Get to Know American Idiot’s Powerhouse Theater Veterans
9 Works Theatrical’s American Idiot has been getting a lot of attention recently, especially since the company announced its star-studded cast a week ago. The actors are composed of a unique mix of iconic rockstars– Miggy Chavez of Chicosci, Jason Fernandez of Rivermaya , and Basti Artadi of Wolfgang–, as well as some of our country’s most talented theater veterans, led by Nel Gomez, Yanah Laurel, Ela Lisondra, and Alex Godinez. We had a chance to meet the cast and creative team at the show’s press conference last May 24.
*Photo Coverage by Erickson dela Cruz
Director Robbie Guevara started things off by saying,
“What’s beautiful about the musical is that it makes the music even more alive. Every song has a story and what the creators did was, they just stitched it together, added very, very minimal lines, and then they came up with one complete story where all 17 of them, have individual characters that contribute to the story. There’s no chorus. So if you don’t leave the show humming at least one song, you weren’t listening. (laughs) It’s that magnetic.”
How has the experience been like for the show’s theater vets?
Yanah Laurel (Whatsername): “It has been a really good experience because first of all, American Idiot is solely a rock musical and to be able to have living legends here that we could actually learn from– it’s really such a privilege to be able to have such iconic people, such iconic rockers that have actually made such an impact here in the Philippines. To be able to learn from them, to immerse ourselves with them– and it’s such a collaborative effort all around. They’re learning from us since it’s a completely different discipline, and we’re learning from them. And you know, in theater they have this thing, ‘No acting allowed.’ So we want to be as authentic, we want to be as genuine, and truthful in what we’re doing. And to be able to learn from, my God, these guys– it’s incredible. It’s such a privilege. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s only just the beginning of it all. We’re ready to rock it out with them.”
Alex Godinez (Heather): “It’s really different, coming from theater, you feel like you want everything to be perfect. Right on time, everything. Everything’s precise. But the thing with this show, it’s rock basically and we can’t be precise in rock. We have to absorb their energy and rawness. So basically they’re such a good energy to absorb for the show.”
Nelsito Gomez (Tunny): “I love it. I get to bond with these three guys. We’re very small in the industry here for theater. So most likely, when you get casted for something, you usually have a friend in the other cast. But it’s so nice that these two people… I actually grew up listening to them. I grew up to Chicosci!”
How has the experience been like for the rest of the cast?
Ela Lisondra and Ariel Reonal, Miss Saigon alums who have just finished their runs in the West End, have these to say.
Ela Lisondra (Extraordinary Girl): “It’s my first show in the Philippines and I’m very, very happy to be part of 9 Works Theatrical. It’s the company to be in. And everyone’s like barkada. No showbiz dito. Really. Everyone is very, very nice, fun, light, but all professional.”
Ariel Reonal (Favorite Son): “This is my comeback show in Philippine theater because I’ve been away for 9 years doing Disney and then Miss Saigon. Thank you 9 Works for having me.”
How different has their experience been working in this production compared to their previous productions?
(READ: American Idiot Coming to a New Theater this June)
Yanah Laurel (Whatsername): “Well it’s different because the music has been pre-written already, in the sense that, it’s a jukebox musical, meaning the music came before and the story came after. So all the songs were sewn together to create a story, and that is something that is new for everybody here. So that’s definitely a new challenge, to be able to create a story that’s not necessarily written but it’s also such an adventure to be able to do that.”
Sarah Facuri: “And I think also that compared to the other productions I’ve done in the past, we usually just tell stories with our words. But I think with PJ’s [Rebullida] choreography, we’re telling the story with every fiber of our body. So it’s not just here and singing, it’s also the movement as well so it’s going to be extra challenging for us, you know with the Parkour setting and all that. A lot of cardio!”
*The set has yet to be unveiled but director Robbie Guevara mentioned that the cast would need to do some Parkour choreography!
Mark Tayag: “And it’s an open space with 3 floors and we’ve kind of seen it but we haven’t done blocking yet so we’re pretty hyped for that. But given the set, cardio work siya.”
Kendrick Ibasco: “And for me this is my first time with 9 Works and this is like my very first big musical really, so doing something as massive like this with Globe is going to be really something.”
Gian Gloria: “We’ve learned a lot from the rockstars, especially how to be a rockstar, because I’m used to doing princess roles and other stuff (laughs). But this is my very first rock musical so I’m very excited.”
Mako Alonso: “Also because American Idiot is all about character. The first thing they told us was to be different from each other. In other musicals you would try to move as a unit, be structured, be in a certain place at a certain time, but they just told us to do whatever the * toot * we want. So basically, we just have to be ourselves and that takes a lot more energy actually because we have to assert ourselves to 600-3000 people, just being ourselves in a massive scale.”
(READ: American Idiot- Where the Best of Filipino Rock and Theatre Converge)
For Ela and Ariel, how different has it been working in Manila?
Ela Lisondra (Extraordinary Girl): “Maybe the system’s different but for me, arts has a universal language. It shouldn’t be that different. All I can say is, I love the vibe here. I love the energy. Everyone is really, really talented. I mean, I don’t have to go abroad just to see an international talent. We got it here in the Philippines.”
Ariel Reonal: “The only thing that’s different is, abroad, it’s a really big business. Theater is a bigger industry compared to here. It has a wider audience and with your help we can make theater even bigger here in the Philippines.”
How has the experience been like for Kai, who will be performing in the theater for the first time?
Kai Atienza: “It’s totally different, like even for the auditions, from the very start, I was like, ‘Wow, yeah you people are weird. You people are so crazy.’ (laughs) It was a totally new world for me because I have always just been singing. And then when I ended up acting it’s more on the TV side so it’s more of like an internal thing rather than like big stuff (gestures massive) like that. And then for the auditions they made us do some crazy stuff. What the freak. (laughs) So it’s totally new, totally different, definitely crazy, but hey I bet it’s going to be fun.”
Another exciting thing about this show is the new outdoor theater venue. The Globe Iconic Store is going to be a beautiful, massive structure at the BGC.
According to co-producer and Globe’s Retail Transformation and Stores Management Head, Joe Caliro,
“It’s not the first time theater has been done outdoors. It will be the first time that theater has been done outdoors in this kind of scale at the quality of Broadway.”