Monday, January 30, 2012

Atlantis Productions' NINE Pulls Off A Casting Coup, 9/21-10/7

Soap actress Eula Valdez stars as Claudia Jenssen
in Atlantis Productions' upcoming production
of Broadway musical NINE; image c/o
Atlantis Productions Inc.
by Oliver Oliveros, BroadwayWorld.com 

Manila, Philippines, January 30, 2012 – Rest assured that Atlantis Productions Inc. (Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Next to Normal) will deliver casting coups in its current theater season: the official announcements that Tony Award-winning actress Lea Salonga will be starring as Veronica in the straight play God of Carnage, and rock star MiG Ayesa will be reprising his Broadway role as Stacee Jaxx in the rock, ‘80s themed musical Rock of Ages came in earlier; in addition to that, Atlantis Productions' recent announcement of another rock star Jett Pangan (Next to Normal, Jekyll and Hyde) and some of the classy ladies in Philippine theater, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo (Love, Loss and What I Wore, Next to Normal), Cherie Gil (Master Class, Doubt), and Eula Valdez (Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah), will be essaying lead roles in the sexy musical Nine in September confirmed another casting triumph for the prolific theater company.

In the musical Nine, which features Maury Yeston’s (Death Takes A Holiday, Grand Hotel) music and lyrics, and Arthur Kopit’s (Wings, Indians) book based on Federico Fellini’s semi-autobiographical film 8 1/2 , Pangan will portray the role of Italian filmmaker Guido Contini (Antonio Banderas played Contini on Broadway in 2003 while Daniel Day-Lewis played the same character in Nine’s film adaptation released in 2009); Yulo will play Contini’s wife, Luisa; Gil will play Contini’s film producer, Liliane Le Fleur; and Valdez will play Contini’s leading lady, Claudia Jenssen.

Nine tells the story of Contini, who’s turning 40 and facing a midlife crisis, as he prepares for his latest motion picture, and balances the many women in his life. The original Broadway production, which starred Raul Julia as the famed film director, won five Tony Awards including Best Musical in 1982.

Atlantis Productions’ upcoming take on Nine will feature set design by Tony Award-winning scenic designer David Gallo (Memphis, The Drowsy Chaperone). “I’m so excited to collaborate with Gallo once again. He’s one of the most talented designers I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with. He’ll also be selecting an up-and-coming designer in the Philippines to work as his apprentice for this production,” says Bobby Garcia, Atlantis Productions’ resident director, who first worked with Gallo in Broadway Asia’s touring production of Cinderella. “I’m also excited that the costumes for Nine will be designed by New York-based Filipino designer Robin Tomas,” he adds.

Nine will run from September 21 to October 7, 2012 at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

MAMMA MIA! In Manila Extends Till 2/19

Mamma Mia! at the Cultural Center of the Philippines
extends until Sunday, February 19; poster image
c/o Concertus Inc.
by Oliver Oliveros, BroadwayWorld.com

Manila, Philippines, January 25, 2012 – True blue ABBA fans have an additional one week to catch the international touring production of composers and lyricists Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and book writer Catherine Johnson’s smash musical Mamma Mia! at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Previously slated to close on February 14, Concertus Inc., one of the local producers behind Mamma Mia!, has just announced the show’s final extension: must close February 19.

Mamma Mia! opened in Manila on January 24 to a very enthusiastic audience that danced in the aisles to the show’s finale megamix: a medley of ABBA’s greatest hits that includes “Mamma Mia,” “Dancing Queen,” and “Waterloo” done in a concert style.

Presented by Infinity, powered by Smart, and Citibank, Mamma Mia!, which is widely regarded as the mother ship of jukebox musicals on Broadway and in London’s West End, features 22 songs by ABBA, a Swedish pop music group formed by Andersson and Ulvaeus in the '70s. Apart from “Dancing Queen” and "Mamma Mia," radio hits "Take A Chance On Me,” Voulez-Vouz,” and "The Winner Takes It All," are show-stopping musical numbers from the show.

Johnson's script, which is set on a Greek island where a wedding is about to take place, adds a dramatic structure that melds together ABBA's discography.

Included in the Manila run are actresses Sara Poyzer (Donna Sheridan, the mother of the bride), Charlotte Wakefield (Sophie Sheridan, the bride), Rosie Heath (Ali, Sophie’s bridesmaid), and Tasha Taylor Thompson (Lisa, Sophie’s bridesmaid).

Mamma Mia’s international touring company has played to theatergoers in the United Kingdom, Dubai, Germany, Sweden, Prague, New Zealand, Turkey, China, and Tapei.

