Former Repertory actor Angelo Paragoso bags role in play on cross-dressing Filipino care givers

Former Repertory actor bags role in play on cross-dressing Filipino care givers 
By Walter Ang
March 23, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer

(From left) Jon Norman Schneider,
Ron Domingo, Francis Jue,
Angelo Paragoso, and Benjamin Wong
in "Paper Dolls."
Former Repertory Philippines actor Angelo Paragoso has been cast in "Paper Dolls," a play written by American director/playwright Philip Himberg adapted from the documentary film with the same title by Israeli director Tomer Heymann.

The documentary, which had its Philippine premiere in 2006, "follows the lives of … migrant workers from the Philippines who work as health care providers for elderly Orthodox Jewish men [in Tel Aviv] and perform as drag queens during their spare time."

The play "Paper Dolls" held its world premiere at The Tricycle Theatre, London. Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta) staged its own musical "Care Divas" in 2011, also inspired by the documentary.

With British director Indhu Rubasingham at the helm, the cast also includes two Filipino-American actors: Ron Domingo and Jon Norman Schneider play siblings Chiqui and Jorgio, respectively. Domingo was in the cast of Ma-Yi Theater's "Romance of Magno Rubio" when it toured at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in the early 2000s.

Comic relief 
Angelo Paragoso
Paragoso plays Zhan. "He's the comic relief character. He's very dramatic, naughty. He's the scene-stealer. I sometimes just say I play the short, fat, funny one in the show," he laughs.

His agent had put him in for the show and he did three callbacks before landing the role. "Quite nerve wracking!"

Paragoso was born in Manila and made his stage debut in Rep's "The King and I." Aside from acting for Rep, he was also a dancer for Philippine Ballet Theater and Powerdance.

He moved to the Netherlands in 1996 to join the original Dutch cast of "Miss Saigon" and remained to perform in the original Dutch production of the musical "Fame." He eventually became a company member of the Holland Show Ballet.

In 2001, he moved to London and has performed for UK national tours of "Miss Saigon" and in such shows as "The Reporter" (National Theatre), "Peter Pan" (Manchester Opera House), and "Aladdin" (Theatre Royal Stratford East).

Cultural consultant 
Paragoso (standing, far left) as
Prince Chulalongkorn in
Repertory Philippines' "The King and I"
Since Paragoso actually grew up in Manila, he became a cultural consultant of sorts for the production. "Especially with the gay expressions which I am not that up to date with," he says. "I had to ask my [Filipino] friends for help."

"The text is very well written. Philip is amazing!" he says about working with an original script. "He was able to capture how Filipinos would speak English. How we Filipinos sometimes translate Tagalog into English in our minds and then speak."

"During the rehearsal period, a lot of changes were made [to the original draft] to convey the story better. We tried out a lot of things and it was extremely helpful for all of us as we learned so much about the characters in the play."

"The Filipino culture and Jewish culture are so well represented in this play. It's such a complex story … it's quite a challenge to do this knowing it's based on real people."

Several of the documentary subjects who are now based in London were able to watch the show and meet the cast.

(Salvador "Sally" Camatoy, one of the care givers featured in the documentary, was found dead in the United Arab Emirates in 2007).

"It was weird to meet the person I'm playing. They were very lovely people. They said it brought back memories about their lives then."

For Paragoso, doing the show has been "a lot of fun! [It's] a lot of hard work but I'm very privileged to be working with some of the best people in the industry. We all get on very well and it's a joy to go to work—I don't feel like I'm working!"

"Indhu and Philip are absolutely wonderful to work with. As an actor, to be given so much freedom by the director and playwright to portray a role is dream. They nurtured us in a way I've never experienced before and I'm very grateful."

"Paper Dolls" runs until April 28, 2013 at The Tricycle Theatre, 269 Kilburn High Road, London. Contact +44-20-7328-1000 or

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Philippines hosts World Costume Festival 2013

Philippines hosts World Costume Festival 2013 
By Walter Ang
March 23, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer

(Seated, from left) WCF 2013 executive director Joy Rago;
Vigan City Mayor Eva Medina;
GMA Regional TV asst. vice president Oliver Amoroso;
with WCF 2013 project director
Rolando de Leon (standing, far right)
at memorandum of agreement signing
for World Costume Festival 2013.
Preparations are underway for the World Costume Festival 2013 to be held in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, Philippines from April 26 to May 2, 2013.

"WCF 2013 will showcase costumes designed for live performances such as theater, festivals, and events," says project director Rolando "Rollie" de Leon. "We have invited international and Philippine delegates, both professionals and students, to join us and exchange and share ideas for future collaborative work."

