Repertory Philippines stages year-end big musical 'The Secret Garden'

Caisa Borromeo, back at Rep: 'It always feels like going home'
The 2010 Gawad Buhay! Best Actress in a Musical (for 'Little Women') alternates with Myramae Meneses in Rep's 'The Secret Garden,' opening Nov. 20
By Walter Ang
Oct. 31, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Repertory Philippines' year-end big musical this year is "The Secret Garden," adapted from the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, where orphan Mary Lennox has to solve the mysteries of finding a hidden crying child in her uncle's house and finding the key and door to a secret garden.

With music by Lucy Simon and libretto by Marsha Norman, the musical was previously staged by Rep in 2001.

This year's staging will be directed by Anton Juan, whose last directing credit for Rep was 2011's "The Joy Luck Club."

Musical direction is by Joseph Tolentino, with vocal coaching by Camille Molina, set design by Ohm David, lighting design by John Batalla and costume design by Bonsai Cielo.

Three actors from the 2001 staging, Lorenz Martinez, Noel Rayos and Oliver Usison, will also be part of this year's staging.

Aside from lead character Mary Lennox, played by 12-year-old Ashlee Factor and 9-year-old Ginger Karganilla, there is another female in the musical whose presence looms large: Mary's aunt Lily Craven. This role will be played by Caisa Borromeo and Myramae Meneses.

Borromeo started her theater career with Rep with the titular role in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" back in the early 2000s. She's since been in several productions with Rep, and won the 2010 Philstage Gawad Buhay! for Best Female Lead in a Musical for her portrayal of Jo March in "Little Women." Her most recent production with Rep was "4000 Miles" earlier this year.

"I grew up in Rep!" she says. "I started taking workshops with them when I was 10. While I've worked with other theater companies and directors over the years, it always feels like going home whenever I work with Rep. There's a certain aspect of respect and gratitude that comes with working with Rep."

Amazing voice 
Now she opens up the Rep home to a new member. Meneses says she's enjoying her foray into Rep. "They're nice to work with. They're very professional. I'm excited to be part of Rep because of their good reputation and their fantastic artists."

Meneses' recent credits include Musetta in Musicartes' "La Boheme" and Maria Clara in "Kanser: The Musical" (Noli Me Tangere) for Gantimpala Theater and "Noli Me Tangere: The Opera" for J&S Productions and Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas. She's had a solo concert with Manila Chamber Orchestra Foundation.

In 2010, she won the lone top prize for Category C in the National Music Competitions for Young Artists (Namcya).

"I'm so happy to be working with Myramae," says Borromeo. "Her voice is amazing! It's so interesting to work with people with different backgrounds and training. You learn so much from them and the process becomes very collaborative."

The cast includes Robbie Guevara and Lorenz Martinez as Archibald Craven; Red Concepcion as Dikcon; Noel Rayos as Dr. Nevile Craven; and Borromeo, Natalie Everett and Becca Coates as Martha.

"The Secret Garden" runs Nov. 20 to Dec. 20 at OnStage Theater, Greenbelt 1 Mall, Makati City. Reach Repertory Philipppines at 8433570. Like on Facebook (RepertoryPhilippines) Reach TicketWorld at 8919999 or link:

Marc delaCruz joins US tour of 'If/Then' with Idina Menzel

Marc delaCruz joins US tour of 'If/Then' with Idina Menzel
By Walter Ang
Oct. 27, 2015

Marc delaCruz made his Broadway debut last year in the musical "If/Then." Back then, he understudied the role of David, but now he's playing the part for the production's national tour.

He gets to share the stage with Broadway superstar Idina Menzel ("Wicked," "Frozen") and Anthony Rapp ("Rent," "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brow").

"Idina and Anthony are incredible to work with," he said. "They are generous, smart and fiercely talented performers, and offstage such grounded, warm and humble individuals."