For tickets to Mamma Mia!, visit BroadwayWorld Philippines’ show listings section [Click Here].

The international touring cast of Mamma Mia! recently met with the local press:  (L-R): Tasha Taylor Johnson (Lisa), Kelly Edwards (dance captain), Sara Poyzer (Donna Sheridan), Charlotte Wakefield (Sophie Sheridan), and Rosie Heath (Ali); photo by Jory Rivera
Also, avail of current Mamma Mia! promos

Mamma Mia! Cebu Pacific Air Promo

Cebu Pacific Air passengers get an exclusive 10% discount on Mamma Mia! tickets: log on to Cebu Pacific Air website at www.cebupacificair.com till February 15 for details.

Mamma Mia! Dusit Thani Manila Promo

Till February 18, Dusit Thani Manila offers the Mamma Mia! Room Packages where guests have the opportunity to watch Mamma Mia! while enjoying luxurious accommodations in the city. This room package includes an overnight stay; buffet breakfast for two at Basix All-Day Dining Restaurant; two orchestra tickets to Mamma Mia!; plus a complimentary roundtrip car transfers to and from the Cultural Center of the Philippines. A limited-edition Mamma Mia! original cast recording CD is given away as a special commemorative gift to club and grand room guests. Package rates start at PhP 15,500+. For information, call (632) 238-8888.

Rustan's Mamma Mia! Raffle

For every single-receipt purchase of PhP 3,000 at Rustan's Makati, Shangri-La, Alabang, Gateway, Cebu, RP Essenses, Red Tag, and Newport Stores, the customer receives one raffle ticket. Rustan's will draw 25 winners of Mamma Mia! tickets worth PhP 5,000 each, and 18 winners of tickets worth PhP 7,000 each. Promo Duration: January 18 – February 8.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Photo Flash: LOVE, LOSS, AND WHAT I WORE In Manila

Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo in Love, Loss, and What
I Wore
; photo by Jory Rivera
by Oliver Oliveros, BroadwayWorld.com

Co-written by Precious Lee Cundangan 

Manila, Philippines, January 23, 2012 – Falling in love is sweeter the second time around, and it’s true in the case of Love, Loss, and What I Wore, an Off Broadway play that you would fall in love with, and would love to see over and over again. For that reason alone, Manila-based CTE Productions brought back Love, Loss, and What I Wore for another run at RCBC Theater in Makati City last weekend. Michael Williams (Sweeney Todd, Defending the Caveman) and Cathy Azanza-Dy (Defending the Caveman) teamed up again as co-directors for Love, Loss, and What I Wore, which was first performed in Manila in July 2011.

Love, Loss, and What I Wore’s ultrachic, straightforward, and compelling script is penned by sisters Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle) and Delia Ephron (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Hanging Up). Based on the bestselling book by Ilene Beckerman, Love, Loss, and What I Wore vividly recalls a collection of funny, emotional, heartwarming, and sometimes heartbreaking stories from various women who remembered important times in their lives through the clothes they wore: from prom dresses to memories of what mothers would say about their daughters’ sense of style; from women’s gamut of emotions inside the dressing room to those cowboy boots that make a woman feel and look sexy and tough – and even Madonna – the play talks about fashion only women would understand.

Love, Loss, and What I Wore, which is currently running on Off Broadway, has had featured notable actresses like Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls); Alicia Silverstone (Clueless); Betty White (Golden Girls); Brooke Shields (Blue Lagoon, Grease); Fran Drescher (The Nanny); Jamie Lynn Sigler (The Sopranos, Entourage), Jane Lynch (Glee); Nikki Blonsky (Hairspray), Rita Wilson (Sleepless in Seattle), and Rosie O'Donnell (Grease), to name a few.

For last weekend’s run in Manila, Jay Valencia-Glorioso, acclaimed classical vocalist and theater performer, headlined the cast of Love, Loss, and What I Wore, together with other theater luminaries: Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, also Repertory Philippines’ associate artistic director; Azanza-Dy; Liza Infante-Robinson, also Repertory Philippines’ treasurer; and Bituin Escalante, a multi-award winning recording artist.

Love, Lost, and What I Wore may look like a “girl thing” on the onset but it should also cater to men – the play could help men understand what goes through a woman’s mind, and her often misunderstood, abused heart.

