Monday, September 23, 2013

The ‘Closer’ I get to you

 (The Philippine Star)
Original Article can be found HERE

 Red Turnip Theater's first offering: Closer opening on October 4  
Photos by DIX PEREZ Sittings by DAVID MILAN        
MANILA, Philippines - I never did like Disney. Preying on innocent minds and making us believe in fairy tales and happily ever after is pretty cruel, don’t you think?” said Ana Abad Santos, hands down my favorite theater actress slash director and now the founder of The Red Turnip Theater — the new kid formed by not-so-new kids around the theater block that’s bringing the play Closer close to us this October. 

In between surfing, doing movies, organizing events and marketing for a sports brand and shooting teleseryes, Ana Abad Santos is now back in her element, with a vengeance that is palpable as I hear her talk about her new theater company’s new project.

But first I was curious. Why the name Red Turnip Theater? “The late great Bibot Amador used to say, “You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip... But you can damn well paint it red.” Ana turns pensive as she recalls that turning point.  “As we were building the company, that quote kept running in my head.

“Maybe as a reminder that love and passion are not enough. You gotta have guts and nerves of steel. And boy, did that woman have all of the above!” Ana emits a different glow whenever the topic turns to where she started and where she intends to go.

Pursuit of love and other drugs

“Both as a salute to a great mentor and a symbol of passion, and humor — we named our company Red Turnip Theater.” Ana formed the company with other theater veterans Rem Zamora, Cris Villonco, Jenny Jamora and Topper Fabregas.

Their first project? Closer. Some of us might be familiar with the movie adaptation of the play that was based loosely on an opera, but this one proves to be even more exciting. “Closer is a painfully humorous dissection of the human heart and it’s tirelessly sad pursuit of love.” Call it jaded but don’t we catch ourselves swinging to and fro that pendulum depending on the moments of our lives?
Ana shared with me some of the stellar lines from the play.

“Try lying for a change. It’s the currency of the world.”  — Dan. 

Or this, “The poor are more generous.” — Larry.

 “Have you ever seen a human heart? It looks like a fist wrapped in blood!”  — Larry.

“I don’t want to lie. I can’t tell the truth.  So it’s over,” said Alice. With a script that’s as amazing as this, and with a cast so brilliantly assembled as pictured above in this exclusive PhilStar Supreme shoot, how can you not want to see the show this October?

Oh and the exciting part about this run is that the show will be staged at Whitespace, with Friday night shows starting at 9 p.m. There’s also a bar where you can get drinks and have a glass of wine while watching the show, and food from Cibo (upon order), too! Now that’s what you call adjusting to the times. 

I then look at Ana and I see her aura turn into a deeper shade of red. “In spite of its modern tone, it has a very classic rhythm. Very poetic. Imagine Romeo and Juliet hundreds of years later is still ruining our lives. Love remains elusive. Why do the greatest love stories end in tragedy? Death keeps it alive.  It cannot survive in everyday life. We don’t have the space.”

Catch Red Turnip Theater's CLOSER
October 26 | Sat | 3PM | Whitespace, Makati
Patron Tickets at Php 1000 each

Contact Onay 0917.908.0565 or Jayme 0927.202.2017

Review: Atlantis turns 'Carrie' from flop to hit

By Vladimir Bunoan,
Original Article can be found HERE

Mikkie Bradshaw as Carrie in the bloody prom scene of the stage musical "Carrie." Photo from the Facebook page of Atlantis Productions

MANILA -- Atlantis Productions' stage musical version of Stephen King's "Carrie" opened to a prolonged standing ovation on Friday despite its notorious reputation as one of Broadway's biggest flops when it first opened in New York in 1988.

The ecstatic audience response in Manila was a vindication for book writer Lawrence D. Cohen, who was the special guest on opening night at the RCBC Plaza in Makati, where "Carrie" will run for three weekends until October 6.
During curtain call, an obviously emotional Cohen thanked "the gifted and fearless" director Bobby Garcia and the entire production team "who have done justice and credit to 'Carrie' anywhere in the world."

Cohen, who also wrote the screenplay for the 1976 movie directed by Brian de Palma, noted that "Carrie," based on King's debut novel, "has become more resonant now than when it was written 40 years ago and when the movie came out. It's found some astonishing way, I think, to touch us and move us and, most of all, hold the mirror up and remind us what it is to be human."

"We are so lucky to have Bobby and this incredible company to remind us that 'Carrie' speaks a really important truth that we all need to stand in other people's shoes, that we need to have empathy for each other and, most of all, whoever we are and wherever we live, we are all connected," Cohen said in his speech.