"I learn so much from them every night. One could easily be intimidated by their accomplishments but there are no egos involved. They are beautiful artists and it is a privilege to be on stage with them," he added.

To read the remainder of this interview, please go to

Lea Salonga, back on Broadway: 'There has been zero video game time for me'

Lea Salonga, back on Broadway: 'There has been zero video game time for me'
By Walter Ang
Oct. 24, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

When Lea Salonga got a chance to meet an actor from the original "Star Trek" TV series, she did not pass it up.

"Yes, I'm a nerd, and was very excited," she says.

In 2009, she was invited to the home of George Takei in California to join the cast of a new musical he was going to be part of.

Her "first contact"--to use a Star Trek term--with Takei was even announced on Twitter: "OMG. I'm at Sulu's house!" she tweeted.

Takei and the producers of the musical "Allegiance" wanted only Salonga to fill a role in the show.

That meeting resulted in the first public reading of the show, held at the Japanese-American National Museum in Los Angeles.

Salonga has been working on the show since then. After laboratory work in New York, a world premiere in San Diego in 2012, and more laboratory work back in New York, "Allegiance" began previews this month on Broadway and will officially open next month.

"Going along on this journey with George has been one incredible ride," says Salonga, "and to see his face at the end of every performance is such a joy. He beams, pardon the 'Star Trek' pun, with pride that this, his legacy project, is now being played on a Broadway stage. So amazing."

The musical is inspired by the time Takei's family was forcibly incarcerated during World War II. He was five years old when his family was removed from their Los Angeles home and transferred to converted horse stables in California and then to interment camps in Arkansas.

More than 100,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry suffered this act of racist paranoia after Japan attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941.

Salonga revealed in a previous interview with Inquirer that Takei's family was eventually relocated again to "a camp in Tule Lake, California, a facility reserved for the most rebellious of internees."

Takei's family returned to LA after the war, and he rose to fame in 1965 when he was cast as starship helmsman (spaceship pilot) Sulu in "Star Trek." (The character's original name was inspired by the Sulu Sea in the Philippines; a first name, Hikaru, was added only in novels and movies after the series ended.)

"Allegiance" follows siblings Sam (Takei) and Kei (Salonga) Kimura as they cope with relocation to an internment camp.

On Broadway, after winning a Tony award for playing Kim in "Miss Saigon" in the '90s, Salonga played Mei-Li in "Flower Drum Song" in 2002, and Eponine (the first Asian to play the part) and Fantine in "Les Miserables." She has done several concerts in Manhattan as well.

"It feels pretty damn fantastic to be back on Broadway," she says. "Doing one-off concerts is also amazing, but there's something to be said about creating a role on Broadway. It's not often that I've had that opportunity, so I'm really mining the experience for all it's worth."

To prepare for the role, she looked to her own family for emotional and historical connections to the show's subject matter: her husband Robert Chien is of Chinese-Japanese descent; he has relatives who served during the war, and his mother was able to escape being interned.

Salonga is known for playing video games for fun and to relax backstage, but she says, "There has been zero video game time for me. My life is way too busy with previews! It will be crazy for the rest of the preview period, it will continue to be.

"My brain sometimes feels like it's going to explode, what with memorizing new things in the afternoon that will go into the show that same night. It's nuts."

In the show, with music and lyrics by Jay Kuo and book by Marc Acito, Salonga sings a soaring solo, "Higher."

"Thankfully it has been retained, along with a few songs from the San Diego staging," she explains. "I have some brand-new duets for Broadway, but a lot of the show is still in flux, so today's information could be obsolete by tomorrow."

Revisions and edits to the show should be locked down by the time it opens in November.

Where to eat near Longacre Theater
Meanwhile, Salonga gets some downtime whenever her husband and daughter Nicole Beverly visit her.

"We try to get to Sushi Gari on West 46th Street," she says, "Rob and I attack the omakase platter, placing our complete trust in the sushi chefs."

She adds: "My mom Ligaya has been here with me, so most of the time, I eat and enjoy her cooking."

For audiences who will go watch "Allegiance," she recommends "basically any of the restaurants on Restaurant Row, West 46th Street, as well as the ones on 9th Avenue."

"Right by the Longacre Theater are Hurley's Saloon (American and seafood) and Pongsri (Thai), both of which are really good."

Asked if there would be a "Star Trek musical" in the future and if she were to choose between playing a Ferengi starship captain or a villain Borg Queen, Salonga answers, "I'll choose Borg Queen."

So now, fans of Salonga and "Star Trek" will know what costume to wear if they can get tickets to the Oct. 31 Saturday Halloween evening show, designated as "Star Trek" Night.

There will be a post-show talkback session with Lea Salonga at the Oct. 31 Saturday matinee. "Allegiance" is currently in previews. It opens Nov. 8 at Longacre Theatre, New York City. For tickets, visit

Published online at on Oct. 26, 2015:


Designing and dressing up Dulaang UP's Southeast Asian 'King Lear'

Designing and dressing up Dulaang UP's Southeast Asian 'King Lear'
By Walter Ang
Oct. 24, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (DUP) is currently staging Shakespeare's "King Lear" in English and Filipino, using Nicolas Pichay's translation. Joel Lamangan and Leo Rialp play the titular character, in Filipino and English, respectively.

Director Tony Mabesa, DUP's founding artistic director emeritus, has transplanted the action from ancient Britain to "the waning years of a Southeast Asian kingdom."

This production comes on the heels of Nonon Padilla's 2012 all-male staging using Bienvenido Lumbera's translation for Philippine Educational Theater Association. (Anton Juan cast Repertory Philippines founder Zeneida Amador as Lear in his 2001 staging.)

Padilla employed a post-apocalyptic setting with Gino Gonzales' Japanese-inspired costume design. The production toured Taiwan last year for the Kuandu Arts Festival and had a restaging earlier this year with Bernardo Bernardo as Lear.

To help bring to life Mabesa's own vision of Shakespeare's mighty tragedy, Eric Pineda did the costume design and Ohm David the set design.

"What automatically came to me was the ruins of Angkor Wat, complete with the gigantic roots of balete trees," says David.

His design, based on research using different books from the UP Library, was constructed by 20 students assisted and guided by four professional carpenters. DUP is under the university's Department of Speech Communication and Theater Arts, which offers certificate and degree programs in Theater Arts.

Pineda points out that the reality of designing for a campus-based theater group is "the very limited budget. Hence, Ohm and I agreed not to interpret the period and setting in a literal sense."

This framework gave both designers leeway to incorporate a more encompassing Southeast Asian visual vocabulary instead of a specific country's limiting choices. It also gave them freedom to use and reinterpret existing costumes, props and set pieces from past productions. For example, costumes from DUP's "Ang Nawalang Kapatid" (Floy Quintos' adaptation of the "Mahabharata") designed by Gino Gonzales, have been recycled for this production.

For costume silhouettes, Pineda created a crown and breastplate for Lear inspired by bas relief images of the Khmer King Jayavarman VII, found in Angkor Wat.

"The two evil sisters, Goneril and Regan, have Thai references in their costumes, especially in their chada headdresses (jeweled spired crowns)," he says.

To push the contrast in personality, he gave the good sister Cordelia's costumes a more Peranakan (Chinese-Malaysian) look.

"Tony wanted me to interpret Lear's Fool as a babaylan," says Pineda. "I gave his costume a Balinese feel."

Pineda's goal was to meld these different countries' costumes and influences to highlight commonality in Southeast Asian clothing. "We have the same climate, topography and vegetation, resulting in similar dyes, fabrics and weaves," he says.

The play's movement and choreography, meanwhile, are by Jeremy dela Cruz, with lighting design by Meliton Roxas Jr., sound design by Jethro Joaquin. DUP's artistic director is Dexter Santos.

