"Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure" opens on Sept. 29, 2011

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Yay! My article on Repertory Philippines' upcoming staging of "Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure" was published by Philippine Daily Inquirer for its Sept. 26, 2011 issue.

Due to space limitations, the editors lopped off several lines. But worry not, for I present to you all, the fully restored original version! (Restored lines in green.)

ERRATUM! My apologies, Gonzales did not design for Ballet Philippines' "Darna." The set designer was Boni Juan.

"Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure" opens on Sept. 29, 2011
By Walter Ang

Sam Concepcion as Peter Pan
The Asian premier of a new musical version of "Peter Pan" will be staged by Repertory Philippines and Stages Production Specialists starting Sept. 29.

Based on J.M. Barrie's book, "Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure" will feature Sam Concepcion in the title role and Michael Williams as Captain Hook.

The story revolves around the boy who refuses to grow up, his visit to the home of the Darling siblings Wendy, Michael and John; and how he takes them to Never Land.  There they have adventures with Tinkerbell the fairy, the Lost Boys, Indian sqaw Tiger Lily and her braves, mermaids, and Captain Hook's pirates.

The musical's book is by Willis Hall; music and lyrics are by award-winning duo George Stiles and Anthony Drewe ("Honk!" and the Disney-Cameron Mackintosh "Mary Poppins").

Co-directors Jaime Del Mundo and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo have assembled a design team to bring the show to life.

Set design
Set design sketch by Gino Gonzales
The production will be using Flying by Foy flying systems.  The company is based in the US and its technicians will come to Manila to train the cast and crew on how to use and operate its systems.

Set designer Gino Gonzales knew from the get go that flying would be involved.  Since he's designed past productions that have involved flying, such as Ballet Philippines' "Darna," his first consideration was that he couldn't design pieces that were too high.

"Also, the set has to be many different locations," he says.  "From the nursery in the Darling family's home in London to many different places for Never Land's many inhabitants."

Michael Williams as Captain Hook
"Everything has to happen in one space," he says.  Given these parameters, Gonzales has created a "box made of shutters" for the all the action to happen in. He's also "adjusted" the very long length of the Meralco Theater's stage by adding legs (theater term for curtains or set pieces at the sides of a stage) to focus the action towards the center.

"When I studied the musical's script, I noted that there were very many transitions from one scene to another.  The way the music is written makes all the scene shifts very short.  So this kind of set design allows for suggestive props and scenic elements to convey the different locations.  Color will be conveyed through the costumes.  All the scene changes will also be done in front of the audience.  Part of the fun of watching this show is to allow your imagination to supplement what you see onstage."

Costume design
Raven Ong's sketches for pirate costumes
Populating Gonzales' set are the actors who will be dressed in costumes by Raven Ong.  Ong was recruited by Lauchengco-Yulo earlier this year when he did the costumes for Rep's "Shakespeare in Hollywood."

"Both directors were very specific with the look and approach that they want for the costumes," he says. "They gave me their directorial concept, ideas and adjectives for the feel that they want to achieve.  It's important to absorb and have the same vision as theirs.  I then balance off their considerations with the way how I want to attack it as the designer."

Ong relies heavily on research, using reference books he's acquired abroad.  He also watched existing Peter Pan films, both live action and animated.  "I needed to review what had already been done, to see different takes on these characters.  Part of it is to analyze why the designers came up with their particular designs."

Raven Ong's sketches
for Lost Boys costumes
"That's the challenge, how to re-create a classic. Something that you attempt to break but still needs to be acceptable to the audience.  People are familiar with the story, especially the cartoon version, so the costume designs cannot be too unfamiliar either."

Ong has created color-coded costumes for the characters "to make it easier for the audience to recognize characters."

"We are using seven sets of costume suppliers, each focusing on each character groups. One supplier focuses on the Londoner costumes; another on the Lost Boys costumes; another only on Mrs. Darling's Edwardian evening gown; another only on Captain Hook's full Baroque costume, and so on. I did this because each character group has its own feel."

Musical direction is by Jojo Malferrari; he will also conduct the live music for all performances.  Choreography is by Deana Aquino and lighting design is by John Batalla.

"Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure" runs Sept 29-Oct 30, 2011 at Meralco Theater, Ortigas Ave., Pasig City. Rows of seats or entire shows can be bought at discount. Contact 571-6926, 571-4941 or info@repertory.ph. Tickets are also available at Ticketworld at 891-9999 or www.ticketworld.com.ph. Visit www.repertory.ph, subscribe to youtube.com/repertoryphils, and add "Rep Phils" in Facebook.

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