The stage musical "Carrie" didn't get this kind of acceptance from either audiences or critics when it premiered in 1988 and ran for only five performances. A 2012 revival of the show, a massive reworking of the original with some entirely new songs, got a better response but its reputation has been so soaked in hatred -- Time magazine at that time even made a poll of theater critics to see if "Carrie" was indeed the worst musical of all time (it wasn't) -- such that The Hollywood Reporter advised its creators "to just embrace their battered creature for the freak that she is."

As such, it was surprising when Atlantis Productions announced that it was including "Carrie" in this year's lineup. But Garcia apparently was among those who saw something admirable about the much-maligned musical.

In a Facebook post before Friday's opening night, Garcia wrote: "25 years ago, I fell in love with this musical. And here we are opening the first international production with an amazing group of people on stage and off. Feeling like that 18-year-old who saw the show in 1988. Blessed, grateful and inspired."

"Inspired" is an apt description for Garcia's reworking of the musical. With Otto Hernandez's creepy set design of a decaying barn house, with high windows that suggests an old church and prison bars at the same time, moodily lit by Martin Esteva, "Carrie" opens silently as the cast enters the stage one by one.

Old discarded black-and-white TVs then run a home-made video of the prom a la "The Blair Witch Project" capturing the mayhem that ensued before cutting to a video of a police interrogation of a student, Sue Snell (Yannah Laurel), as she recounts the tragedy.

This interrogation frames the entire musical, which is composed of flashbacks leading to the movie's famous prom scene with Carrie drenched in pig's blood, the culmination of a series of cruel jokes played on her by her classmates at high school, which unleashes horror on her tormentors.

The real horror on display here isn't so much a teen freak with special telekinetic powers but the bullying that occurs to kids who don't fit into the popular teen mindset. Indeed, with news rife with tragic tales of bullied kids who are led to suicide, "Carrie" resonates to a modern audience who were too young -- or perhaps they were not even born yet -- when the movie spooked audiences in 1976.

Carrie (played by young actress Mikkie Bradshaw) isn't scary per se (although Bradshaw gives her a mean stare) but more of an un-cool outsider with her extreme religiosity, frumpy clothes and sullen posture. She has been raised by a righteous, religious fundamentalist mother (Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo), who in shielding Carrie from sin also deprived her of a sense of normalcy.

These characterizations helped lift "Carrie" from being just a tale of paranormal revenge as it highlights more the psychodrama that has forced this tormented teen to use her psychic abilities with disastrous results. The result is a moving, engrossing dark musical that is intimately emotional yet grandly theatrical at the same time.

The prom climax was thrillingly staged with collapsing set pieces, effective visual projections and red lighting, but it was the scene after that with a blood-drenched Carrie seeking refuge with her mother that was more chilling.

Apart from the affectionate directorial handling, the performances of Bradshaw and Lauchengco-Yulo proved to be a key winning element to this staging's success. Bradshaw, in her first lead role, shows precision in her singing, making her duets with the vastly experienced Lauchengco-Yulo very powerful. Bradshaw also makes Carrie less of a weirdo to make the audience root for her.

Lauchengco-Yulo has the more difficult task with her role as the strict, nearly mad mother. It's easy to make Margaret into a monster mom, a tyrannical Christian, but the veteran actress managed to make the audience understand her character. Margaret, like Fosca in Stephen Sondheim's "Passion," which Lauchengco-Yulo also played, isn't at all likable but if handled well, can evoke some sort of pity despite her flaws.

This is what Lauchengco-Yulo achieved in "Carrie." Moreover, she is also given the play's most dramatic songs -- the terrifying "And Eve Was Weak" and the sad "When There's No One" -- which Lauchengco-Yulo turns into show-stopping numbers.

The songs, made by the tandem of Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford ("Fame," "Footloose"), are actually uneven with some overly dramatic and bombastic ensemble numbers but there are some melodic ballads here which are radio-friendly enough, like the duet "You Shine" sung with pop polish by Laurel and Markki Stroem, who also gave "Dreamer in Disguise" a laidback singer-songwriter feel.

But "Carrie" is definitely a group effort and despite some minor scenes with pops of unnecessary humor, the ensemble was, on the whole, realistic, sticking with the play's dark theme without overplaying it.

Atlantis' success with "Carrie" proves that even a musical that's been butchered on Broadway can have some sort of redemption.