For more photos, click HERE.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Spotlight Artists Centre Holds Auditions for KATY!, 1/29

Spotlight Artists Centre, which staged the Manila
revival of original Filipino musical Magsimula Ka last year, 
is bringing back the smash Filipino musical
Katy! this year!; image c/o Spotlight Artists Centre
by Oliver Oliveros, BroadwayWorld.com

Manila, Philippines, January 22, 2012 – Ryan Cayabyab (music) and Jose Javier Reyes’ (book and lyrics) hugely successful original Filipino musical, Katy!, a musical based on the life and times of the “Queen of Philippine Jazz” Katy dela Cruz (1907-2004), is making its way back to the stage this year! Acclaimed theater and recording artists-cum-performance teachers Isay Alvarez, Robert Seña, and Tricia Amper Jimenez’s Spotlight Artists Centre is on top of this much-anticipated theatrical event.

Auditions for major roles, like Katy (25-40 years old); male lead (25-40 years old); and young Katy’s father (45-55 years old) will be held on Sunday, January 29. Auditionees should prepare a song from the musical like “Minsan Ang Minahal Ay Ako,” “Sari-Saring Babae,” “Balut,” etc. or a jazz song. Call Yssa at (632)899-8089 or (63)922-8986644 for more information and registration requirements.

“Katy!” was originally produced by Celeste Legaspi and Girlie Rodis; the show premiered at the now-defunct Rizal Theater in 1989, which later transferred to the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Legaspi, Mitch Valdez, Bernardo Bernardo, and Marco Sison starred in the original production, directed by Nestor Torre.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

2011 BWW Philippines Awards Winners Announced!

by Oliver Oliveros, BroadwayWorld.com

After an intense internal auditing process, the results are in for the 2011 BroadwayWorld (BWW) Philippines Awards!

This year's nomination and voting periods broke online traffic records and we couldn't be more excited to announce the winners from the Philippines, which were chosen by our avid readers: Nikki Gil (Sweet Charity); OJ Mariano (Rent); Ciara Sotto (Sweet Charity), Cris Villonco (The Joy Luck Club), Vince Tañada (Cory ng Edsa); Martin Delos Santos (Ang Post Office); Shamaine Buencamino (Fake); Jeremy Domingo (American Hwangap); original Filipino musical Cory Ng Edsa; The Play Company and Ma-Yi Theater Company’s original play American Hwangap; 9 Works Theatrical; and Resorts World Manila are among this year’s top winners.

Nominations were submitted on October 2011, and voting ran through midnight of December 31, 2011.

Best Leading Actress (Musical)
Nikki Gil - Sweet Charity - 9 Works Theatrical

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role/Ensemble Role (Musical)
OJ Mariano - Rent - 9 Works Theatrical

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role/Ensemble Role (Musical)
Ciara Sotto - Sweet Charity - 9 Works Theatrical

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role/Ensemble Role (Play)
Cris Villonco - The Joy Luck Club - Repertory Philippines

Best Leading Actor (Musical)
Vince Tañada - Cory ng Edsa - Philippine Stagers Foundation

Best Leading Actor (Play)
Martin Delos Santos - Ang Post Office - PETA

Best Leading Actress (Play)
Shamaine Buencamino - Fake - UP Playwrights' Theater

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role/Ensemble Role (Play)
Jeremy Domingo - American Hwangap - Tanghalang Pilipino

Best Musical
Cory ng Edsa - Philippine Stagers Foundation

Best Play
American Hwangap - Tanghalang Pilipino

Best Direction of a Musical
Vince Tañada - Cory ng Edsa - Philippine Stagers Foundation

Best Direction of a Play
Gary Labad - Ang Post Office - PETA

Best Choreography
John San Antonio - Cory ng Edsa - Philippine Stagers Foundation

Best Costume Design
Emy Tañada - Cory ng Edsa - Philippine Stagers Foundation

Best Lighting Design
Shoko Matsumoto - Next To Normal - Atlantis Productions Inc.

Best Musical Direction
Pipo Cifra - Cory ng Edsa - Philippine Stagers Foundation

Best Set Design
Jeffrey Ambrosio - Cory ng Edsa - Philippine Stagers Foundation

Best Sound Design
Art Grabentina - Cory ng Edsa - Philippine Stagers Foundation

Best Theater Company
9 Works Theatrical

Best Theatrical Venue
Resorts World Manila

Congratulations to all the winners!

BWW Phils. Interview: PRISCILLA's J. Elaine Marcos Talks Ping-Pong Balls, Pink Boas & More

TV, film, and Broadway actress J. Elaine Marcos
By Oliver Oliveros, BroadwayWorld.com

New York, January 18, 2012 – TV, film, and Broadway actress J. Elaine Marcos can’t shy away from the fact that she’s a distant relative of the Marcoses, the Philippines’ most controversial political clan. Apart from the obvious last name and broadly similar facial features as Imee Marcos, the current governor of the northern province of Ilocos Norte, J. Elaine even made a cameo appearance as Imee’s mom, Imelda Marcos, the Philippines’ former first lady, in the Broadway musical comedy The Wedding Singer five years ago. Nonetheless, the Marcoses (and Filipinos around the world) should pay attention to this petite, brown-skinned, talented actress – J. Elaine happens to be carrying an impressive Broadway resume that includes Miss Saigon, Flower Drum Song, Wonderful Town, Sweet Charity, again The Wedding Singer, A Chorus Line, and her latest assignment, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, where she does a show-stealing turn as Cynthia, a feisty Filipina mail-order bride who performs the late ‘70s hit single “Pop Muzik” (interspersed with lyrics in Filipino, e.g. “isa, dalawa, tatlo, I’m rapping in Filipino”) while blowing out ping-pong balls into the audience.

“Comedy, first of all, is something I absolutely love. If there’s one thing that I really know very well, it’s this character [Cynthia]. I’ve said many times that Cynthia’s like my mom: Cynthia's over-the-topness – that kind of exaggerated persona – is what I love to do because I don’t ever really get to do that at all in my real life. When it comes to other comedies, I tend to do it completely subtle and dry. With Cynthia, I feel completely at home doing it. I don’t feel artificial,” J. Elaine tells BroadwayWorld.com in an exclusive one-on-one interview. “However, I’m not really good at ping-pong. But, I’m good at bowling; I’d go for the big balls,” she bursts out.

J. Elaine Marcos as Cynthia in Broadway's
Priscilla: Queen of the Desert;
photo by Joan Marcus
American singer, actress, and comedian Bette Midler brings the screen-to-stage adaptation of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert to Broadway, which opened at Palace Theatre (1564 Broadway) in March 2011 and recently announced performance schedules running through September 2012. The Tony Award-winning musical (Best Costume Design for Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner) tells the story of Bernadette (Tony Sheldon), Mitzi (Will Swenson), and Adam (Nick Adams) – three drag queens-cum-best friends who engage in their wildest road trip ever (driving the “Priscilla” bus across the Australian desert), where they meet J. Elaine’s Cynthia and husband to Cynthia, Bob (C. David Johnson), an Australian mechanic who eventually joins the drag queens’ expedition.

Except for Tony, who originated the role of Bernadette in Australia five years ago, J. Elaine, Will, Nick, C. David, and the rest of the original Broadway cast of Priscilla first performed their respective roles via the North American premiere of Priscilla in Toronto, six months prior to opening on Broadway. J. Elaine recalls, “The Canadians loved it. I’m not used to an audience getting up, dancing, pumping fists in the air, and wearing [pink] boas at the same time. Especially in the last show I was in, which was A Chorus Line, there wasn’t even an opportunity on that show at the very end for the audience to clap because we had this finale ["One"] which people think was our last number; but that was actually our bows. They were singing along with it; they were just sitting in their seats; but, they never had the opportunity to clap.”

In contrast, she adds, “I remember in Toronto, the first time we did the show, the cast was really shocked with the amount of enthusiasm coming back from the audience. I remember Tony saying, ‘I knew you guys would be amazed at the reception we’re getting; you would be getting it every night.’ And, it does feel good…The audience knows the show’s music, e.g. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “Material Girl,” and “I Will Survive.” You just kind of let go and you don’t have to worry so much about the lyrics of the songs. In the finale, I’ll be looking at the audience and I’ll notice, literally, a random group of Filipinos would be waving at me and I'll be waving back at them."

Apparently, among Priscilla’s opening night audience in Canada was J. Elaine’s mom, her sole inspiration in creating the hilarious role of Cynthia. “My mom just laughed when she saw the show in Toronto. I would say that she definitely felt so honoured because everyone remembers Cynthia. I don’t think that she realized that the audience loves Cynthia because she’s kind of crazy though, “ J. Elaine bursts into loud laughter. “But, I’m glad that people have embraced Cynthia, in a sense, love her.”

