Fil-Am Eva Noblezada is new ‘Miss Saigon’ on West End

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Yay! My interview with Annette Calud, the aunt of Eva Noblezada--the actress cast as Kim for the 2014 West End revival of "Miss Saigon," was published in Philippine Daily Inquirer's Nov. 23, 2013 issue.

Fil-Am Eva Noblezada is new ‘Miss Saigon’ on West End
By Walter Ang

Eva Noblezada (photo by Annette Calud)
Seventeen-year-old Filipino-American Eva Noblezada has been cast to portray the titular character Kim for the upcoming West End revival of “Miss Saigon,” reports The Daily Mail.

Noblezada is slated to do four performances a week while remaining shows will be covered by two understudies once the show opens at the Prince Edward Theatre in May 2014.

Noblezada hails from Charlotte, North Carolina. Her father was born in Guam to Filipino parents.

Earlier this year, Noblezada won Best Actress at the Blumenthal Performing Arts High School Musical Theater Awards for her portrayal of Ariel in Northwest School of the Arts’ production of “Footloose.”

She was spotted by Broadway casting director Tara Rubin when she joined the National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York.

Noblezada was given a private audition with “Miss Saigon” director Laurence Connor in New York. She auditioned for producer Cameron Mackintosh a few weeks later.

The paternal cousin of Noblezada’s father, Annette Calud, performed on Broadway as part of the original ensemble cast of “Miss Saigon” in 1991, and took over from Lea Salonga in the lead role of Kim in 1992. Calud also played Celina on “Sesame Street” from 1992 until 1996.

“Eva came home already knowing she was cast,” says Calud. “But she had to wait for the official casting announcement before she could share the news with family and friends.”

“I was fortunate to get to work through the songs with her before she auditioned, though she didn’t need much help at all. Hearing her sing … I knew for certain she would land the part.”

Born to do it
In her blog, Calud foresaw Noblezada’s future in a post she wrote years ago: “Even at age 3 Eva had pipes.  She would stand on a piano bench and sing Disney princess songs with that sweet and perfectly pure innocent voice. Now at age 14, she can command the stage with the presence of any Broadway diva.

"With a God-given talent, her amazingly versatile voice can effortlessly croon everything from Lady Gaga to Barbra Streisand."

With a cavernous Broadway belt and the vocal finesse of Celine Dion, my niece will undoubtedly see her name in lights on the Great White Way.”

“Eva has never needed to be inspired about musical theater.  She was born to do it,” says Calub, who took Noblezada as a child to watch her first Broadway shows. “I took her to see ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera.’”

“I am beyond thrilled and excited for Eva.  I had no doubt because I know what it takes to conquer this role, and she has the vocal power and control to sing the score.  She has the acting depth to break your heart.  She was born to play Kim.”

“Miss Saigon” celebrates its 25th anniversary next year. It features music by Claude-Michel Schönberg with lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and Alain Boublil, adapted from the original French lyrics by Boublil.

Based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly,” the musical is set in 1970s Saigon during the Vietnam War. Kim is a bar girl who falls in love with and is abandoned by an American GI.

The 2014 production set a new record for the largest single day of sales on West End and Broadway history, with £4,402,371 recorded on the first day the tickets went on sale in September this year.

Mackintosh told The Daily Mail that Noblezada reminded him of Lea Salonga, who was cast as Kim in the original West End staging in 1989.

“Eva’s going to be our new Lea,” Macintosh said.

“Miss Saigon” was staged in Manila in 2000-2001 with Salonga reprising her role.

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Frencheska Farr: Hopelessly devoted to her… tattoos

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Yay! My interview with Francheska Farr about her involvement in 9 Works Theatericals' staging of "Grease" was published in Philippine Daily Inquirer's Nov. 23, 2013 issue.

Frencheska Farr: Hopelessly devoted to her… tattoos
By Walter Ang

Francheska Farr and Gian Magdangal
Singer-actress Frencheska Farr has two tattoos. Instead of visual designs, she has two statements branded on her body.

She got her first tattoo at her nape, “Forever Young,” three years ago on her birthday.

“I really wanted a statement that’s simple yet meaningful to me,” she says. “I searched online for fonts, then I had my tattoo artist copy it.

