Saturday, July 11, 2015

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady - The Musical (A Review)

By Anton Diaz
Original Article can be found HERE

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady (The Musical)-3.jpg

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady (KPANLL) is a proudly Original Filipino Musical about the aspirations and tribulations of the common Filipino, set amidst a battle between superheroes and supervillains. The show is very endearing throughout, flawlessly integrating Pinoy humor, poking fun at our quirky habits and (mis)pronunciation of words, and a hopeless love story.

I was in awe after the latest media preview at Onstage Greenbelt 1. It was my first time to watch the show, and we couldn't stop laughing and enjoyed it immensely.

I'm proud to be a witness of this coming of age of Philippine Theater and to watch history as it unfolds. Don't miss out on the show that everyone is raving about! 
This collaboration between Carlo Vergara (Writer and Creator) and Vincent De Jesus (Composer, Lyricist) is brilliant and unbeatable. Watch the video as they explain the inspiration behind KPANLL - The Musical.

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady (The Musical)-1.jpgMeet Fuwerza Filipinas--the most beloved superhero team of the country--who ironically do not speak Filipino nor interact with the common Filipino people.

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady (The Musical)-14.jpgFuerza Filipinas is made up of Team Leader Madre de Dios (Shiela Valderrama-Martinez/Astarte Abraham), Leading Man (Hans Eckstein), Nena Babushka (Giannina Ocampo), Windang Woman (Caisa Borromeo), Bazooka Man (Jef Flores/Chuck Lazaro-Hipol), and Popoy Pusakal (Chesko Rodriguez). 

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady (The Musical)-2.jpgKayumanggilas is the supervillain team and nemesis of Fuerza Filipinas, who vow to annihilate the superheroes with their temporary superhuman powers provided by the "Chemical Q". They are the proud Filipino team with all the quirky Pinoy traits.

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady (The Musical)-18.jpgKayumanggilas features Team Leader Senyor Blangko (Domi Espejo/Nar Cabico), Henyotic the Scientist (Mikoy Morales/Rhenwyn Gabalonzo), Jeryc Sans Rival the Wolfman (Elliot Eustacio), Maracas Marko the Expert Boxer (Red Nuestro), and Itak-Itak (Red Concepcion/Joshua Cabilas).

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady (The Musical)-16.jpgThe story focuses on the struggles of domestic helper Mely Moran and her sister Viva, who is perceived as lazy but believes she is destined for greater things.

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady (The Musical)-20.jpgThe plot is layered with different themes, including the kilig love story of Mely Moran, who hopeless falls in love with her amo, the superhero Leading Man...

20150702_224238...and the social theme of the fight of good citizens vs. evil politicians, with the latter seemingly winning and succeeding in eliminating the good people of this country.

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady (The Musical)-28.jpg
In many ways, it's like an evolution of the Pinoy superhero universe--from Zsazsa Zaturnnah to the new heroes and villains in Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady.

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady (The Musical)-30.jpgI love how the lights, sounds, and set all work together to illicit emotions from and rouse the imagination of the audience.

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady (The Musical)-31.jpgIn the end, love conquers all and the common Filipino wins! Frankly, a lot of the side stories are left hanging in the plot, likely leading theater audiences to clamor for a Part 2.

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady (The Musical)-32.jpg
There are a number of things I love about Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady - The Musical.

Firstly, there's Vincent de Jesus' Tagalog songs. They give the audience a deep insight into the Filipino psyche, while also making inspired use of our colloquial language. If I could compare it to anyone's music, it would be that of the Eraserheads--relatable, catchy, and memorable--the kind you would just love to play over and over again. 

Secondly, I also love the story, with it's blend of witty Pinoy humor, relevant social themes, and parallelisms to our own lives.

Lastly, I love that it's a feel-good musical and, in my humble opinion, a world-class production that can be staged in the likes of Broadway.

There were admittedly some dragging parts in the beginning, as the personalities of each of the characters were still being established. I also feel like some of the songs were senseless, like "We have a Maid", and I couldn't help but compare "Pretend I'm Her" to Eponine's song in Les Miserables.

I missed the first run of KPANLL at the PETA Theater, so I vowed not to miss this Onstage run. You have to watch this show and experience how it elevates the Original Filipino Musical to the world stage!

Congratulations to Dalanghita Productions, the creative team, and the entire cast of Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady - The Musical!

Live an Awesome Life,
anton  signature


on its closing weekend run!
July 26, 2015 | Sunday | 3PM @ OnStage, Greenbelt

Ticket Prices: 1500, 1200 and 800

For inquiries, ticket sales and reservations,
Text Karl (0908.986.1896)
RC (0922.888.5348)
Onay (0917.908.0565)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady Teleports to Makati!

Dalanghita Productions, Inc will be restaging  
Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady the Musical  
after its successful first run last May 2015. 

This time, the critically acclaimed musical 
is moving to OnStage, Makati!


on its closing weekend run!
July 26, 2015 | Sunday | 3PM @ OnStage, Greenbelt

Ticket Prices: 1500, 1200 and 800

For inquiries, ticket sales and reservations,
Text Karl (0908.986.1896)
RC (0922.888.5348)
Onay (0917.908.0565)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Rak of Aegis is Back!

Original Article can be found HERE

MANILA, Philippines – It’s been a fruitful 47th theater season for the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA); and while the theater is ablaze with the ongoing Summer Program, the company shows no signs of stopping for a breather.


PETA’s 48th season sees the comeback of crowd favorite and hit comedy musical Rak of Aegis. Fans and first-timers are expected to flood the theater for this record-breaking hit that is set to open this June, due to insistent public demand.


Breakout Kapuso star Aicelle Santos, and 2009 WCOPA Champion Kim Molina come back as Aileen; the promodizer with big dreams to raise her family from the knee-deep floods that have plagued their town for months. This all-Filipino, all-original musical features songs from the iconic band Aegis, with a star-studded ensemble on an award winning, must-see set.

This comedy musical has hit a record-breaking 135 shows in the first year of its showing alone, a milestone for the theater company and indeed, for Philippine theater. In 2014 alone it has garnered over 16 citations for performance and technical categories including Outstanding Original Musical, Outstanding Ensemble Performance for a Musical, Stage Direction for a Musical (Maribel Legarda), Original Libretto (Liza Magtoto), Musical Direction (Myke Salomon), Choreography (Gio Gahol), Costume Design (Carlo Pagunaling), Sound Design (Salomon and Happy Constantino), Set Design (Mio Infante), Female Lead Performance in a Musical (Aicelle Santos and Joan Bugcat), Female Featured Performance in a Musical (Kalila Aguilos) and Male Featured Performance in a Musical (Myke Salomon, Pepe Herrera, Jerald Napoles and Juliene Mendoza)


The cast of Rak has also enjoyed several new projects in between runs: Poppert Bernadas who plays Aileen’s suitor Kenny was recently seen in The Voice Philippines, while Pepe Herrera (Tolits) enjoys a stint in the romcom TV series, Forevermore. Singer Kim Molina also breaks into the theater scene with production after production, most recently in the upcoming Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady by Dalanghita Productions.

This run also welcomes many new neighbors to Barangay Venizia. Renz Verano and  Lorenz Martinez both play Aileen’s father Kiel, opposite Lani Ligot (Priscilla Queen of the Dessert; Broad Way, Narrow Way) who plays Mercy, Aileen’s mother; The Company’s Sweet Plantado also joins the cast as Mary Jane. The ensemble is joined by PETA artist-teacher Roi Calilong (D’ Wonder Twins of Boac, PAMANA), Teetin Villanueva (MANHID, Maxie the Musical) with Via Antonio and Raflesia Bravo.


The cast also sees the return of talented ensemble members made up of Stella Mendoza (Mary Jane), Kakai Bautista and Neomi Gonzales (Mercy), Jerald Napoles (Tolits), Myke Salomon (Kenny), Nor Domingo, Julienne Mendoza, and Gie Onida (Fernan), Phi Palmos, Ron Alfonso, and Jimmy Marquez (Jewel), Gimbey dela Cruz, Abi Sulit, Gab Pangilinan, Jet Barrun, Gio Gahol, Carlon Matobato, John Moran, Paeng Sudayan, and Kakki Teodoro (Ensemble).


on July 31, 2015 | Friday | 8PM @ PETA Theater Center

Ticket Prices: 1800, 1500 and 1000

For inquiries, ticket sales and reservations,
Text RC (0922.888.5348)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How does one become a ‘Leading Lady’?