J. Elaine Marcos rehearses for Priscilla: Queen of the Desert in Toronto;
photo by Racheal McCaig
An alumna of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in New York City, J. Elaine first came to the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of” in 1994. “I took a two-year program at AMDA – pretty much singing and acting all day for two years. Then, I kept on till I got to working on Broadway then TV and film (which includes appearances in NBC’s 30 Rock and Lipstick Jungle; and a feature role in Morning Glory, a comedy film with Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford, among others).” Even though working on TV and film is more financially rewarding compared to working in a musical theater production, J. Elaine wouldn’t mind filming during the day and performing in the theater in the evening. “I love the theater because of the gut feeling of the live audience and the immediate reaction. It’s so fast. Doing a film is also wonderful; but let’s be honest, television and film pay much more. But I’m very grateful because [both TV and film] people recognize my work in Priscilla.”

Recently nominated as one of the Outstanding Filipino-Americans in New York, together with other Filipino actors who have been making a name for themselves on Broadway like MiG Ayesa (Rock of Ages) and T.V. Carpio (Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark), J. Elaine is so amazed with the strong bond among Filipino artists working in American theater. “We all know each other. They’re only a few of us, and we respect each other,” she says. “Miss Saigon was my Broadway debut (last one year and a half before it closed in 2001). That was the first time that I really was able to embrace my Filipino culture in a way. During dinner time, someone would bring [Filipino food] kare-kare or dinuguan. The dressing room smelled like food – our food. Miss Saigon really brought a lot of Filipinos together.”

Consequently, Filipino artists continue to conquer the bright lights of Times Square till this day: George Salazar and Ana Maria Perez de Tagle star in the first Broadway revival of Stephen Schwartz’s Godspell; Catherine Ricafort stars as Ali in Broadway’s current 10th longest-running musical, Mamma Mia!; Bobby Lopez has been consistently winning Tony Awards for his original scores for musicals, for instance, his works for 2003’s hit musical Avenue Q and today’s hottest show in town, The Book of Mormon; and of course, J. Elaine never ceases in bringing the house down every night at Priscilla.

J. Elaine stresses that “in the workplace, we always make fun of stereotypes because we know our types: I know I’m short, Asian, Filipino. Another guy knows that he’s the tall, black guy. We look at the breakdowns: that’s what we see, and that’s what it is. But, we know we’re more than that. It’s not an issue amongst us. Thankfully, we know it takes a lot to get a job. In musical theater, they really put you into a wringer. They want to make sure you can sing, act, dance, and you can harmonize. Everyone made it through the wringer, so we’re more than just our types.”

“I’m going to stay with the Priscilla as long as it runs. Like I said, it feels like home. It’s a good thing!” she exclaims as BroadwayWorld.com wraps up the interview.

Priscilla: Queen of the Desert at Broadway’s Palace Theatre is currently offering winter season tickets starting at $43. You may purchase tickets at www.priscillaonbroadway.com.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Photo Flash: Geoffrey Nauffts' NEXT FALL Opens In Manila, 1/13-2/5

Repertory Philippines' production of Geoffrey Naughts' Next Fall stars Bart Guingona
and David Bianco; photo by Jory Rivera
by Oliver Oliveros, BroadwayWorld.com

Co-written by Precious C. Lee Cundangan 

Manila, Philippines, January 13, 2012 – Repertory Philippines (Rep.), the country’s premier English-speaking theater company, is celebrating 45 years in business by opening its 75th season with New York University Tisch School of the Arts alumnus and playwright Geoffrey Nauffts’ Broadway dramedy Next Fall, a moving story of a gay couple whose religious differences add tensions and contradictions to their five-year romantic relationship. The play “takes a witty and provocative look at faith, commitment, unconditional love, and what goes beyond a typical love story,” according to Rep.

Audie Gemora, who recently won a Best Direction citation at the Aliw Awards for his work on the original Filipino musical Noli Me Tangere, directs Next Fall, his second straight play directorial job for Rep. after Equus.

David Bianco plays Luke; photo by Jory Rivera
Leading the production’s cast is theater stalwart Bart Guingona, who plays Adam, a cynical atheist whose non-committal, no-nonsense take on religion is challenged when his partner meets an accident; co-starring with Guingona is David Bianco, an actor from Theatreworks USA, who plays Luke, Adam’s boyfriend, an aspiring thespian and a devout born again Christian.

Also in the cast are Liesl Batucan, who plays Holly, Adam and Luke’s common friend, and owner of the candle shop where the couple works; Niccolo Manahan, who plays Brandon, Luke’s gay Christian friend; Juno Henares, who plays Arlene, Luke’s eccentric mom; and Miguel Faustmann, who plays Butch, Luke’s religious father and Arlene’s former husband.

Next Fall premiered as an Off Broadway play, produced by Nauffts’ Naked Angels, at Peter Jay Sharp Theatre in the summer of 2009; the sold-out performances and rave reviews that the production earned that summer prompted a Broadway transfer to Helen Hayes Theatre in March 2010.

“[Next Fall's] the little play that could,” according to New York critic David Cote, garnered several awards and nominations, among them were the 2010 Outer Critics Circle Awards’ John Gassner Award for Nauffts; 2010 Drama Desk Award nominations for Best Outstanding Play, Best Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play for Sean Dugan; 2010 Tony Award nominations for Best Play, Best Direction of a Play for Sheryl Kaller); and 2010 Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for Outstanding New Broadway Play

Rep’s artistic, creative, and production team members behind Next Fall are Baby Barredo (artistic director), Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo (associate artistic director), John Batalla (lighting designer), Denis Lagdameo (set designer), Gidget Tolentino (production manager), Ayam Barredo (company manager), Dingdong Rosales (stage manager), Pol Roxas (sound technician), Pablito Salvador (lighting technician), and Adul Lasin (set execution and scenic artist).

Next Fall runs from January 13 to February 5, 2012 at Onstage, Greenbelt 1, Makati City; evening performances are on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., and matinee performances are on Saturdays and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. For tickets, visit BroadwayWorld Philippines show listings’ section [Click Here].

For more photos, Click Here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

BWW Phils. Interview: Fredison Lo Talks SOUND OF MUSIC, RENT, Anne Curtis & More

De La Salle University-Manila alumnus and Stages talent Fredison Lo stars as
Rolf in Resorts World Manila's current production of the Broadway musical
The Sound of Music; photo c/o Stages Production Specialists Inc.
by Oliver Oliveros, BroadwayWorld.com

Co-written by Jude Cartalaba

Manila, Philippines, January 11, 2012 – Perceived as a boy-next-door type by many young theater habitués and TV 5 viewers, Fredison Lo (Fred Lo to his theater colleagues and former schoolmates at De La Salle University-Manila), has started out a career niche in the theater by essaying lead roles in major musical productions of Rent (Mark Cohen) and Trumpets’ N.O.A.H (Narrator/God); and has recently been exploring acting on mainstream television too via TV 5’s remake of the ‘70s-‘80s popular sitcom Iskul Bukol, where he played the role of the young professor Rude Valentino.

“[As to being typecast as a take-home-to-mama guy] Well, I try to be as nice as I can be whenever I deal with people. But, I don’t exactly label myself like that because in every experience that I have, it changes me in some way, helping me grow as a person. And, I do admit to having a dark side,” Lo told BroadwayWorld.com at Resorts World Manila’s recent press conference for its extended run of the beloved Broadway musical The Sound of Music. Lo has been tapped to breathe life into the character of Rolf (with Marvin Ong as alternate actor), the young Nazi messenger whom Liesl von Trapp has fallen head over heels with, and who will eventually betray the von Trapp family in the play.

Among the characters he has played in the theater and on television so far, Lo finds playing the role of independent filmmaker, Mark, in the Pulitzer Prize-winning rock musical Rent as the most challenging.

“For me, acting on stage isn’t about acting like someone but being the character itself. After figuring out what kind of person Mark was for me (his history, likes, dislikes, motivations, etc.), I tried incorporating who my image of Mark was into my own personality to create my version of him. In doing so, I was able to convey a character on stage that felt natural to me even though I wasn’t exactly like him, because I put part of myself into the character.”

Lo added, “[Iskul Bukol’s] Rude was more of a fun character to play. Rude was nice, smart, and serious yet naïve. His character dealt with trivial problems and had less depth, while Mark was deep and involved in more complicated and serious situations that left a lot of inner dialogues and conflicts to be discovered in his [spoken and sung] lines.”

Fredison Lo poses as Rolf; photo c/o Resorts World Manila
He also stressed that his role as Rolf, as opposed to Mark, reveals that “Rolf’s biggest conflict would be between his interest in Liesl von Trapp and his political views/inclinations. He technically has a clear and concise view of his path in life, and he follows it based on his instincts. Mark, on the one hand, is someone who’s looking for purpose and meaning to his life, and what he's doing. As the story progresses, we slowly see Mark’s growth and emotional battle through each experience he has in the play, while, Rolf’s journey is left to the imagination.”

During BroadwayWorld.com’s interview, Lo was vocal about auditioning for or playing the part of Simba’s nemesis, Scar, if ever Disney’s The Lion King would make it to the Philippines.

“I’ve always been curious of how I’d do as a villain,” he said.

“Frankly, I know that I don’t exactly fit the peg of a villain, that’s why I usually get protagonist roles. I guess, I just want to see what my other side is like on stage, just for a change. Also, I love The Lion King.”

Interestingly enough, if he were given the opportunity to be a leading man in a mainstream movie, he would be picking television host-turned-recording/concert artist Anne Curtis as his leading lady.

“… I’d love to work with Anne Curtis (after I get past the initial starstruck moment I always get when I see her); I think she’s one of those girls in showbiz who has grown in a lot of aspects and is very comfortable with who she is (and I find her hot, too!),” he burst into laughter.

Fredison Lo at Resorts World Manila's recent
press conference for The Sound of Music;
photo by Dale Bacar
Both local actresses and singers Sarah Geronimo, and Nikki Gil (who also does musicals, e.g. Legally Blonde, Sweet Charity) have surfaced as his choices to singing a duet, “I think it’d be cool to do a duet with the two ladies.”

Lo may not be in the league of the most bankable local mainstream entertainment stars just yet, but he has certainly earned some fiercely loyal fans, and still remains humble amidst his newfound celebrity status.

“Well, I’m not exactly a big celebrity. I’m practically a ‘baby’ when it comes to the showbiz industry. But I’ve had some experiences when people recognize me in the malls or in the streets; some of them even ask to take pictures, and it’s a really a good feeling to know that people hear or know of what you do after all the efforts you put into your work," he said. "I guess one disadvantage [of being a celebrity] is that your life matters to other people now; so, you have to be careful of the things you do because the bigger your name is, the more people pay attention to your life."

Lo knows what his passion is, and knows how and when to pursue that passion at the same time. BroadwayWorld.com wrapped up its interview with the theater and television actor by asking for his personal advice to young Filipino talents who have been trying to carve a niche for themselves in the same field of interest that he’s in.

“I honestly believe that the things that have been happening to me are because of the decisions and risks that I made, which helped me get to the right place and right time; and, I know that there will be a lot more places and times to end up in,” he said.

“But I’m not saying that you should wait for it and expect things to happen. Life still requires a lot of hard work and perseverance because disappointment is always the easiest and most common state to be in. Always ask yourself: ‘What have I done lately to make it (your dreams, goals, etc.) happen?’ As long as you keep preparing for it and never let rejection bring you down, you’re bound to end up in your right place and time.”

Catch theater heartthrob Fredison Lo as Rolf in Resorts World Manila’s now long-running production of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s “The Sound of Music” at Newport Performing Arts Theatre until February 12. For tickets, visit BroadwayWorld Philippines show listings’ section [Click Here].

Monday, January 09, 2012

MAMMA MIA! Gives Backstage Tour; International Tour Opens in Manila 1/24

Broadway and West End's hit musical Mamma Mia! opens in Manila on January 24;
photo c/o Mamma Mia! International Touring Company

by Oliver Oliveros, BroadwayWorld.com

New York, January 9, 2012 – Philippine-based ABS CBN lifestyle program host and entertainment reporter MJ Felipe recently flew all the way to Zurich, Switzerland to meet and conduct a behind-the-scenes tour with Mamma Mia’s international touring company’s stage manager, James Anderton and its cast. The touring production marked its 2,000th performance on the road in Zurich last November; its next stop is the Cultural Center of the Philippines, with limited engagement performances from January 24 to February 12. 

On Broadway, Mamma Mia!, currently the 10th longest-running musical in Great White Way's history, which features the music and lyrics of Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus, and book by Catherine Johnson, celebrated its 10 years at the Winter Garden Theatre with a street concert party in Times Square and the Empire State Building lit up in pink, white, and blue last October. Three Filipino Broadway actors are currently playing in Mamma Mia! on Broadway: Catherine Ricafort (Ali), Albert Guerzon (Ensemble/Eddie understudy), and Gerard Salvador (Ensemble/Pepper understudy).

Mamma Mia!, which is also widely regarded as the mother ship of jukebox musicals, contains 22 of the best radio hits of ABBA, a Swedish pop music group formed by Andersson and Ulvaeus in the '70s. "Dancing Queen," "Mamma Mia," "Take A Chance On Me" and "The Winner Takes It All," are some of show-stopping musical numbers from the show.

Johnson's script, which is set on a Greek island where a wedding is about to take place, adds a dramatic structure that melds together ABBA's discography.

Included in the Manila run are actresses Sara Poyzer (Donna Sheridan, the mother of the bride), Charlotte Wakefield (Sophie Sheridan, the bride), Rosie Heath (Ali, Sophie’s bridesmaid), and Tasha Taylor Thompson (Lisa, Sophie’s bridesmaid).

Mamma Mia’s international touring company has played to theatergoers in the United Kingdom, Dubai, Germany, Sweden, Prague, New Zealand, Turkey, China, and Tapei.

For tickets to Mamma Mia! in Manila, visit BroadwayWorld Philippines show listings’ section [Click Here].

Saturday, January 07, 2012

SOUND OF MUSIC Manila Releases New Promo Video; Show Extends Till 2/12

Joanna Ampil stars in Resorts World Manila's production of
Rodgers and Hammerstein's beloved musical The Sound of Music;
image c/o Resorts World Manila
by Oliver Oliveros, BroadwayWorld.com

Manila, Philippines, January 7, 2012 – London-based musical theater actress Joanna Ampil (Miss Saigon, Avenue Q), who’s been playing the coveted role of postulant Maria Rainer (with Cris Villonco as alternate actress) in Resorts World Manila’s local production of Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers’ beloved musical The Sound of Music (SOM) for over three months now, would need to postpone her planned visit to New York City this winter because Resorts World has just announced SOM’s extended performances till February 12, 2012.

Resorts World held a press conference on January 5, which unveiled its new hit musical’s additional performances and Ampil’s new co-stars: Ariel Rivera (1896, Rama at Sita) plays Captain von Trapp (Audie Gemora and Jon Joven as alternate actors); Leo Martinez (Equus) plays Max Detweiler (Miguel Faustmann and Robbie Guevara as alternate actors); Sheila Valderrama (Wedding Singer, Sweet Charity) plays Baroness Elsa Schraeder; and Fred Lo (Rent, N.O.A.H.) plays Rolf (Marvin Ong as alternate actor). Furthermore, Resorts World has released its new promo video, which shows Ampil as Maria: wearing her postulant’s habit while singing out solfege syllables at a recording studio.

SOM is Ampil’s second major musical project in Manila; the first one was West Side Story, where she played the young, love-struck Maria opposite international recording artist Christian Bautista’s Tony. Prior to her local assignments, she had starred in the London productions of Miss Saigon, Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Miserables, Hair, Rent, and Avenue Q. She also recorded the vocals of Kim in the complete symphonic recording of Miss Saigon in 1995, and the vocals of Mary Magdalene in a cast recording of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1997.

Ampil co-starred with Adam Pascal (Rent, Aida) in a musical concert titled The Real Love produced by Supreme Master Television last year; Ampil plans a mini-reunion with Pascal, who’s currently playing the role of DJ Huey Calhoun in the Broadway musical Memphis, when she finally gets the chance to visit the Big Apple.

For tickets to Resorts World’s now long-running musical The Sound of Music, visit BroadwayWorld Philippines’ show listings section [Click Here].

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

MAMMA MIA's Catherine Ricafort Stars In PRISON DANCER Web Series

Filipino-American Broadway actress Catherine
Ricafort plays Cherish in the upcoming 12 episode
web series Prison Dancer.
by Oliver Oliveros, BroadwayWorld.com

New York, January 2, 2012 – Last year’s New York Musical Festival’s (NYMF) participant Prison Dancer, a musical inspired by the world-renowned dancing prisoners from Cebu, Philippines, featuring music and lyrics by Romeo Candido, and book by Candido and Carmen de Jesus, is now a web series. Prison Dancer, a 12 episode web series premiering this Spring, stars Canadian Idol Season One finalist Mikey Bustos and Mamma Mia! on Broadway’s current Ali, Catherine Ricafort.

Prison Dancer tells the story of six Filipino dancing prisoners – Lola, Oo Oo, Nana, Hookaps, Shakespeare, and Christian (played by Bustos) – whose lives are suddenly changed when their dancing videos uploaded on YouTube became viral hits. Investigative journalist, named Matt, uncovers the “personal, poignant, hilarious, and universal stories of these prisoners.”

Ricafort plays Cherish, love interest to Bustos’ Christian, the prison’s newly-admitted inmate. “We shot in Toronto last month, and it was an incredible experience! It’s a project filled with many firsts me: [it’s my] first time to act on camera; [it’s my] first time to do a project based on a true Filipino story; and [it’s my] first time to speak some lines in Tagalog (the first language in the Philippines) with an accent,” Ricafort told BroadwayWorld.com.

Ana Serrano, a three-time Canadian New Media Award recipient, produces Prison Dancer for its web release. For more information, visit www.prisondancer.com.