Now in its 4th season, Artist Playground is staging its first original musical. Based on the story and book by Dennis Teodosio, Gee-gee at Waterina Ang Musikal is based on the characters in the movie ‘Markova, The Comfort Gay’, a film that was part of the Metro Manila Film Festival starring and co-produced by Dolphy in 2000. It features the life of Walter Dempster Jr. a.k.a ‘Walterina Markova’, a gay man who was forced into sex slavery during the Japanese Occupation in WWII, and his friend and city councilor Justo Justo a.k.a ‘JJ’.
Teodosio first presented this as a straight play at the first-ever Virgin Labfest in 2005, starring Lou Veloso and Paolo Cabañero. Teodosio worked in close collaboration with Markova and JJ when he was writing the first draft of the play. Sadly, 12 days after the first staging of the play, Markova died from a bicycle accident.
According to Teodosio, Gee-gee at Waterina is a “what if.” What would Markova and JJ have done with the money that was paid to them by Dolphy for the rights to their story?
From a short play at The Virgin Labfest, the creative team is converting it into a one hour and fifteen minute one-act musical. Roeder Camanag, Artist Playground’s Artistic Director who stars in the show as Waterina, says “Those two characters are really larger than life, kaya ko narinig na kaagad na musical siya.” He adds that one of the things he’s most excited about is the choreography. “Marami kasing dance numbers and ito na iyung pagkakataon ko ring maging Chita Rivera for this run. It’s really my dream to be Chita Rivera.” (laughs)
The show is also out to prove something. “Iyun din iyung magandang ioffer at maipakita sa audience, na pwede siyang ganun kasimple,” says Camanag. “Hindi kinakailangan ng helicopter, hindi kinakailangan ng chandelier na bumabagsak, kung hindi iyung mahusay na pagkakasulat, magandang musika, magandang direksyon, at puso ng mga actor.”
Teodosio says that this is also an opportunity to explore and delve into the material further. “Isa sa mga pinakamahirap na experience sa Virgin Labfest ay iyung oras. Ang dami kong gustong sabihin na hindi ko nasabi sa Gee-gee at Waterina.” He adds, “Dito sa musical, nagamit iyung mga kanta para makapagdagdag nung layer. Dito sa mga kantang nadagdag, naging mas visual iyung presentation.”
This production marks Teodosio’s 18th musical. He has spent a lot of his career writing musicals for Gantimpala Theater Foundation’s children’s theater (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, etc.) with composer Jesse Lucas. They return to collaborate for this production, featuring new, original music by Lucas. The show will be directed by Andrew De Real.
What can audiences take away from the show? Lucas says, “It’s more than a story of being gay. It’s a story of someone na may strength of character; a survivor who happens to be a gay man.”
You can watch excerpts from the show performed by Roeder Camanag, his co-star Norman Penaflorida, and the company of Gee-gee at Waterina Ang Musikal.
The show runs from August 18-19, and 25-26, 7pm at Arts Above, Artist Playground II, 112 West Venue Bldg., West Avenue, Quezon City.