Lea Salonga  
Philippine Daily Inquirer 
Original Article can be found HERE

A FORCE of nature, Bituin Escalante (second from left) delivers an uplifting performance. photo: Facebook/Erickson de la Cruz

A FORCE of nature, Bituin Escalante (second from left) delivers an uplifting performance. photo: Facebook/Erickson de la Cruz

When I told my husband Rob Chien that he and I were going to see Dalanghita Productions’ “Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady” at the Peta Theater in Quezon City on Sunday afternoon, he immediately asked: “Will I be able to understand it?” (He’s American, so it was a valid question.) I said that it’s about half and half, and that he’d be able to get everything. It was all about context. Thankfully, the show was in the hands of amazingly skilled actors, so he didn’t have a problem at all.

The musical (with music and lyrics by Vincent de Jesus and book by Carlo Vergara and Perterean Briñas, based on Vergara’s graphic novel of the same name) tells the tale of sisters Mely (Bituin Escalante) and Viva (Natasha Cabrera), and their respective run-ins with the superhero team known as Fuwerza Filipinas and the supervillains the Kayumanggilas.

Mely is hired as the Fuwerza’s new maid (apparently, superheroes can’t clean up after themselves despite being able to save the world), while Viva is the Kayumanggilas’ new pawn in their efforts to bring the heroes down. Both Mely and Viva carry their own sets of emotional baggage due to how they were each raised by their mother (May Bayot), as well as a previous romantic rivalry. And it all plays out in hilarious, dramatic and, at times, dark fashion.

Three-dimensional life

There is one point in the show when the tone shifts from very light to very heavy, where the laughter that permeated the air only seconds before suddenly goes silent and cold.

The show’s major strength for me lies in the hands of the performers tasked to bring Carlo’s original paper-and-ink characters to vivid three-dimensional life.

Escalante has always been a force to be reckoned with on stage, and it fills me with joy that there is a role like this created for someone with her unique look and skill set. An incredible actress and singer, each word that comes out of her mouth, whether spoken or sung, isn’t ever gratuitous or taken for granted. She is gifted at making you laugh your face off, or cry a river of tears, and the sincerity with which she plays Mely can be felt from wherever you’re seated, never once descending into over-theatricality.

Cabrera was Escalante’s emotional match, but with a seemingly lighter, more buoyant energy. However, you could tell that there was something bubbling beneath the surface. Hers is a powerful voice put to good use here (and there are moments in the show when power is the primary requirement).

Bayot is ever-reliable in every part she plays, and Nanay is no exception. Nanay in her hands is complete, acted and sung with nuance and feeling.

Fuwerza Filipinas—Madre de Dios (Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo), Leading Man (Hans Eckstein), Nena Babushka (Giannina Ocampo), Windang Woman (Caisa Borromeo), Bazooka Man (Jef Flores) and Popoy Pusakal (Chesko Rodriguez)—all look and behave the way you expect superheroes to: muscular, agile, tall, powerful, and fluent in English, complete with either a British or American accent.

Lauchengo-Yulo always carries every character she plays with the air of royalty and leadership, making her an almost typecast Madre de Dios. She also has a set of abs that threatens to upstage her every time she appears.

Eckstein is near perfection as Leading Man, as this role requires not just a six-pack and a jawline that any Hollywood star would envy, but vulnerability and humanity. He has most certainly grown from the ensemble tracks that he would regularly fill, and I’m hoping that he is offered more leading-man roles from here on.

Ocampo is effective in conveying the irony of being Nena: she’s a healer, but can’t heal her own broken heart. Borromeo is all sass and big hair, with her trademark big voice. Flores and Rodriguez occupy their roles with coolness (I mean come on, that bazooka is cool) and imposing physical presence, but betray themselves to be nothing more than teenage boys once safe at FF Headquarters.

Special mention must be given to Kakki Teodoro for playing the computer… she was perfect.


The villains—Senyor Blangko (Nar Cabico), Henyotic (Vince Lim), Jeryc Sans Rival (Elliot Eustacio), Marakas Marko (Red Nuestro), and Itak-Atak (Red Concepcion)—are the antithesis of the Fuwerza. Sure they have powers, but only with the help of Chemical Q, concocted by their scientist Henyotic. They are all “normal,” but with malevolent intentions, plagued by their own insecurities and the desire to quickly and artificially rise above them all.

Cabico is a master scene-stealer, having proven this as Didi in “Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah.” Senyor Blangko trips and falls all over the English language like a drunken party girl in heels that are way too high, and the results are only too hilarious.

Lim’s college-boy looks belie deeper, darker intentions; in short, he only looks harmless. It’s obvious his time as one of the Ryan Cayabyab Singers has shaped a voice that is not only strong but also pliant.

Eustacio, Nuestro and Concepcion carry their roles with aplomb, all with hilarious results. The Kayumanggilas’ second act opener is more than worth the price of admission. You cannot miss it.

Only complaint

If I have but one complaint, it is that the show is a tad long. With a running time of three hours (this is how long “Les Misérables” runs, and that’s with trims and cuts), one can get antsy. I’m sure the creative team (director Chris Martinez, production designer Tuxqs Rutaquio, sound designer Jethro Joaquin, lighting designer John Batalla, and choreographer Nancy Crowe) already has a laundry list in mind for the next runs of the show (for sure this show will, like “Rak of Aegis” before it, enjoy many reruns and will be restaged multiple times).

It’s unfortunate that in the Philippines, there is no such thing as a “preview period,” when for around three to four weeks the material is examined and reexamined on a daily basis every single day leading up to a show’s official opening night.

Over here, “three to four weeks” constitute a show’s entire run.

However, if composer-lyricists like De Jesus keep churning out world-class material like this (his Tagalog lyrics in particular are the stuff of poetry, which is masterly illustrated in the Nena-Leading Man-Mely trio where both English and Tagalog are used in the same song), previews may need to become a necessity, because a long-running original Pilipino musical would no longer be the stuff of fantasy. It would be a reality that would make so many theater performers and creators’ dreams come true.

That said, this would only happen if audiences support more original Pilipino plays and musicals. Our stories, our music, running for at least a year in the same theater is something I would like to see in my lifetime.

To the entire cast, crew, producers and creative team of “Leading Lady,” my most heartfelt congratulations, not only for a great show on a Sunday afternoon, but for offering us a glimpse into what is possible in the future, where the original Pilipino musical is seen as just as, if not more, fantastic face to face with shows from Broadway or the West End.

And we can proudly call it ours.


on June 6 and June 7 (Saturday & Sunday) 3PM @ PETA Theater Center

Ticket Prices: 1200, 900 and 600

For June 6, 2015 | Saturday | 3PM
Text: Karl (0908.986.1896),  LA (0917.633.9448)  and/or Jayme (0917.770.2762) 

For June 7, 2015 | Sunday | 3PM
Text: Buena (0917.885.0091),  Dain (0917.592.4567)  and/or Onay (0917.908.0565) 

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Review: ‘Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady, The Musical’

Original Article can be found HERE   

poster_KPANLL-asof20aprTo follow up Philippine Educational Theater’s Association’s (PETA) production of “Rak of Aegis” is a tall order. 

Next month, June 2015, “Rak” will be restaged for the nth time and its bound to attract SRO crowds anew.

From the material alone Carlo Guevarra’s one-act play “Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady, The Musical” seems Rak’s worthy successor.

Nearly two years after its play was staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), “Kung Paano” goes to PETA Theater in Quezon City with a musical version, adding one more act and 17 new members on the original cast.

“Kung Paano” is the story of downtrodden Mely, who lands in a job as maid for La Fuerza Pilipinas made up of Madre de Dios, Nena Babushka, Windang Woman, Bazooka Man, and Popoy Pusakal; who are out to save the nation from lawless elements.

They are worshipped by the masses but aloof, and ironically, English-speaking.

Mely’s sister Viva gets tangled in the war between La Fuerza and its nemesis Kayumanggilas, while she and Mely confront a past, unsettled issue.

Staging a musical play about superheroes is a challenge, given today’ stiff competition from CGI and special effects-laced movies.

These days anything is possible in the cineplex – a car flying from one building to another (“Furious 7”), a bus swinging from a bridge (“Spiderman”), and dinosaurs roaming around parks (“Jurassic Park”).

Those special effects have eventually made their way into theater – “Spiderman,” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night- Time,” among them – adding color, and texture to the story, a visual treat to justify shelling out more than US$100 for an orchestra seat in Broadway.

“Kung Paano” would have benefited from special effects given its futuristic, cut out of a comic book, Marvel-like characters. But given its production limitations, the hi-tech-iness is left to the audience’s imagination, which restricted the play’s ability to turn them into full fanboy mode.

We wish they could have borrowed the (oftentimes obtrusive and unnecessary (huge) LED screens at Resorts World used in previous shows (“The Sound of Music”, “Noli Me Tangere, The Opera”).

It would have been also helpful if they mounted a different set for the Kayumanggilas, who are locals and low-tech, to show contrast.

But no worries, “Kung Paano’s” lack of technical brevity could be easily dismissed thanks to excellent lighting and scoring – and of course, the actors’ diligent acting and singing.

Frenchie Dy, who played the lead character (she alternates with Bituin Escalante) slayed the role of a pure-of-heart maid whose contentious relationship with her sister is the musical’s main arc.

But it was Kim Molina as Viva, who stole the show. A former alternate lead in “Rak,” her voice soared, and she owned the stage.

Her solo about finding one’s identity performed before the end of Act 1 was the play’s first major emotional moment. In fact the only song in the slow and almost sleepy first half that was memorable enough.

And there lies the weakness of “Kung Paano.” Act 1 was a slow burn, and lacked emotional punch to engage the audience (spoiler alert) despite the love angle between Mely and one of the superheroes.
The second part, however, was a major turnaround.

The opening song where we learned more about members of the Kayumanggilas (“lumaki sa sisig at balut”) was a major laugh trip.

Leading the ragtag and jologs team is Senyor Blangko (a commanding Domi Espejo) “murderer” of the English language, who is joined by Henyotic, Jeryc Sans Rival, Marakas Marko and Itak-Atak, whose superpowers depend on an ingesting a concoction called Chemical Q.

In terms of drama, the trio of the siblings and their mother was an emotional chokepoint.

But it was the face-off between Mely and Viva, sans music, which gave the play its heart, albeit its teleserye peg.

It would be unfair to judge “Kung Paano’s” success based on “Rak,” because the former is an original musical while the latter rode on the coattails of Aegis’ phenomenal jukebox hits.

It’s also different from Carlo Vergara earlier project, “Zsa Zsa Zaturnah, The Musical.”

But “Kung Paano” has all the elements of a full-blooded Pinoy production, its many themes and subjects – sibling rivalry, self-redemption, breaking the rules, the growing divide between rich and poor, colonial mentality, and class war hit familiar territories. And the humor is spot-on, a couple of times green, but riotous.

With radio drowning us with music from foreign acts, if not unworthy Pinoy starlets, and local movies with gutter level humor and predictable plots being shoved in our throats “Kung Paano” is a welcome breather.

This one’s for the geeks.


on June 6 and June 7 (Saturday & Sunday) 3PM @ PETA Theater Center

Ticket Prices: 1200, 900 and 600

For June 6, 2015 | Saturday | 3PM
Text: Karl (0908.986.1896),  LA (0917.633.9448)  and/or Jayme (0917.770.2762) 

For June 7, 2015 | Sunday | 3PM
Text: Buena (0917.885.0091),  Dain (0917.592.4567)  and/or Onay (0917.908.0565) 

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Review of Dalanghita Prod's KUNG PAANO AKO NAGING LEADING LADY the MUSICAL: Solid Superhero Spectacle!

Original Article can be found HERE

Mely Moran is a homely hardworking 35-year old woman who gets hired to be the maid of Fuerza Filipinas. This group of elite English-speaking superheroes is composed of their sword-wielding leader Madre de Dios, along with wind-controlling Windang Woman, the healer Nene Babushka, the soldier Bazookaman, and the cat-like acrobat Popoy Pusakal. Things get complicated when their newest recruit, the power-ringed telepathic Leading Man, appears to be falling in love with Mely. 

Mely's younger, sexier and lazier sister Viva, on the other hand, gets recruited by a nefarious group of supervillains on the pretense of saving Mely, whom they claim was in danger. Calling themselves the Kayumanggilas, this group was led by the megalomaniac Senor Blanco and his minions. Powered by the Chemical Q, this rival group plots to destroy Fuerza Filipinas and become the premiere superbeings of the world. Clueless and foolish Viva fit right into their evil plans of world domination. 

Mely and Viva had long been at odds with each other since childhood because of their disparate personalities. However, with this latest and biggest misunderstanding, their unstable and adversarial relationship as sisters results in a conflict that would threaten the lives of all the superheroes, as well as the very safety of the whole world. 

Flores, Ocampo, Lauchengco-Yulo, Borromeo

The plot of this musical is derived from Carlo Vergara's one-act play of the same title, which was an audience favorite during the Virgin Labfest 9 held at the CCP two years ago. Vergara has expanded that original one-act play into a big musical production with two complex acts, each act lasting almost an hour and a half each.  