Catch CARRIE on its closing weekend run! 
Ticket Prices: 1700, 1600, 1300, 800 and 700

RC Marzan 0922.888.5348 
Onay Sales 0917.908.0565

View Available Seats Here:

SHE Rocks: Menchu Lauchengco still enjoying theater after 15 years

Photo courtesy of Atlantis Productions.

What else can you do after you’ve earned the title “First Lady of Philippine Musical Theatre,” and you’ve wowed critics by playing practically all the challenging roles available to stage artists?

You don’t rest on your laurels. Not when you’re Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo.
Voice coaches Jai Sabas in the Philippines and another one in New York, among others help Menchu keep her voice pitch-perfect for musicals.

“You could do things that could hurt your voice, especially in this country where you end up singing songs not necessarily in your vocal range. So you have to go back to your voice coach, ” she explains.

Menchu also makes sure she rests her voice to prepare it for all the singing and even screaming she does on stage.

“You need discipline. You don’t party after rehearsals and just go home and rest. You have to take care of your body.”

Menchu needs all the energy she can get in the upcoming production of “Carrie” the musical where she plays deranged mom Margaret White who cries and shouts – in song – all at the same time.

“It’s fifth gear in every scene. I get mad and I’m screaming. It’s one of the hardest roles I’ve ever done. This is another level of difficulty. It’s such an intense role.”

It’s so intense it even requires her to slap Mikkie Bradshaw – who plays Carrie, the teenage girl equipped with telekinetic powers that frightens her mom so.
The role can sap the energy of the most hyper actor, and Menchu is no exception.

Cartoons to relax
What does she do?

“I watch cartoons,” she smiles.

Cartoons – and the love for her craft – keep Menchu going.

“I like to accept roles that stretch and challenge me. I have no time to relax. I’m on my toes. I want to do justice to every role. You wanna push yourself constantly.”

Menchu has been pushing herself constantly since age 15, or 35 years ago, when she started in theater.

Theater has been her “happy place,” and Menchu feels blessed she can go back to her comfort zone anytime she wants. The good roles just land on her lap, and for that she feels “lucky and honored.”

“I’ve been very blessed. It would be wrong to complain.”

Menchu’s followers – who have seen her grow up in theater – are enjoying the journey along with her.

Catch CARRIE on its closing weekend run!  
Ticket Prices: 1700, 1600, 1300, 800 and 700 
RC Marzan 0922.888.5348  
Onay Sales 0917.908.0565 
View Available Seats Here: 

Friday, September 20, 2013

‘Carrie’–a musical prelude to Halloween

By Walter Ang
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Original Article can be found HERE

Atlantis Productions will stage the suspense-horror musical “Carrie” in the weeks leading up to Halloween. 

The musical is based on Stephen King’s best-selling novel (first published in 1974) about a girl who is bullied in school and suffers under a cruel mother. She soon discovers a special power that she wields over her tormentors. 

Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo headlines the show as the titular character’s mother Margaret White, while Mikkie Bradshaw (“Rock of Ages,” “Nine,” “Disney’s Aladdin,”) will play Carrie. 

An upcoming film adaptation has Julianne Moore as Carrie’s mother and Chloe Grace Moretz (“Hugo,” “Kick-Ass,” “(500) Days of Summer”) as Carrie. Prior to this version, there was a 1976 film adaptation directed by Brian De Palma, starring Sissy Spacek in the title role. 

The musical version debuted on Broadway in 1988 with book by the film’s screenwriter Lawrence Cohen, music by Michael Gore (“Fame,” “Terms of Endearment”), and lyrics by Dean Pitchford (“Fame,” “Footloose”). 

The 1988 version was critically panned and closed after only five performances. The incident was notorious enough to be immortalized in the title of Ken Mandelbaum’s book “Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops.” 

Last year, a reworked version by the original collaborators was staged on a limited engagement Off-Broadway, earning numerous nominations from different award-giving bodies. 

Atlantis is staging the 2012 version. “It is a beautifully tragic retelling of the Cinderella story with an amazing Broadway pop score,” says Atlantis’ artistic director Bobby Garcia, who is directing the show with Jamie Wilson as assistant director and Ceejay Javier as musical director. 

Choreography is by Cecile Martinez, with set design by Otto Hernandez, lighting design by Martin Esteva, sound design by Bobbit Jacinto and costume design by Raven Ong. 

Catch CARRIE on its closing weekend run! 
Ticket Prices: 1700, 1600, 1300, 800 and 700

RC Marzan 0922.888.5348 
Onay Sales 0917.908.0565

View Available Seats Here: