WATCH: Performances from REP’s 2024 Season
Repertory Philippines unveiled its 2024 season roster at its 87th season launch on December 4. The company has produced a total of 462 productions in its previous 86 seasons.
In the upcoming season, REP will stage 4 productions: Betrayal, a British drama by Harold Pinter; I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, the second longest Off-Broadway musical next to The Fantasticks; Jepoy and the Magic Circle, an original musical by Rody Vera and Ejay Yatco adapted from a children’s short story by Gilda Cordero Fernando; and Going Home to Christmas, an original jukebox musical featuring the music of Jose Mari Chan.
Despite having produced only 1 original and 3 adaptations in the past (The Quest for the Adarna by Luna Griño-Inocian and Rony Fortich in 2019, Hansel and Gretel adapted by Joy Virata from Engelbert Humperdinck’s opera in 2016, Miong by Virata, Ian Monsod, and Freddie Santos first staged in 1998, and Miss Julie, a Filipino adaptation of the August Strindberg play by Rolando Tinio as the company’s debut production in 1966), REP has not been known for staging original work, mostly presenting Western titles from abroad. However, in the upcoming season alone, the company has decided to mount two new works by Filipino playwrights. What has changed?
REP’s President and CEO Mindy Perez-Rubio says that they found the need to evolve with the changing times. “We were doing Western plays for a long time and it was very much admired and received by our audiences,” she shares. “But now our audience is shifting, changing. The baby boomers are getting older, and most of the people who are more interested in live theater are the millennials and the Gen Zers and the Gen Xers and we definitely want to tap [into] that.”
“It is also something that we need to cultivate because we have never had any local productions except Adarna and Hansel & Gretel and Miong. But those were the only 3 or 4 productions that we had. So now, we want to do Joe Mari Chan and Jepoy.”
Betrayal, the first production of the season, will run from March 1 to 17 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium of RCBC Plaza. This production employs a reverse-chronological structure to tell the story and examine the consequences of an extramarital affair on three complex individuals and how clandestine meetings turn to dramatic confrontations. The show will be directed by Manila-born, New York and London-based actor and director Victor Lirio and will feature London-based Filipino actors James Bradwell, James Cooney, and Vanessa White, with Jef Flores and Regina De Vera as covers.
“I am excited about exploring this play from the second generation Filipino-British perspective,” says Lirio. “These actors are not playing white people. They are Filipino-British. So basically we will mine our Filipino roots in the retelling of this beautiful and complicated and extraordinary play.”
REP is also collaborating with Lirio on The Bridge Project, a “skills exchange” program for professional practitioners trained in different theater cultures to create a congress for collaborative learning.
“We’re bringing over London-based Filipino actors James Cooney, James Bradwell, Vanessa White to Manila to work with local Filipino actors,” shares Lirio. “[Set and sound] designers from New York will be working with designers in Manila. So, it’s gonna be fun. It’s like a global summit for theater-making.”
Perez-Rubio says that they hope to do the initiative every year free of charge. “Lirio will be inviting all the students of The Bridge Project to actually audit a couple of rehearsals so that they can see exactly how a professional rehearsal is done in the West End because it is so totally different, even the language that they use is so different. So Victor just wants to come here to make sure that we can train people so that they could elevate themselves to the skills of global professional levels. We are doing this as a REP to the community, so it is going to be free of charge.”
The initiative will be open to theater-practitioners of different disciplines, including playwriting and stage management. Early in the year, some of the sessions will be held via Zoom, but the bulk of The Bridge Project initiative will take place in March at MINT’s two college campuses in BGC and Ortigas, concurrent with the run of Betrayal.
The next production in the company’s roster is I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, an Off-Broadway musical written by Joe Di Pietro (book and lyrics) and Jimmy Roberts (music). Director Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo shares, “The musical is a musical revue wherein only 4 characters play over 40 characters as they take on different situations about the joys and difficulties of relationships at every stage, from the early stages of dating, all the way to when they get older, get married, widowed, and so forth.”