The festival will feature lectures, conferences, workshops and master classes on costume-making taught by international experts.

It will also have a trade exposition and exhibit featuring Filipino and international fabrics and materials used in costume, fashion, and accessories. "The festival will showcase demonstrations on indigenous weaving traditions from different regions of the Philippines such as batik, abel, piña, etc."

Outstanding design 
The festival will have a competition for Outstanding Design Costume. "The winner will receive a Golden Kneeling Carabao trophy, the highest honor of the festival."

There will also be a body painting competition. The winner of the body painting competition will have a chance to represent the Philippines in the World Body Painting Showdown in Austria in July.

WCF 2013 will be part of the city's annual Viva Vigan Binatbatan Festival of the Arts. A Unesco World Heritage Site for its Spanish colonial architecture, the city features cobblestone streets where the festival's costume parade will unfold.

First time 
A set and costume designer, De Leon served as national curator for the Philippine entry to the 2011 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space, an international theater festival considered the largest scenography event in the world.

WCF 2013 will coincide with the annual international meeting of the Organization of International Scenographers Theater Architects and Technicians (OISTAT) Costume Design Group. De Leon is a founding member of OISTAT's Philippine counterpart, the Philippine Association of Theater Designers and Technicians.

"OISTAT is a global and active organization of professionals and educators from seven continents who practice the discipline of designing for performance," he says. "For the first time in the Southeast Asian region, OISTAT representatives will come to the Philippines to … unveil the mystery behind Southeast Asian design practices"

"WCF 2013 is also the Philippines' preparation for OISTAT's upcoming World Stage Design festival in Cardiff, Wales in September," he adds. "We plan to choose Philippine designs to represent the country in World Stage Design 2013.

"If we don't chart the wide and stormy seas beyond the Philippines, we won't be able to share the art and culture necessary to inspire every Filipino."

Deadline for registration is March 31, 2013. Contact, +63-412-15-75, or +63-916-334-6607.

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Opera screenings in HD, Dolby sound open tomorrow at CCP

Opera screenings in HD, Dolby sound open tomorrow at CCP
By Walter Ang
March 18, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Opera fans and those who are curious to try out the art form will now be able to watch operas staged by New York City's Metropolitan Opera (Met) without flying to the USA.

The Cultural Center of the Philippines, in cooperation with Opera Guild Foundation of the Philippines and the Met, will be holding screenings of the Met's latest productions in high-definition video and full Dolby sound at Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino.

English subtitles will be available for all the screenings. The series begins on March 19 with Giuseppe Verdi's "Aida," featuring Liudmyla Monastyrska as the enslaved Ethiopian princess caught in a love triangle with heroic Radames, played by Roberto Alagna, and the proud Egyptian princess Amneris, sung by Olga Borodina. "Aida" runs at 3pm and 8pm.

Other scheduled screenings, all with 3pm and 8pm shows, of Met productions for this year include "Rigoletto" on April 16, also by Verdi, where his tragedy of love, betrayal and revenge is given a modern setting: the staging transplants court jester Rigoletto (now a bartender), his daughter Gilda, and the Duke of Mantua (now as a Frank Sinatra-like playboy) to Las Vegas in the 1960s.

Next is "L'Elisir D'Amore" (The Elixir of Love) on May 28, a comedy opera by Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti where peasant Nemorino tries to woo landowner Adina with a potion bought from quack doctor Dulcamara.

On July 9, the series will screen "Maria Stuarda," a tragic opera about the life of the titular Queen of Scots by Gaetano Donizetti based on Andrea Maffei's translation of Friedrich Schiller's play "Maria Stuart." (Dulaang UP staged both English and Tagalog versions of the play in 2009.)

The series ends on August 20 with an opera sung in English, composer Thomas Adès' "The Tempest" which is based on William Shakespeare's fantasy play where sorcerer Prospero exacts revenge on his brother Antonio while his daughter falls in love with the son of one of his enemies.

The Met stages up to four different rotating opera productions each week. It has had a program in place for broadcasting live via satellite some of its performances to movie theaters since 2006. Its "Live in HD" series of shows is broadcast to more than 1,500 theaters in 60 countries worldwide. Using technology to reach audiences is not novel to the Met as it has broadcast regularly on radio since 1931 and on television since 1977.

The screenings to be held at the CCP will not be live and are from the Met's 2012-2013 season. The screenings will be full-length operas that range from as short as two hours to as long as four hours and will include intermissions.

P500 for each opera and subscription ticket of P1,000 for all five operas. Students get 50% discount for both single opera tickets and subscription tickets. Contact 832-3704 or 832-1125 loc. 1409.

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REVIEW: Pinky Amador is a powerful Piaf

Pinky Amador is a powerful Piaf
By Walter Ang
March 16, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Amador as Piaf
In Atlantis Productions' "Piaf," audiences are greeted by a room made of wide, drab, wooden panels and crumbling shutters that reach the rafters, a visual metaphor for the vast, high-reaching yet damaged life of the play's titular French chanteuse.

Atmospherically lit by Martin Esteva using a finite color palette, Faust Peneyra's set uses the same shutters to half-reveal and half-hide a red marquee sign with Piaf's name: can we truly ever know the real Edith Piaf? Fortunately, the glimpses that can be gleaned from her life is delivered in spades thanks to Pinky Amador who portrays Edith Gassion, later named Piaf (sparrow), with an almost unbelievable force.

Amador fully embodies Piaf from her naïve, crude beginnings to her brash, wild peak, and then her fragile, withering last days; always exuding a strength of character that never wanes, even when Piaf becomes an invalid, both physically and emotionally. Johann dela Fuente's make-up design and wig styling certainly helps the physical transformation take place.

And the singing! It feels as if Amador swallowed a subwoofer and ten speakers the way she volleys blasts of her powerful voice at the audience, especially in the final songs for both acts, "La Belle Histoire D'Amour" (Beautiful Love Story) and "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" (No, I Don't Regret a Thing). No English translation supertitles were provided for the lyrics, but even if audiences ne comprennent pas le français, there is no misunderstanding Amador's emotive voice, overflowing with heartbreak and, always, defiance.

Strained sprawl
Directed by Atlantis' artistic director Bobby Garcia, playwright Pam Gems' protracted retelling of the singer's life, in an obsessive attempt to inventory the beauty and many tragedies of Piaf's life, strains under its own sprawl. Clocking at a little under three hours, by the time the play gets to the nth boytoy/husband that Piaf chews and spits out, the unending pain that she must have gone through begins to be shared by an audience whose patience is tested.

The vignettes of her life begin via a fun, choreographed costume change done on stage and proceed to be punctuated by selections from Piaf's discography that are accompanied by a piano-accordion duo led by musical director Ceejay Javier. The cast fills in multiple roles to portray the many different men of her life in such short, thinly written encounters that they meld into an indistinct blur.

The show is not without moments of awkwardness: strange sleeve lengths, especially glaring on Raymond Asso (Mako Alonso), Piaf's lyricist friend who was so very concerned about her appearance; and prolonged scene changes involving a lot of chairs being moved about and costumes being changed on stage. There's also a surreal and bewildering scene where all the male actors take off their shirts behind lit scrims while Piaf sings "Heaven Have Mercy"!

Awkwardness also emerges due to inconsistent accents. Amador uses an almost American twang but at least sticks to it throughout the show. Going by this premise, then the French characters should be speaking with this same accent. However, all sorts of accents fly about with the sparrow.

Nonetheless, there are scenes spread throughout for audiences to perch on. Jaime Wilson makes for a gentle, sturdy Louis Leplee (Piaf's discoverer); Hans Eckstein, as the love of her life boxer Marcel Cerdan, is a deserved quiet break from the frenzy around Piaf; and Reuben Uy is a tender presence as her devoted friend Charles Aznavour.

Gems balances out the many male influences in Piaf's life by highlighting strong friendships with BFF Toine (a funny Ima Castro) and showbiz colleague Marlene Dietrich (a capable Giselle Töngi-Walters in her theater debut).

It is, in the end, really Amador's show, evidenced by her ebullience when she sings the chanteuse's signature song "La Vie En Rose" (Life in Rosy Hues) and then proceeding to embody all the anguish from the sharp thorns that came with such a life. In the same way the real Piaf had an unapologetic voracious appetite for life (and alcohol, painkillers, and men), Amador devours this role completely.

"Piaf" runs until March 24 at the Carlos Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza Bldg., Makati City. Call 892-7078.

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REVIEW: Tight, fun, lighthearted–Peta scores again with ‘D’ Wonder Twins of Boac’

Tight, fun, lighthearted–Peta scores again with ‘D’ Wonder Twins of Boac’
By Walter Ang
March 9, 2013
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Villonco (standing) as Viola/Cesar
Philippine Educational Theater Association's (Peta) "D' Wonder Twins of Boac" is a wonderful and fun production that delivers on all levels.

Rody Vera has adapted William Shakespeare's cross-dressing comedy "Twelfth Night" and reset it at the decline of the 1960s Philippine movie industry. Far off enough in the past to elicit nostalgia and provide a workable world in which to recontextualize the characters yet close enough to the present to give audiences, young or old, a more familiar lens to view the work with.

Twins Viola (Cris Villonco) and Sebastian (Chrome Cosio) are now a singing-sibling act from Boac, Marinduque before they are torn apart by the shipwreck at the beginning of the tale. Both end up in Manila where they interconnect with Duke Orsino (Lex Marcos with alternate Bodjie Pascua) and Countess Olivia (Shamaine Buencamino with alternate Gail Billones), now arch-film studio owners.

On top of the play's original gender-bending (with age-gap) love angles, Vera plays up the homosexual undertones between Bastian and Antonio (Carlon Matobato alternating with Riki Benedicto), now both transformed into stuntmen. Complete with a song number of their very own, the "hidden" homosexual desires of Antonio builds on the theme of illusory/delusory identities and camouflaged feelings while serving as a precursor to the adaptation's final twist love matches.

And fittingly in this world that Vera has created, the fool, Feste (Philip Lazaro with alternate Roi Calilong), and the character that's made a fool of, Malvolio (Lao Rodriguez with alternate Gino Ramirez), in the Bard's original text are now film directors-a lovely layered metaphor that alerts audiences to the clashes between the truths that these characters represent and speak of, and the notion that audiences can be "fooled" by directors' manipulations of truths.

Charm and gusto
The scenes where Viola is cross-dressed as Cesar and is chased after by Olivia, and later, by Orsino, are the fool-proof comic portions of "Twelfth Night," and it's no less different in this adaptation where the cast takes the audience firmly by the hand never lets go. The furtive glances, square gazes, fleeting touches, stolen hugs, near-kisses, and the actual full-blown lip-locks never fail to elicit swoons and giggling from the audience.

Villonco gives Cesar his funny awkward and bewildered moments while Cosio plays up Bastian's comic scenes that result from everyone's confusion when his character finally shows up again. His now leaner body works in his favor since he used to be upstaged by his own bulky muscles.

Villonco attacks her role with gusto, charm, and a good dose of earthy kookiness. If there was any doubt as to Villonco's range as an actress, seeing her do comedy in Tagalog should clear matters up right away. With this role at this point in her career, audiences who have been following her career path can now really say she's done it all: acting, singing, dancing, drama, comedy, English, Tagalog, female, and male!

And right up there on the same level of Villonco's performance, it must be noted that the talented ensemble is incredibly tight. Everyone in the cast is given moments to have fun with but no one milks the scenes, no one upstages anyone else, and they generously share their energies evenly with each other, creating a powerful rhythm that makes the show a joy to watch.

Notable also is Lazaro in his theater debut as Luciano, who seems surprisingly well at ease working with an ensemble (given this stand-up comedy background) and with a script (although he still did let loose a few "look-at-me, I'm funny" ad-libs).

Organic, spot-on
Directed by Peta's artistic director Maribel Legarda, the play rolls along quickly and light-heartedly. No second is left hanging as even scene changes are merrily filled with comic commentary.

The actors make good use of the spaces created by set designer Lex Marcos: circular platforms that simulate toppled film reels. Though his TV screens that descend from the rafters from time to time feel highly contrary to the production's film milieu.

Both Carlon Matobato's choreography and Jeff Hernandez's music are organic and spot-on.  Matobato's movements are earnest and sprightly yet thoughtful.  He produces surprisingly intimate and eloquent little moments--achieving much with even humble strands of sampaguita.

Vera has created several songs set to music by Hernandez, who leads a quartet that accompanies the proceedings with bubbly tunes, including a smart wink to Elvis Presley in one of the play's many hilarious scenes where auditions for Elvis impersonators are being held.

The costume and lighting designs are subtle with calibrated pops of color, movement and shapes. John Abul and Carlo Pagunaling's silhouettes fully evoke the late 60s without being flashy or "costumey." Jonjon Villareal's lighting illuminates the show without calling attention to itself.

For information on Peta's 2013 summer acting workshops for children, teens and adults, contact 725-6244, 0916-309-0707 or

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REVIEW: Tanghalang Pilipino's 'Ibalong' feels unfinished

Tanghalang Pilipino's 'Ibalong' feels unfinished
By Walter Ang
March 4, 2013

Tanghalang Pilipino's "Ibalong" begins with the potential of exciting things to come. A curtain made of straw, shimmering reeds of grass, trembles as the audience sees portions of a large snake undulate through it.