“I just wanted to feel what it would be like to get a tattoo. I was excited. It was painful but I enjoyed the thrill of it. It made me happy that I got to express myself and I got to do what I wanted to do.”

The second one, “Keep the Faith,” on her inner right wrist, was done this year. “Both tattoos serve as reminders for me as to what and who I am,” she says.

She doesn’t plan on getting a new one anytime soon but is not closed off to the idea.

“Only until I achieve something great. I don’t know when or what great is but I’ll know when I’m already there,” she notes.

Left and inset, her back and wrist tattoos. “It made me happy that I got to express myself and I got to do what I wanted to do,” she says.

Stage debut
Farr's tattoos
She’s currently playing a character that may not be immediately accepting of tattoos. Farr is having her professional stage debut playing “nice” girl Sandy Dumbrowski in 9 Works Theatricals’ ongoing staging of “Grease,” the iconic musical about the love lives of teenagers in 1950s middle America.

Directed by 9WT artistic director Robbie Guevarra, with book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, the staging includes songs from the 1978 movie adaptation (such as “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “You’re the One that I Want”) starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John as the lead couple.

Sandy Dumbrowski eventually sheds her inhibitions and joins the rest of her friends’ groove. If Farr had her way, she’d offer this life advice to Sandy: “Get a tattoo—not just to fit in but also to get to experience everything life has to offer.”

Farr was tipped off to the auditions by Gian Magdangal, whom she’s worked with in the defunct Sunday afternoon variety TV show “Party Pilipinas.”

“I’ve forgotten everything that happened at the audition because I was so nervous,” she says, laughing. “But I’m happy that I went through it.”

She’s learned to adjust her acting style, since she’s more used to acting for TV and film. “In theater, I have to make bigger movements so I can show the audience the emotion I’m feeling. On TV, you can make little movements and the director can just shoot a close-up. I also had to work on my singing and dancing because in theater, you can’t make mistakes, there are no second takes.”

Farr had participated in productions during high school. “I joined the high school choir, and I represented our school in inter-school competitions. I was shy at first but I eventually became more confident of myself,” she recalls.

In 2009, she joined and won GMA’s television singing competition “Are You the Next Big Star?” Regular appearances in several TV shows followed.

She was then asked to audition for the movie musical “Emir.” She landed the lead role of a nanny in a royal household of a fictional emirate in the deserts of the Middle East.

“Surprisingly I got the role,” she says, recalling that acting wasn’t one of the things she thought she’d ever enjoy doing. “But when I did it, I discovered that I could act and I fell in love with it.”

The character that Sandy falls in love with, Danny Zuko, the leader of the student clique/gang T-Birds, is played by Magdangal. He was recently seen in Spotlight Artists’ restaging of Musical Theater Philippines’ “Katy!” and 9WT’s “The Wedding Singer” and “Rent.”

Another debuting actor, Rafa Siguion-Reyna, plays Kenickie, second-in-command of the T-Birds, while Iya Villania alternates with Jennifer Blair-Bianco as Betty Rizzo, the leader of the girl’s clique, the Pink Ladies.

Surprise guests fill in the role of Teen Angel, an apparition that will serenade one of the characters. Tom Rodriguez of “My Husband’s Lover” fame was the Teen Angel on opening night.

Musical direction is by Sweet Plantado-Tiongson, choreography by Arnold Trinidad and Francis Matheu, set and costume design by Mio Infante, lighting design by John Batalla, sound design by Chuck Ledesma, and hair and makeup design by Myrene Santos.

“Grease” runs until Dec. 1 at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza Bldg., Makati City. Contact 5867105, 0917-5545560, e-mail; or 8919999,

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Sipat Lawin Ensemble bats for alternative theater with ‘Karnabal’

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Yay! My article about Sipat Lawin Ensemble's "Karnabal: A Def. Defying Festival" was published in Philippine Daily Inquirer's Nov. 16, 2013 issue.

Sipat Lawin Ensemble bats for alternative theater with ‘Karnabal’
By Walter Ang

Sipat Lawin Ensemble is hosting “Karnabal: A Def. Defying Festival,” a theater festival featuring groups and solo artists, in alternative performance spaces within Intramuros from Nov. 20 to 24.