The first act took its time to establish the multiple characters and their relationships. Momentum would occasionally dip at certain points and it felt as if this act could need some editing and streamlining. However, when the second act came, all of that is forgotten as each scene was a showstopping highlight. The audience could be jarred as the seemingly light-hearted first act takes a turn to the very dark, even showing a very grim massacre happening somewhere in there. 

However, whatever shortcomings the very complex script may have with all the characters it had to deal with, it is the talent and charisma of the actors that become the crowning conceit of the whole show. Every actor just seemed to embrace their character perfectly, possessing voices that were able to soar with the punishing arrangements. It was one of those rare productions that brought together actors more known for their English plays and those more known for Filipino plays. I found this very exciting.  

Cabico, Molina, Lim

Bituin Escalante fit her role as Mely so well, from the unsophisticated looks to humble demeanor. Her singing voice was impeccable as always, on point in pitch and emotion. Her acting was painfully poignant. Escalante's struggle with her Segway is a quite a sight to see. Her alternate in this role is another big-voiced belter, Frenchie Dy. Since these two singers would appear to have very different personalities (Escalante being more serious, and Dy more wacky), it would really be interesting to see Ms. Dy's attack on this role as well. 

Kim Molina, whom I did not catch in "Rak of Aegis," surprised me with her powerful voice as Viva. It is her character who went through the most complicated development in the play, sometimes even feeling more like the central character than Mely. Molina's alternate in this role is Natasha Cabrera. Escalante and Molina had a powerhouse trio number with May Bayot (who played their mother), which was one of the best songs in the show.  

It seemed effortless for Markki Stroem to draw attention to himself when he is onstage as Leading Man because of his charming smile and strong stage presence. He was also given a lot of scenes with romantic thrill, which he pulled off quite well. Compared to previous plays I have seen him in like "Carrie" and "Next to Normal", his work here is a very marked improvement. His alternate in this role is Hans Eckstein, who was the original Leading Man in the Virgin Labfest one-act run. 

Escalante, Lauchengco-Yulo, Stroem

It was my first time to see Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo on the PETA stage, and it would be as the kickass Madre de Dios. I thought we would actually hear her speaking in Tagalog, but as it turned out, her role was still totally in English. She gets to display her toned body in the fight scenes, as well as her powerful voice in her featured song in the second act. It is surprising to learn that this is Ms. Menchu's first appearance in an original Filipino musical in her long and storied career as "First Lady of the Philippine Stage". (Her alternate in this role is Astarte Abraham.)  

Among the Fuerzas, Gianina Ocampo stood out in her friend-zoned role as Nena because she got to deliver one beautifully sad and self-denying ballad. Jeff Flores, who was so good in Rep's recent show "4000 Miles", registered strongly as Bazookaman. Caisa Borromeo and Chesko Rodriguez complete the roster as Windang and Popoy respectively. Kakki Teodoro managed to steal scenes as the Fuerza's Robot

Nar Cabico had the most memorably funniest scenes and lines of the whole show as the evil Senor Blangko, who prided himself with his hifalutin yet mangled English. He delivered hilarious lines like "Like a flower, you will smell" with confident gusto and aplomb. (His alternate in this role is Domi Espejo.)

Santos, Cabico, Nuestro, Concepcion

Red Concepcion (as the g-string clad Itak-Atak) and Red Nuestro (as the heavyweight boxer Marakas Marko) did their best with their funny villain roles. JC Santos makes a charming canine villain Jeryc Sans Rival. Vince Lim surprised us with his unexpectedly amazing vocals in his scientist character Henyotik's one featured song number. (Mikoy Morales would alternate in this role). Their Kayumanggilas group song which opened the second act was one of the show's most applauded song and dance numbers. 

The PETA stage was transformed into a most futuristic-looking set. It came complete with a rotating circular stage in the foreground. The first time we see it rotate was during that scene when Mely initially meets a towel-clad Leading Man, drawing big cheers from the audience. The costumes by Tuqxz Rutaquio ranged from the X-Men inspired Fuerza leather garb to the most "jologs" Kayumanggilas attire. The songs and musical score were signature Vincent de Jesus. The exciting lighting effects of John Batalla were so critical during the battle scenes. 

Congratulations to Director Chris Martinez and the young triumvirate behind Dalanghita Productions (Ansis Sy, Claudia Fernandez and Pertee Briñas) for this solidly entertaining show! It managed to weave an intimate family drama between sisters with a superhero battle-royale of a much bigger scope, while delivering a positive message of recognizing our inner gifts and rising up to challenges. While doing that, it bridged both sides of the Philippine theater scene into one grand production. 

Cast and Crew

on June 6 and June 7 (Saturday & Sunday) 3PM @ PETA Theater Center

Ticket Prices: 1200, 900 and 600

For June 6, 2015 | Saturday | 3PM
Text: Karl (0908.986.1896),  LA (0917.633.9448)  and/or Jayme (0917.770.2762) 

For June 7, 2015 | Sunday | 3PM
Text: Buena (0917.885.0091),  Dain (0917.592.4567)  and/or Onay (0917.908.0565) 

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady Opens on May 7

Original Article can be found HERE

I admire friends who know what they are good at and know what they want. Even more, I respect those who act and take big leaps to make their dreams happen in this thing called LIFE (Ansis Sy, 2014). My good friends Claudia Fernandez, Ansis Sy and Pertee Briñas, all young professionals,  started their own theater company, Dalanghita Productions. To those who are not familiar with dalanghita, it is actually a Filipino fruit similar to a dalandan. (I’m sure you know what a dalandan is. If not, refer to calamansi. It is bigger. *judging you*). Dalanghita is a young company that promises a fresh take on original Filipino musicals.

True enough, in cooperation with Philippine Education Theater Association (PETA), Dalanghita’s first musical production, Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady is 100% fresh and is bound to break some boundaries in the local theater scene.  The title itself tickles my curiosity that if this was a book I saw in the bookstore, I’ll buy and read just like that. Well, actually, KPANLL became a graphic novel before it was first penned in 2013 for the 9th Virgin Labfest by the same artist and author, no other than Carlo Vergara (creator of Zsazsa Zaturnnah). KPANLL The Musical is directed by Chris Martinez (I Do Bidoo Bidoo, Kimmy Dora, Temptation Island…Live!)  with music by Vincent de Jesus (Himala the Musical, Batang Rizal, Juan Tamad).  

The musical zeroes in on the story of two sisters Mely played by Bituin Escalante/Frenchie Dy and Viva played by Natasha Cabrera/Kim Molina. The two can be considered opposites. Mely is the ate. She is responsible and hardworking. Viva, however, is the bunso. The younger one that believes that she is meant for greater things. As if their relationship is not complicated enough due to an unsettled conflict, the sisters are caught between the war of the superhero (Fuwersa Filipinas) and supervillain (Kayumanggilas) teams.  

Of course, a family of superheroes too busy saving the country from natural disasters and evil-doings also need household help. Imagine Thor doing his own laundry or the Hulk cleaning the bathroom. LOL. Mely eventually lands a job as the maid of Fuwersa Filipinas. Viva gets hired as a maid too, but she will be presented an opportunity that’s going to be hard to refuse.

The cast very much guarantees that this will be an explosion of talent. KPANLL boasts some of the most talented and highly-respected artists in the country. It also stars May Bayot-de Castro as Nanay, Hans Eckstein/Markki Stroem as Leading Man, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo/Astarte Abraham as Madre de Dios, Giannina Ocampo as Nena Babushka, Jeff Flores as Bazooka Man, Caisa Borromeo as Windang Woman, Chesko Rodriguez as Popoy Pusakal, Nar Cabico/Domi Espejo as Senyor Blangko, Vince Lim/Mikoy Morales as Henyotic, Elliot Eustacio as Jeryc Sans Rival, Red Nuestro as Maracas Marko and Red Concepcion as Itak-Atak. 

Wow! I am so excited!

on June 6 and June 7 (Saturday & Sunday) 3PM @ PETA Theater Center
Ticket Prices: 1200, 900 and 600 

  For June 6, 2015 | Saturday | 3PM
Text: Karl (0908.986.1896),  LA (0917.633.9448)  and/or Jayme (0917.770.2762)  

  For June 7, 2015 | Sunday | 3PM
Text: Buena (0917.885.0091),  Dain (0917.592.4567)  and/or Onay (0917.908.0565) 

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Q&A: Carlo Vergara, playwright of ‘Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady'

First, what a catchy title.

Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady is a one-act play and graphic novel by Carlo Vergara, him of Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah fame. Leading Lady is his first theater script intended for performance. It was part of 9th Virgin Labfest in 2013, and was restaged in August 2014.

The story revolves around Mely, a maid who works for a superhero team and her sister Viva. If that's not interesting enough for you, add a love story, a superhero fight, plus new and original songs to make for Leading Lady the musical extravaganza. Vergara joins forces with director Chris Martinez (Kimmy Dora is one of his masterpieces) and Vincent de Jesus, (who also did the music of Himala the Musical). Leading Lady will start its one-month run on Thursday, May 7.

We chat with Vergara about where the hell he gets his crazy good ideas and how he’s able to translate them into theater.

How did Leading Lady come about?
When the one-act play was restaged in 2014, the would-be producers were in the audience. They had been looking for material for their first major project. After the show, one of them (Pertee Brinas) contacted me and expressed interest in expanding the material into a full-length musical. When I met with Pertee (and his partners Ansis Sy and Claudia Fernandez) some time after, they asked me whom I would prefer to take on the direction and music. It was a no-brainer for me: Chris Martinez and Vince De Jesus were my top choices.

How long was it from approach to play time?
We first met around August, right after Labfest.

We can't get over the title!
I already had a title in mind, even though I didn't know exactly the details of the story. All I knew was, I wanted a story about a maid who works for a superhero team, and her sister. There's also a romantic angle, a superhero fight (of course), and this title. I let it sit in my head for about a year before writing it all out in four or so weeks.

What/who inspired Paano and its leading ladies? Were the sisters Mely and Viva based on real people?
Not so much specific people, but personalities we're generally familiar with. Right now, I think I'm still working with template characters. If you'll notice, Mely has some similarities to Ada (of Zaturnnah), while Viva is similar to Didi. Madre de Dios is similar to Queen Femina. It's just giving these template characters different functions in a story, with different backgrounds.

We read your interview with the Inquirer, and zeroed in on what you said: “it’s about finding and rooting yourself in where you want to be, or where you’re meant to be.” Vince also said, It’s being where you’re meant to be against proving your worth.’ So we’re asking: What’s going on, Carlo? Where is this coming from? 
Hahaha, I'd like to think that I've gotten a bit older. I'm already 44 (though I decided to stop aging at 30), and I'd like to think that my views of life and world have evolved or expanded even if just a teensy-weensy bit. The songs are primarily Vince's masterpieces. When I was writing the script, I would just indicate where a song will go and what that song is supposed to do, who's going to sing it, etc. Then Vince works his magic.

This isn’t your first time to write a script for theater, is it? Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady is my first theater script intended for performance, though I have entered a playwriting contest in the mid-90s. It's actually easier writing a theater script, maybe because I won't be heavily involved in the execution. With a graphic novel, it's my show — I'm essentially the actors, the director, the production designer, etc. So there's a little more difficulty there.

Was it difficult to translate what’s in your mind to stage?
Not really, since I have been an actor before and I have seen some of the processes theatre people go through when putting up a show. So I take those into consideration when I write a play.

The songs the play will use — are they new, old? Who were you guys listening to? Do you have a favorite?
All songs are Vince's original compositions, and they're wonderful! Yes, I'm biased. There's lots of ear candy and LSS-worthy tunes here. My favorite? Hmmm... can I say all of them?

Is there a character here that you’re very fond of? Why is that?
I enjoyed writing Madre de Dios, the leader of the superhero team. In fact, I would love to play her role. Maybe it's because I like the dryness and irreverence of British comedy, and I wrote the character with a British accent in mind.

Did you base anyone on yourself?
I always put a part of myself in every character I create, because I need to write them truthfully.

What do you hope people leave the theater with?
During rehearsals, there would be times when I would laugh out loud, and times when I'd be shedding tears. If this musical gets the audience to do that, then I'd say that we've done our job. But overall, this musical is about finding one's place and taking advantage of second chances.

Can we expect more of these things from you in the future? Well, what can we expect from you in the future?
Oh, I don't know. There's so many options right now!

on June 6 and June 7 (Saturday & Sunday) 3PM @ PETA Theater Center

Ticket Prices: 1200, 900 and 600

For June 6, 2015 | Saturday | 3PM
Text: Karl (0908.986.1896),  LA (0917.633.9448)  and/or Jayme (0917.770.2762) 

For June 7, 2015 | Sunday | 3PM
Text: Buena (0917.885.0091),  Dain (0917.592.4567)  and/or Onay (0917.908.0565)