The musical is playwright Rody Vera's didactic adaptation of the extant 60 stanzas (from a purported original 400) of the epic of the same title that recounts the origins of Bicol.

The tale is reconfigured and expanded by Vera: transposing characters, reshuffling the narrative, adding an ecological moral, and nimbly segueing the ending to become the prequel for "Daragang Magayon," the Bicolano legend of the origins of Mayon Volcano.

Half-woman/half-snake Oryol (Jenine Desiderio), a villainous deity defeated by the epic's human heroes who claim dominion over Ibalong, is now the central character who betrays her supernatural kith and kin by entering into an alliance with Handyong (Remus Villanueva with alternate Myke Salomon), the human invader of their land.

With music by Carol Bello and directed by TP associate artistic director Tuxqs Rutaquio, the suspense built by the opening scene skids over a bump upon the first revelation of Oryol, who slows down the proceedings with a lumbering introductory narration song. The rest of the show proceeds to undulate between some fun, clever moments and mostly a sense of being unfinished.

Desiderio is a strong Oryol who is, owing to her serpentine powers and lack of exposure to humandkind, at turns beguiling and guileless. A powerful singer, she delivers the goods when ululating her songs, but makes questionable acting choices whenever she turns on an innocent-girl pout in certain scenes that doesn't quite work.

May Bayot and Jonathan Tadioan as Oryol's parents Gugurang and Aswang, respectively, are grounded masts of quiet force and steady subtlety, their singing voices fittingly soaring in their roles as arch deities. Cheeno Macaraig commands the stage with natural ease as a charming and vivid Young Handyong.

While there is no denying the vigor that the cast puts into the telling of this tale, their efforts feel muddled due to clunky blocking in some group choreography and (lots of) unvariated battle-cry screaming in lieu of what could have been distinct primordial howls, squeals, bellows, squawks, etc.

And some of the male actors fall into the trap of the scowling-face-with-angry-shouting school of acting to express what could have been intensity variations on arrogance, disappointment, etc.

Bello's neo-ethnic rock music is brought to life by Inkantada, an all-women band using indigenous and Southeast Asian instruments. Though, several times throughout the show, the band drowns out the actors' voices.

With arrangements by Ikantada and Rizalino Reyes, the score provides a rich aural texture and otherworldly atmosphere that is, while appropriate for the musical's milieu, unfortunately monotonous. It feels unfinished because, abruptly, the last two songs are sung a cappella.

Rutaquio's set design is functional and sparse, leaving stark spaces for Leeroy New's hefty costumes, Jerry Ramirez's fight stunts, and Alden Lugnasin's choreography-and a host of preternatural globs evocative of American choreographer/dancer Martha Graham's "Lamentation" stretch fabric costume.

Ramirez has some nifty scenes that incorporate Hadyong being twisted around Oryol's snake tail and Oryol's son Makusog (also Macaraig) falling down from a precipice. However, the show's physicality also falls into the trap of one-note repetitiveness, with dances and battle scenes that have similar refrains and with different creatures all moving in a similar slinky-arched-body-with-clawed-fingers manner. Save for the crocodile-monster's arabesques, there seems to be no distinct movement vocabulary for each of the different kinds of other monsters.

Leeroy New's background as a sculptor shows in his wild, expansive shapes for Ibalong's mythical creatures and contrasting clean lines (that are strangely reminiscent of ancient Egypt silhouettes) for the humans. A bit too sculptural, perhaps, with the costumes of Oryol's parents: rotund columns of immovable fabric and materials that left Bayot and Tadioan unable to move much in their scenes.

With his witty bunraku-snake tail for Oryol and myriad of colorful explosions of fun that fill the stage and seemingly sharp eye for detailed outfits, it is a puzzle then, to see an actor come out with only a pair of leggings and masks covering his head and hands or Opon (Red Nuestro) the wild boar with an unfinished back.

Oryol's tacky sequined bra with beaded tassels and unembellished black straps, and later on, an unimaginative plain white square of cloth for a skirt, makes her awkwardly miscostumed amidst the other structural pieces.

"Ibalong" has ended its run at the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino but is scheduled to tour Legaspi, Albay during this year's Ibalong Festival in August and will return to Manila as part of TP's upcoming season.

For information about "Ibalong" shows in Legaspi, Albay; and for information on TP's 2013 summer acting workshops for children, teens and adults (and production & stage management workshop for adults) which begin on April 4, contact 832-1125 loc. 1620 and 1621, 0917-750-0107, 0918-959-3949.