“The ‘Def.’ stands for ‘definition,’” says SLE’s artistic director JK Anicoche. “It best explains the mix of programmed performances as transgressing norms and going beyond definitions of art and what it should be.”

Unlike noncurated fringe theater festivals abroad like Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Adelaide Fringe Festival where artists simply apply to join and can perform a wide variety of works, “Karnabal” is a curated festival. Anicoche did the curating along with SLE member Sarah Salazar.

“The festival allows artists to freely test new works and/or develop existing ones, as well as share and generate new audiences for the Philippine performance scene,” he adds.

Main shows
The Main Performance Platform features the original devised works of independent companies and solo artists.

SLE leads this category with “Reenactments.” “It’s a performance of new works devised from national events that have been forgotten by the public, made visible again via performance,” says Anicoche. “It’s devoid of the formal literary structure of a story or plot. It reenacts recent pasts and forgotten presents that are easily erased from our national memory, as one news and Internet fad after another buries last week’s headline.”

Kolab Co., meanwhile, stages “@Home,” a devised work that explores the different definitions of what “home” is, including the notion of “e-parenting,” where Filipino migrant workers connect with their children via the Internet.

Shaharazade Theater Company is staging “Story #15,” about four strangers who hook themselves up to a machine that transforms dreams into reality.

There’s also Destiyero Theater Commune, which is staging “Ang Mga Bata, Ang Mga Bata,” based on a play written by Erick Dasig Aguilar about three children gravely affected by a landslide.

Fire hula-hoop dancer and slam poet Daniel Darwin will direct “Green Glass Door,” a piece with two men that explores “faith, loyalty, free will, submission and liberation.”

Dance, workshops
Ea Torrado will perform “Nga-nga,” a solo dance piece exploring the “vacuum world of the humdrum and the ways we try to make life a little more bearable for ourselves.”

Transitopia Contemporary Dance Commune is screening “Rehearsal for Disaster.”

Works in progress are featured, too, in the Tsubibo Open Platform. Performances under this category will offer Blank Tickets. Audience members will pay what they feel the experience is worth.

Featured performances include two plays (Glenn Mas’ “Games People Play,” directed by Ed Lacson; and David Finnigan and Isabelle Martinez’s “Appropriate Kissing For All Ocassions”); and a film, Whammy Alcazaren’s “Colossal,” among others.

Workshops, talks, forums and panel discussions include topics on freelancing as a performer, how men are depicted in performance, the dynamics of staging free performances, and what subject matters are considered offensive for audiences.

“Karnabal” runs Nov. 20-24 in different venues within Intramuros, Manila. Contact 0917-5008753.

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Guelan Luarca tames tricky translations for Eurydice: opens Nov. 14, 2013

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Yay! My interview with Guelan Luarca, winner of the 2013 Palanca Memorial Award for Literature's Dulang May Isang Yugto category, and his involvement with Tanghalang Ateneo's upcoming production of Sarah Ruhl's "Eurydice" was published in Philippine Daily Inquirer's Nov. 11, 2013 issue.

Text below is the original submitted draft. It differs from the published version in terms of paragraph sequencing.

Guelan Luarca tames tricky translations for Eurydice: opens Nov. 14
By Walter Ang

Guelan Luarca
"I was delighted. Shocked. Couldn't move. I was shaking," says Miguel Antonio Alfredo "Guelan" Luarca, recalling his winning first place in this year's Palanca Memorial Award for Literature's Dulang May Isang Yugto category.

His "Mga Kuneho," about five men hired by a mysterious employer to transfer a loaded body bag from one room to another, had its world premiere at last year's Virgin Labfest and was chosen to be in this year's "Revisited" set.

Currently wrapping up his Literature in English course at Ateneo de Manila University, the first play Luarca ever wrote and directed, "Lingon," was for Ateneo High School's Palig, an annual competition hosted by the Filipino department.

Since then, he's worked on a few more plays and translated even more. And he's only 22 years old.

He's written, acted and directed for both the high school's Teatro Baguntao and the university's Tanghalang Ateneo. His recent credits for TA is devise-work for "Sintang Dalisay," an adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet."

Currently, Luarca is handling translation duties for TA's staging of Sarah Ruhl's "Eurydice."

Unlike the Greek myth on which it's based, Ruhl's adaptation adds a father for Eurydice when she ends up in the underworld. When her lover Orpheus comes to claim her, Eurydice's torn between her love for these two men.

Luarca has been working with director Loy Arcenas. "He is super hands-on, even with the translation process. We are not adapting Ruhl's text but [Arcenas] didn't want to locate it in America, either. So I went for Filipino that's quite devoid of historical connotations."

"[Arcenas] also has a unique reading of Orpheus, less the romantic hero and more of a jock who learns to sacrifice life for love; so my translation accommodates that specific reading."

In the blood
Theater, for Luarca, is partly in the blood. His mother dabbled in theater under Fr. James Reuter. His father Ward acted for Dulaang Sibol and Teatro Pilipino; whose recent credits include a role in the movie "Zombadings 1: Patayin sa shokot si Remington."

"I grew up watching my dad rehearsing scenes alone at home. The first time I watched a play was when he was in Tanghalang Pilipino's 'Lysistrata.' That play was directed by Ricky Abad [Tangahalang Ateneo's artistic director]. The first production I acted in for TA, 'Walang Sugat,' was also directed by Abad. Father and son's theater experience came full circle."

It was watching Tanghalang Pilipino's staging of "Makbet" using National Artist for Literature and Theater Rolando Tinio's translation that triggered Luarca's passion for translation. "I was amazed that you could do that with Filipino."

He started studying English-Filipino dictionaries, collecting stock vocabulary. In high school, he wanted to direct Chekhov's "The Boor" but couldn't find a copy of Tinio's translation. So he translated it himself.

Tricky translations
Most of Luarca's translations thus far have been of classic playwrights (Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors"/"Komedya ng Kalituhan" and "Troilus and Cressida"/"Trobol sa Troya").

Ruhl's work, on the other hand, is undoubtedly contemporary, premiering only just a decade ago.

"Translating modern Western plays is always harder than translating classics like the Greeks or Shakespeare. It's a balancing act between respecting the historical context of the original and allowing the specific needs of the target language to sort of bend the material for its own uses.

"Something as American as Ruhl's 'Eurydice' is a lot trickier. Her dramaturgy is so, so very poetic. You can't quite reword her; she seems to be very sure about how she chooses her words, how long or short a sentence is, how arbitrary some of her images are.

"It was clear that we were doing a translated version. So I didn't want to take too many liberties with the language. But, of course, there will always be unintended 'Filipino-ness,' something very specific to the language and culture, that I think adds to Ruhl rather than distorts her. At least that's my intention."

Likes it both ways
When it comes to translation work, Luarca idolizes Tinio. "He'd contribute to Filipino and also to the original work. For example, he translated Hamlet's 'a little more than kin, and less than kind' to 'higit mang kamag-anak, hindi naman kamag-isip.' His 'kamag-isip' is genius!"

Otherwise, Luarca looks to his father for guidance. "[When I won the Palanca], more than anything, I was really excited because I knew it'd make my parents happy. Especially my dad, who's really one of my most trusted mentors in writing. I bounce my ideas off him. I admire his poetry."

Luarca admits he feels "friendless and alone" when writing original plays. On the other hand, translation is "always fun" and makes him feel that he's given "a backstage pass to the workings of minds greater than my own."

Nontheless, "Original plays allow me to torture and indulge myself. Translating teaches me selflessness and discipline. I like them both."

Set and costume design by Arcenas, lighting design by Lex Marcos, sound design by Teresa Barrozo.

"Eurydice" runs Nov. 14-30 at Fine Arts Black Box Studio, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City. Contact 09177931175 or 09175760805.

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The Supremo on the march: productions focus on Bonifacio in 2013

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Yay! My article on the line-up of productions commemorating the birth sesquicentennial of Andres Bonifacio was published in Philippine Daily Inquirer's Nov. 2, 2013 issue.

I had researched for other productions that had Bonifacio as a lead character but the editors omitted all of it. It is restored below in green fonts.

Thanks to Dennis Marasigan, Rody Vera, Fred Hawson, Alvin Dacanay, Nick Pichay, Myra Beltran, Angel Lawenko-Baguilat, Cora Llamas, and Jovi Miroy for the information.

The Supremo on the march
By Walter Ang

Gantimpala Theater’s “Katipunan: Mga Anak ng Bayan”
Andres Bonifacio is popularly called “The Father of the Philippine Revolution.” He was a founding member and, later, Supremo (“supreme leader”) of the Kataas-taasan, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Highest and Most Respected Society of the Country’s Children), a secret revolutionary society that fought for independence from Spanish colonial rule.

His colorful life has inspired several works in the performing arts—fitting, in a way, because Bonifacio was a part-time actor who performed in moro-moro productions. He joined Samahang Dramatista ng Tundo and founded El Teatro Porvenir or Teatro Circo de Porvenir (depending on different sources).

Domingo Landicho's book, "Sa Bagwis ng Sigwa: Mga dula sa buhay at panahon ni Andres Bonifacio," is an anthology of his plays about Bonifacio ("Sa Bagwis ng Sigwa," "Unang Alay," and "Dapithapon.").

Jovi Miroy's "Anak ng Bayan" explores Bonifacio's "existential struggles;" Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio's "Dalawang Bayani" compares the lives of Bonifacio and Jose Rizal; Vincent Tañada's "Bonifacio: Isang Sarswela" depicts Bonifacio as a martyr saint.

Plays dealing with the events leading up to his death include Adrian Cristobal's "The Trial of Andres Bonifacio" (and its Tagalog translation "Ang Paglilitis" by Alexander Cortez) and Rene Villanueva's "Huling Gabi sa Maragondon."

There is a musical: "Andres Bonifacio: Ang Dakilang Anakpawis" (music by Jerry Dadap, libretto by Dionisio Salazar and Rogelio Mangahas).

In dance, there is Philippine Ballet Theatre's "Andres KKK: Ang Buhay at Pag-Ibig ni Andres Bonifacio" (choreography by Gener Caringal, libretto by Lillia Quindoza-Santiago, music by Jessie Lucas); and, staged earlier this year, Ballet Philippines' "Rock Supremo" (choreography by Paul Morales, Alden Lugnasin and Dwight Rodrigazo; libretto by Nick Pichay).

In film there is "Andres Bonifacio: Ang Supremo" (1964) directed by Teodorico Santos; Raymond Red's (direction and screenplay) "Bayani" (1992); Mario O'Hara's (direction and screenplay) "Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio" (2010); and "Ang Supremo" (2012) screenplay by Jimmy Flores and directed by Richard Somes.

To commemorate Bonifacio’s birth sesquicentennial (Nov. 30), several theater groups are staging productions about him. Three will be staged in November this year and one in 2014.

Gantimpala Theater
Film and television director Joel Lamangan co-directs Gantimpala Theater’s musical version of Bonifacio Ilagan’s 1978 Cultural Center of the Philippines Playwriting Contest-winning (first place) “Katipunan: Mga Anak ng Bayan.”

“We want to make it relevant [for current audiences] in terms of music and movement. This is all sung through and fast. We’ll also show the role of women in the struggle, the internal conflicts that weakened the Katipunan,” says Lamangan.

The production has music by RJ Jimenez and lyrics by Ilagan and Jeffrey Camañag. It stars Sandino Martin as Bonifacio, with Anna Fegi and Rita de Guzman alternating as Bonifacio’s wife Gregoria “Oryang” de Jesus.

Lamangan is Gantimpala’s new artistic director (following the death of founding artistic director Tony Espejo). Lamangan was in the cast of “Katipunan,” Gantimpala’s inaugural production in 1978.

Jun Pablo co-directs. Costume design by Pablo, set design by Sonny Aniceto and lighting design by Ninya Bedruz.

“Katipunan: Mga Anak ng Bayan” runs in Manila on Nov. 20 to 22 at Armed Forces of the Philippines Theater, Quezon City; Nov. 29 at Bonifacio High Street Open Field; and Nov. 30 at Taguig University. It tours Cavite City on Dec. 7 at Montano Hall.

Contact 9985622/8720261 for Manila shows and 09162759938 for Cavite shows.

Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas
Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas stages Tim Dacanay’s 2006 Palanca Award-winning play (second place, Dulang Ganap ang Haba category), “Teatro Porvenir: Ang Katangi-tanging Kasaysayan ni Andres Bonifacio, Macario Sakay at Aurelio Tolentino sa Entablado.”

“It is a re-imagining of the history of the Katipunan through an amalgamation of myth and literature, history and religion,” says DUP artistic director Alex Cortez, who is directing the production. “The play highlights Bonifacio as artist.”

Romnick Sarmenta and Russell Legaspi alternate as Bonifacio while Jean Judith Javier, Karen Guerlan and Emerald Bañares alternate as De Jesus.

Choreography by Angel Baguilat, Filipino martial arts choreography by arnis expert Bot Jocano, and komedya batalla movement by Jess Macatuggal and Grace Jaramillo. Costume design by Nimrod Sta. Ana, set design by Faust Peneyra, and sound design by Jethro Joaquin.

“Teatro Porvenir” runs Nov. 20 to Dec. 8 at Wilfrido Guerrero Theater, 2nd floor, Palma Hall, University of the Philippines, Quezon City.

Contact 9261349, 9818500 local 2449, and 4337840.

Tanghalang Pilipino
Tanghalang Pilipino stages a modern Filipino opera in Filipino, “San Andres B,” with music by Chino Toledo and libretto by National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario.

To be directed by Floy Quintos, the production will feature tenor Dondi Ong as Bonifacio and soprano Margarita Rocco as De Jesus. Ong alternated in the role of Ubaldo Piangi in last year’s Manila run of a touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera.”

“‘San Andres B’ is by no means a historical account of Bonifacio’s life. Rather, it is Almario’s imagistic and evocative interpretation of Bonifacio’s internal struggles. Toledo’s jagged and riveting score captures this internal struggle,” says Quintos.

Sound design by Aji Manalo, choreography by Kris Belle Paclibar-Mamangun, costume design by James Reyes, set design by Eric Cruz and lighting design by Jay Aranda.

“San Andres B” runs Nov. 29 to Dec. 8 at Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Contact 0917-7500107 or 0908-8941384.

University of the Philippines-Los Baños
In 2014, Joey Ting will direct Layeta Bucoy’s “Bonifacio Freak Show,” a black comedy about a group who wants to join the Katipunan but have a problem: the blood pact initiation is done at night—when this group turns into different halimaw such as manananggal, tiyanak, duwende and tikbalang.

The production will be staged by UPLB’s Office of the Initiatives for Culture and Arts for the Southern Tagalog Arts Festival 2014 and 2014’s National Arts Month in February. Music by Angel Dayao, set and costume design by Louie Navarro, and video design by Rudyard Pesimo.

“Bonifacio Freak Show” runs Feb. 19 to 21 at Dioscoro Umali Auditorium, UP Los Baños, Laguna.

Contact 0917-4578874.

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K-La Rivera learns a lead role in just six days

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Yay! My interview with K-La Rivera on her involvement with Atlantis Productions' "Carrie" and "The Addams Family" was published in Philippine Daily Inquirer's Oct. 26, 2013 issue.

How to learn a lead role in six days–take it from K-La Rivera
By Walter Ang

K-La Rivera
The theater community, practitioners and audiences alike, have been abuzz about an actress who learned a lead role in six days.

When Mikkie Bradshaw fell ill after the Friday opening night of Atlantis Productions’ recent staging of “Carrie,” a musical based on Stephen King’s novel, K-La Rivera was approached to step into the titular role.

Atlantis called her the following Saturday morning, asking her to come in to learn the songs, dialogue and blocking so she could open the show the following Friday.

“I was going to school, it was our finals week,” recalls the actress who’s currently taking up Communications at Miriam College.

“My heart just dropped. I had just watched Mikkie the night before. I was so happy for her when she got the role because I knew she really wanted it. I was devastated for her. I knew how important the role and the show were for her,” Rivera says. “I didn’t know if I could do it. I informed my professors and went in to rehearse. On the way, I cried and I was freaking out. I asked myself, ‘Can I do this?’”

From scratch
Unlike if she were to learn a role from a long-running, popular musical where some of the songs might have been familiar, Rivera didn’t know any of the songs from the musical save for one, which she sang when she auditioned for “Carrie.”

Except that it was for another character.

“When I arrived at the studio, the staff was already there to teach me the songs,” she says. “Mikkie had been preparing for the role for almost a year because she was cast since last year. I couldn’t imagine how I could learn the role in just six days.”

But it happened. Saturday was spent learning 13 songs. She learned the blocking for Act 1 on Sunday, Act 2 on Monday (she had “dropped script” by then, meaning she had her lines memorized and no longer held a script while rehearsing).

A run-through of Act 1 was done on Tuesday, Act 2 on Wednesday. Thursday was for a run-through of the entire musical. The first time she rehearsed with the band was on Friday afternoon, just hours before her opening show.

She opened that night—to acclaim from audiences and reviewers alike. (Bradshaw recovered and returned for the production’s last weekend and alternated with Rivera for the remaining shows. Rivera was called up on stage at the last show’s curtain call, where she sang a duet with Bradshaw and shared a bow.)

“It was unreal. I couldn’t have done it without the entire cast and crew. They were very supportive. They never once pressured me,” she says.

During rehearsals, to get Rivera up to speed on where onstage she was supposed to be, the cast employed what theater folk endearingly call the “push-and-pull” method of blocking, where they literally pushed and pulled an actor to guide her along.

“It helped that Carrie was bullied a lot, so it was OK that I was being pushed around,” Rivera says, chuckling.

Coactress Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, who played Carrie’s abusive mother, also offered support.
“She kept telling me not to worry and that, worse comes to worst, if I blank out on stage, she would just slap me!” she says, laughing.

Rivera’s past experiences were what built up the endurance and reserves that equipped her through the one-week preparation. She loved performing as a child. Born and raised in Canada, she constantly joined choirs, productions and pageants at a young age.

When she was 13, she landed a singing appearance in Las Vegas. With frequent trips back and forth to Manila, she was also approached by a Philippine record label for a contract.

“But I was too young then,” she says.

In 2009, Rivera relocated to Manila to establish a career. By 2011, her hard work started paying off. She was a finalist in ABS-CBN’s “Starpower,” a talent competition, and won MYX’s “VJ Search.” That same year, she had her professional stage debut as Nina Rosario in Atlantis’ “In the Heights.”

Last year, she played Princess Jasmine in Atlantis’ staging of “Disney’s Aladdin” opposite Tom Rodriguez as the titular character.

Kind of crazy
K-La Rivera plays Wednesday Addams
with Ryan Gallagher as Lucas Beineke
The bubbly, earnest Rivera is all humility when she shrugs off the “Carrie” feat. “I’m kind of crazy kasi e,” she says, laughing. “I just jump into things. Like when I moved from Canada to Manila, I just went ahead and did it. When I landed at the airport, it hit me that I was finally here on my own. With a lot of things in my life, I just go for it. Life is short! Never once in my life did I ever say to myself, ‘That’s impossible.’”

The craziness, this time, is appropriate as Rivera prepares for her new role as a somewhat off-kilter character: as Wednesday Addams in Atlantis’ staging of the musical “The Addams Family.”

Created by cartoonist Charles Addams, the Addams Family is a “ghoulish American family with an affinity for all things macabre.”

The original comic panels have inspired several television series, movies and even video games. A 1991 movie adaptation starred Cristina Ricci as Wednesday with Angelica Houston and Raul Julia as the family’s matriarch and patriarch, Morticia and Gomez.

The musical, which uses a new story line, debuted on Broadway in 2011 with book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and music and lyrics by Drama Desk-winning composer/lyricist Andrew Lippa. The local staging stars Arnell Ignacio and Eula Valdes as Gomez and Morticia Addams, respectively.

Rivera relishes the prospect of fleshing out a creepy character: “I love scary movies. And I love theater. It combines everything I enjoy doing: singing, dancing, acting. I love trying out new things and expanding my horizons.”

“The Addams Family” is directed by Bobby Garcia, with musical direction by Ceejay Javier, choreography by Cecile Martinez, costume design by Pepsi Herrera, set design by Faust Paneyra and lighting design by Dong Calingacion. It runs Nov. 15 to Dec. 1 at Meralco Theater, Pasig City. Contact 8927078. Tickets also available through Ticketworld at 8919999 or

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