Dulaang UP's "King Lear/Haring Lear" has remaining performances today and tomorrow at Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, University of the Philippines Diliman. Call tel. 9261349, 4337840, 9818500 loc. 2449; or e-mail Visit link:

Award-winning playwright Glenn Mas is also a hardcore 'Archie' comics fan

Award-winning playwright Glenn Mas is also a hardcore 'Archie' comics fan
By Walter Ang
Oct. 3, 2015
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Not only has Archie Andrews gotten a reboot, he's also going to be in a musical soon. The 75-year-old comic franchise recently came out with a new issue #1 written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Fiona Staples, while writer/director Adam McKay ("Anchorman," will be working on the musical (updates will be posted on

For someone who loves to read and works in theater, Glenn Mas--a theater arts professor at Ateneo de Manila University and current artistic director of Tanghalang Ateneo--is very excited about these developments. He can't wait to get his hands on a copy of the "Archie" reboot. Not to mention the 21 variant covers. That's a total of 22 copies of the same issue, but who's counting?

 "Ever since I was a child," he says, "I've been familiar with Archie and the Riverdale gang. I'd see copies of 'Archie' comics everywhere, in the school library, in the classroom, my friends' houses. I'd lose myself in their adventures, forget all my problems and have a good time with them."

This multi-awarded playwright (nine wins in the Palanca Awards so far) likes "Archie" comics because, "like me and my friends, he's not perfect. He loves his family and friends and will do everything he can to help them. He aims to please everyone which, of course, leads him to all sorts of trouble.

"The comics are a comforting escape. They remind me so much of my youth in Antique where I first encountered the series. They make me feel like the world is okay, people are nice and problems always get solved. For a 47-year-old like me who has been through and is going through a lot in life, that's always a good thing to return to."

Mas cried when publishers killed off the character in the "Death of Archie" story arc. "Archie, dead?! Important, lovable characters in comics don't die! So, tears!" he says.

Mas used to save his school allowance to buy books. "It wasn't a lot of books because my allowance wasn't a lot either!" he says, laughing. As soon as he started earning his own salary, he'd buy books "anywhere and everywhere I could."

"Did I always plan to have a collection? Yes, but not just 'Archie' comics," he notes. "I collect books on theater, film, art, collections of plays, etc."

After spending three years in the United States for his master's degree in playwriting, he brought back 12 balikbayan boxes filled with books.

"I also collect Philippine titles," he says. "Since I have a lot of Pinoy writer friends, most of these books are signed by the authors."

"I'm always looking out for 'Archie' comics," he adds. "I find time to visit my favorite bookstores."

Mas even has a copy of the Mega magazine issue with Betty and Veronica (Archie's two girlfriends) on the cover.

Fully Booked's Katipunan branch informs him "the moment new titles arrive." Mas lives in the area, a short tricycle ride to Ateneo.

Nonetheless, finding all the different issues is not easy. Apart from the regular digests and double digest editions, there are the 1,000-page editions and giant editions. There are also different series: "Life With," "Married Life," "Afterlife With" (in which Archie's best friend Jughead becomes a zombie and infects the town), "Best Of," "Americana," etc.

Fortunately, Mas has thoughtful friends. "I am very grateful for their generosity," he says. For the "Death of Archie" story arc, 10 variant covers were released. "It's an event for 'Archie' comics," says Mas, "so that's great, right? The problem now is, where in the Philippines do you get them?"

Mas had posted a message on Facebook, stressing his "need, need, need" to acquire the variant copies. Minutes later, friends based in the United States began to heed his plea.

He now has eight of the 10 covers. For his birthday earlier this year, a friend sent him the "Death of Archie" Double Sized Commemorative Issue.

Meanwhile, as he juggles his many hats as playwright, university professor, artistic director and juror for the Philstage Gawad Buhay, the search continues for more "Archie" comics for his collection-and the new "Jughead" reboot issue #1, too. link: