Curtains Up for Jhett Tolentino Productions
Last November 2, 2016, Jhett Tolentino Productions Inc. was officially launched to the press.
“I’ve been away for 14-15 years. I’ve started doing the theater officially on Broadway about 4 years ago. This is my 3rd trip to the Philippines (this year) and the calling of the Filipino artist for me to do something here has never been louder.”
(READ: Jhett Tolentino is Shaking Things Up)
To be able to fulfill his vision of making our performing arts scene truly world-class, he found partners who shared his passion–Bal Endriga, the current president of MINT College as the Chairman of the Board, Trisha Lim as the Vice President, and Ma. Anastasia Lim as the Treasurer.
A Yuletide Debut
For their first offering, the company is flying in Broadway actor Andrew Keegan-Bolger for a Christmas-themed concert entitled “A Very Broadway Christmas in Manila”. The show will also feature West End and Rak of Aegis star Tanya Manalang.
Bolger has been part of six Broadway musicals—Newsies, Mary Poppins, Seussical, Beauty and the Beast, A Christmas Carol, and most recently, Tuck Everlasting, a musical co-produced by Tolentino himself.
The concert will be about Bolger’s life as an actor, frequently away from home during the holidays. The show will feature a mix of Christmas songs, Broadway songs, and other surprising numbers. “I told him to do something different. I gave him 3 Tagalog songs to learn.” laughs Jhett.
As of this writing, the concert’s repertoire includes:
Holiday songs: “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”, “I’ll be Home for Christmas”, “River” (Joni Mitchell), “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, “Santa Claus is Comin to Town”, “All Those Christmas Cliches” (Ahrens & Flaherty), “Red Ryder” (from a Christmas Story), and “Let it Snow.”
Broadway songs: “Santa Fe”- Newsies; “Letter from the Refuge”- Newsies; “Everlasting”- Tuck Everlasting; “Top of the World”- Tuck Everlasting; “I’m Not that Smart”- Spelling Bee; “Feed the Birds”- Mary Poppins; “Proud of Your Boy”- Aladdin; “What I Did for Love”- A Chorus Line
OPM songs: “Pasko Na Naman”, “Sana Ngayong Pasko”, “Kumikutikutitap”
The concert is scheduled for December 11, 7pm at the newly opened BGC Arts Center located in Taguig City. It will then move to Iloilo City on December 17 at the Central Philippine University’s Rose Memorial Hall.
Jhett himself is very excited about the set,
“It’s a concept between merging Broadway and the Philippine culture. I just got the design yesterday and it’s just fabulous.”
During our Skype Interview with Bolger, we asked what he was working on at the moment.
Bolger: “This is really what I’m focusing on right now for the next month. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff in the film world. I just finished shooting the film version of Newsies which is gonna be coming out in theaters in February I think worldwide. Hopefully they’ll be in the theaters in the Philippines as well. So that’s what I did last month. And now just practicing for the concert, and getting all the repertoire together and preparing for this big trip.”
A Taste of Broadway
Jhett: “I want to be able to bring Broadway here.”
Bolger is only the first of many Broadway artists that Tolentino plans to bring to Manila.
Jhett: “For the next year, I’ve also lined up some great artists from Broadway.
I’m now in talks with their managers– Laura Osnes, Jeremy Jordan, Darren Criss, Kristin Chenoweth, and Jennifer Hudson. These are the people that I’ve worked with; those who played in my productions.”
“In between our productions of plays and musicals, we will introduce single artists so that you don’t have to come to New York to meet them. They can come here.”
Jhett: “I’m prioritizing the local artists to be our cast. The difference between the other companies and Jhett Tolentino Productions is, I want to start this from Broadway training. So most of our directors and creative teams will come from Broadway.”
He has other plans for the Broadway artists coming over.
Jhett: “When they’re here, they will also conduct Master Classes, lectures. So it’s like all access to enhancement for the Filipino artist. That will probably be our edge amongst 35 other existing production companies.”
A Unique Line-up
Jhett gave us a look on what we can expect for his season line-ups for the next two years.
Jhett: “Definitely our first play will be the Velocity of Autumn. On Broadway, we did that. It starred the Oscar winner Estelle Parsons. She won the Oscar for Bonnie and Clyde. She’s actually gonna come here to do a lecture as well.”
“We also have Hand to God, Buyer and Cellar, My Name is Asher Lev.”
*He’s currently trying to negotiate with the local artists that he wants to be part of his cast.
Jhett: “For musicals that’s a little bit complicated because I want to be able to bring the entire team, from the director to the set designer. My challenge here personally is the venue. This is my third trip this year to the Philippines, and every time I go around the theaters, all venues are booked. So I’m hoping to team up with 1 or 2 structures. It’s also in the works. I want exclusivity so that I don’t have to go around to ask for venues. So if they provide bring that I have so much material, so much shows that we could bring in. Up to 40 that I’ve done on Broadway.”
- Tuck Everlasting
Jhett: “I’ve talked to one ballet company. I was trying to source out girls who could do ballet and sing at the same time. There are not a lot of them but it could be done. They’re very excited about that. Again, it’s about getting the venue, the right venue, because the set is elaborate. It has spring water, the gold leaf, the tree… We actually need a hydraulic set for that, so we have to compensate. Trim down a lot of that. So Tuck is definitely on my list because that’s the last Broadway show I produced.”
- Here Lies Love
Jhett: “Here Lies Love, I got the go signal to do it here. I’m very excited about that. Again, it’s all about negotiation. But I won’t let them die. It has to be here. It has to be here.”
We can hardly wait to see everything unfold. What do you guys think of the line-up?
Photography by Erickson dela Cruz