“It’s actually very now,” she adds. “It’s an old musical, it’s the second longest-running Off-Broadway musical but I think the themes are still very relevant and people who date or who are married can easily relate to the material.”
Lauchengco-Yulo is joined by assistant director Cara Barredo, musical director Ejay Yatco, and set designer Joey Mendoza. The show will run from June 7 to 30 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium of RCBC Plaza. You can watch Barredo perform the song “I Will be Loved Tonight” in the video below.
The third production for REP’s 87th season is its RTYA (REP’s Theater for Young Audiences) offering, Jepoy and the Magic Circle, a new original musical that showcases Filipino folklore.
“This play is based on a short story written by my good friend Gilda Cordero Fernando. It’s called The Magic Circle and she wrote it way back in the 90’s,” shares Vera. “Before she died, she said, ‘I want you to do this and turn this into a play.’ So I did. I actually did a version of it for Dulaang UP. It’s Called Umaaraw, Umuulan Kinakasal Ang Tikbalang because those are the first lines of the story.”
The story follows Jepoy, a young teenager who gets invited to a wedding of two tikbalangs (they’re half horse and half human). He gets introduced to a world with a lot of creatures– Aswangs, some obscure characters in Philippine folklore, and even talking animals like snakes.
“He gets invited for a reason,” adds Vera. All these creatures are slowly disappearing because the forest where Jepoy is living is slowly getting decimated. So the invitation was not just for a wedding, but it was an appeal for Jepoy to go back out into the human world and speak about what’s happening in the forest and in the world.”
Vera says that Jepoy is like a primer of all the different creatures that Filipino folklore has. “We have the tiyanak, we have the tikbalang, we have the kapre, we have the aswang, and all of these can be put in a different light.”
Yatco also shares, “One of the reasons we chose this is because kids sometimes have an affinity for the spooky. It’s the reason why properties like Scooby-Doo and Casper, and modern material like Hotel Transylvania and Monster High and even the hit Wednesday series from Netflix; the biggest market is kids. So there’s something about the scary that kids are excited to talk about, but not too scary. Kind of like those ghost stories they tell at night before they go to sleep. So it’s something that can be really appealing to a younger audience.”
“And it will contain the same elements that all my children’s theater contains, that is classical ballet and most important, audience participation”, says Virata. “The children just love it.”
You can watch Noel Comia Jr. perform the song I Heard in the video below.
The season will be concluded with Going Home to Christmas, where Yatco will serve as musical arranger. Jose Mari Chan says that they will be using the music from his two Christmas albums, the titular Going Home to Christmas and Christmas in Our Hearts.
The book is written by Robbie Guevara, Luna Griño-Inocian, and Joel Trinidad, with additional scenes by Cathy Azanza-Dy.
“It’s four distinct stories about relationships between father and son, husband and wife, boyfriends and girlfriends,” says Griño-Inocian. “[It’s about] things that happen in Christmas all set in an airport because everyone is going home to Christmas.”
“We writers were originally saying, it’s sort of like Love Actually except it’s very Pinoy in sentiment. A lot of the stories will sound familiar because they will be familiar in your experiences.”
Perez-Rubio says that apart from using his music, Chan plans to be involved in the production from the very beginning. “We had written a couple of storylines that he rejected and so we moved on and we just kept pushing and pushing and writing and re-writing until we finally hit on something that he really enjoyed.”
“Aside from that, he is actually gonna get involved also in the arranging and in the music. He is going to be talking to Ejay here. I know Joe Chan, he is going to be here from the get-go.”
The show will run from November to December 2024. You can watch Cara Barredo, Noel Comia Jr., Roxy Aldiosa, Joshua Cabiladas, Roby Malubay, and Paula Paguio perform a mash-up of Going Home to Christmas and Christmas in our Hearts in the performance excerpt below.