TFM sat down with the cast and artistic team of Ballet Manila’s upcoming show Pinocchio. Its original production was staged back in 2002, with seasoned dancer Alvin Santos playing the title character at the ripe age of 17. Thirteen years later, he reprises his role with musical theater actress Tippy Dos Santos playing the Pink Fairy. The Pink Fairy tells the story of Pinocchio in the eyes of her best friend — the Blue Fairy.
Photos by: Erickson Dela Cruz
Having been staged for four times in the past (2002, 2004, 2007, and 2010), what will make this staging different? For one thing, the show used to be just one act, and ran for only 50 minutes. Parents would bring their kids to watch it. What was their reaction?
“They would say sulit na sulit.”, according to co-artistic director Ms. Lisa Macuja-Elizalde. “May children’s ballet ka na, siyempre masaya, it’s very colorful. You have all of these characters. You relate it to the Disney cartoon. Siyempre fantasy siya so marami siyang effects. Iyung underwater scene namin, Pinocchio goes into the whale so when he jumps into the sea nagbblacklights kami, so lumalabas iyung jellyfish namin na luminous, iyung octopus namin na luminous na pink! (laughs) We have a pink octopus. We have all different kinds of colorful fish. Siyempre gustong gusto nila iyun. And then we have the teeth. You see the teeth of the whale. And then they jump out of the whale. It’s just very appropriate. And then after magrride all you can sila sa carnival [Star City] after the show.”
In 2002, it ran for around 15 shows in the span of 3 weekends. “It was so popular that we had to turn-away some kids. And then we had children sitting on the aisles”, said Macuja-Elizalde. “It was already sold out and I haven’t even done the ballet yet. (laughs)”, said co-artistic director Osias Barroso.
(For more details about the show, click here)
Are there any new dance sequences this time around?
“Now, what we’re doing is instead of doing just a 50-minute Pinocchio, we’re doing a 2-act Pinocchio and we’re adding a whole new section in Pleasure Island. So ang scene niya talaga is carnival. So lalo siyang appropriate kasi may carnival na talaga and we’re going to be adding a lot of circus performers. May acrobats… so it’s an all-in-one na talaga. Actually, if you think about it, it’s a complete show, because you have circus, you have singing, there’s like a story-teller actress, so it’s like musical theater, and then you have the ballet part. So it’s all-around.”
Now that Alvin is 30 years old and is now a seasoned dancer, how does he feel about reprising his first starring role? “May pressure na (laughs). Kasi may additional…Pleasure Island…siyempre hindi ako pwede magpakain sa kanila. Kailangan galingan ko pa.”
As soon as he enters the stage, he doesn’t leave. “One advantage of Alvin is that he’s a very good actor.” says Barroso. The transition to a boy becomes very clear. “Most of his dancing is done as a puppet.” adds Macuja-Elizalde.
Coming from Cagayan Valley, Alvin had no background in dance when he came to audition for Ballet Manila. “Napagtripan lang talaga.”, he said. “Dati napapanood ko lang sila Ma’am Lisa sa TV e. Tapos sinabi ko sige nga, try ko nga.” But Barroso saw potential in him in terms of his flexibility, so he asked him to come back for more training. He eventually became one of the company’s scholars.
Were there moments when he wanted to quit?
“Meron po. (laughs) Kasi iyun nga, scholar pa lang kami. Sabi ko ang hirap pala ng ballet, ayaw ko na. (laughs) Pero ‘di ko alam, nagtuloy-tuloy pa rin ako. Lalo na nung pinagcompete kami. Doon na nagstart yung career ko.” He was the first Filipino male dancer who landed as a finalist in an international competition (Macuja-Elizalde being the first female).
Being a consistent performer in the musical theater scene, how is Tippy Dos Santos preparing for her role as the storyteller in this ballet?
“I’m actually not going to be dancing but it’s my first time to be a part of a ballet. Actually last Thursday I joined Ms. Lisa’s level 2 class. But I basically just watched what they were doing because she said if I can’t do it, don’t do it, and I couldn’t do many of the things that they were doing. But aside from that class I start rehearsing when they go to the story because I really am the storyteller and my parts are things that I can rehearse without being with the whole group or with the whole company. So I start rehearsing on the 21st. But I do want to go back. Maybe on a lower level. (laughs) And Ms. Lisa was telling me the other day that they don’t want me to stick out because ballerinas have that certain grace, even just by sitting down. You can see the difference. I really need to be with them to get the grace and the poise that they have. (laughs)”
Her big moment is when she sings the iconic song, “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
Ballet Manila will be staging Pinocchio from November 27 to December 6 at the Aliw Theater.