Oz,” and its year-end presentation, Disney's “Camp Rock.”

But how does a neophyte at Rep, one of the country’s pioneering theater companies, which is known to have molded world-class talents such as Lea Salonga, Monique Wilson, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Michael Williams, and Audie Gemora, among others, under the infamously stringent rehearsal and performance policies of the late stage director Zenaida Amador, fit in?

BroadwayWorld sits down with veteran stage actors, but recent Rep first timers, Jett Pangan (Dr. Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde) and Kalila Aguilos (Lucy Harris), who have starred in Rep’s critically-acclaimed production of Frank Wildhorn’s “Jekyll and Hyde,” a musical based on the classic novella "A Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson, directed by Yulo, to talk about their first-hand experiences working with Rep.

“Well, for one, we were given about two months of rehearsals, which is more than I'm used to,” says Pangan.

On the one hand, “Rep fosters collaborative efforts with its actors in terms of, say, trying different things to improve a scene,” he adds.

Repertory Philippines' production of "Jekyll and Hyde"; photo by
Dale Bacar
Aguilos, on the other hand, despite the horror stories she heard from other people, she had a positive attitude towards the theater company, “I usually don't believe things I hear until I see for myself. All I know is that when people are asked which theater companies they know exist in the country, the first thing that pops out of their mouths is ‘Rep,’ and that’s where many of our respected veteran actors come from, so it couldn't be all that bad.”

“It was probably because of Rep’s strict working environment.”

Aguilos adds, “I had said this publicly, and I meant it when I said it: Rep is very professional. Little things like starting on time and ending on time is big in my book. Also, one can already see the well-formed attributes of the scenes in the early stages of rehearsals. The people are nice, and are very supportive. Their creation process and requirement is different from what I'm used to. I'm an old dog with old tricks and bad habits. So I took this production as a healthy challenge to fit into a new environment.”

How did Yulo treat their roles in “Jekyll and Hyde”? 

Pangan talks about how he found his character while doing the musical; according to him, he made it a point to provide a clear distinction between the two (Dr. Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde), and it was a journey in itself.

“As per Menchu's direction, my Jekyll starts out as a confident man but spirals down into desperation; while Hyde is basically Henry Jekyll without morals and conscience.”

Jett Pangan plays Dr. Henry Jekyll. Photo by Dale Bacar
Aguilos admits that it was difficult for her as an actress to be pitted against or be compared to the vocal calisthenics of Linda Eder, the female lead in the original Broadway production. She was under so much pressure at first since Lucy’s songs were written specifically to showcase the Broadway star’s monster vocal range, and she accepted that she will never be her.

“I don't have the same physique, her lungs, nose, and throat. I refused to watch her videos, and did not listen to how she sang the songs. I had to make it my own because that was the only way to make my take on Lucy real. But I’ve accepted the fact that people will compare my singing to her. It cannot be helped, and what can I do about it anyway if I’m different?” she adds.

“Menchu and I had the same concept of Lucy; but I had to attack it just a tad differently because many elements I put in her character came from my own realm of experience.”

Character Similarities to Themselves 

Assuming their respective roles, both found traits that mirror themselves.

Aguilos is quick to share, “Lucy's life is so close to home. I may not have the same profession [she's a prostitute], but she survives life's trials and tribulations through an undying faith that life has something good to offer her, no matter how elusive. She lives moment to moment.”

Kalila Aguilos plays Lucy Harris. Photo by
Dale Bacar
Pangan sees himself as Hyde, especially with his being short-tempered, when he was younger, “I found it difficult to suppress; but nowadays, all it takes is a deep breath whenever I feel like punching some jerk in the face. It works... most of the time.”

Memories to Carry Along 

In doing “Jekyll & Hyde,” Pangan’s greatest realization is that “the songs are indeed beautiful. I will never get tired of listening to or performing them.”

However, Aguilos stresses, “To be frank, I’m not a fan of this musical, in the first place, because the songs are just ‘too’ popular, and analyzing the script more closely made me realize what a task Menchu had in her hands."

“It has a very ‘problematic’ script, excuse my blatant honesty. There’s not enough meat in the text, hence its failure on Broadway. When you read it, you tend to think: ‘Oh, it could be better this way, or that way, if they put this, and that.’ Unfortunately, we couldn't add to the script. Menchu had to make it work through stage elements and devices, and building the relationships between the characters through plain acting. It’s so totally different now, and so much more meaningful. Menchu's sleepless nights have paid off.”

Pangan is currently playing the role of the narrator in the crowd-pleasing “Rock of Ages,” followed by playing Guido Contini, a famous Italian filmmaker, in Maury Yeston's “Nine,” both by Atlantis Productions. Both roles will definitely give him a good stretch, according to him.

Aguilos will perhaps pursue her sabbatical from theater, which had to be pushed back in order for her to make her theater debut with Rep. After “Jekyll and Hyde,” she can now say – as she makes her exit – that she had worked with Rep, one of the most established theater companies in the Philippines.

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