Culture Magazine

Theater 2011: Fresh Faces and (re)discoveries

By Gibbs22manila @gibbscadiz
The advent of bright new talents--and being there to witness their rise--is always a thrilling moment, and a hopeful one. So here's to the newbies who tantalized us with their promise this year, and to the practiced hands who finally got their moment in the spotlight and proved how ripe they were for it. To use an earlier explanation-caveat: These are my personal favorites--those that reached out to me, grabbed me from across the footlights with their truth, power, honesty, wit, style. They're singular to me, in other words--preferences borne out of the unique mindset, disposition and belief system I had brought to that very moment in the dark when these performances were playing out before my eyes. They're the ones that connected the most with me, sometimes despite the inadequacies of the material.
[In alphabetical order]:
Via Antonio. A Dulaang UP product, she was one-half of the most appealing pairing in this year's Virgin Labfest--that of the struggling young couple in Kinaumagahan, in which she and Noel Escondo struck a sexy, sparkling chemistry.
Mark Bautista. Already an established pop star, he took on his first theater role as Ibarra in Tanghalang Pilipino's Noli Me Tangere: The Musical and ran away with it, singing the taxing score lustily and, as we recalled it, being “uncannily right for the part--compact, dusky, intense.”
Jelson Bay. Short, fat, bald, Bay is a walking punchline--and one of the TP Actors's Company's strongest new members, adept at both drama and comedy as evidenced by his parts this year in Kawala, Bombita and the Ondoy restaging.
Fitz Bitaña. First time for us to see this UP Theater Arts student in a lead role--as the lonely barrio boy discovering the wonders of the elemental world around him in Dulaang UP's Umaaraw, Umuulan, Kinakasal ang Tikbalang--and he gave it his charming all.
Meann Espinosa. She's been in many a PETA play, but in William, hers was the central riot of a performance as the teacher who drags her students kicking and screaming into the world of Shakespeare, edifying them eventually through life lessons from the Bard.
Rachel Ann Go. As Ariel in Atlantis Productions' Disney's The Little Mermaid, Go let loose one of the most beautiful voices to have graced the local musical stage this year. And, for a tyro thespian crossing over from the pop world, her acting was more than adequate, too.
Frederick Hipol. With his robust baritone, hunky frame and natural presence, he made for a striking Elias in Dulaang UP's Noli Me Tangere: The Opera--also his first foray into theater, by the way.
Yanah Laurel. An elegant, gorgeous apparition in Dulaang UP's Rizal X, with a vibrant voice to boot and a marked onstage ease that should, if she works for it, lead to more good parts for her.
Kris Lawrence. The TV host/R&B singer proved he had it in him with a surprisingly nimble musical-theater debut as the nebbish leading man Oscar Lindquist in 9 Works Theatrical's Sweet Charity.
Anna Luna. Only 17, she showed amazing poise and dead-on comic instincts in William, as the vacuous jologs girl who discovers she's capable of much more than what campus stereotypes have pigeonholed her into.
Kuya Manzano. In his first lead role on a local stage, this Spanish-Filipino actor's Iberian features rendered an Ibarra more Caucasian-looking than usual in Noli Me Tangere: The Opera, but his ringing tenor, well-honed from years of performing all over Europe, commanded attention.
John Emmanoel Moran. As the requisite gay character in the student menagerie of William, he essayed adolescence with a sure touch, combining zany, bulldog-like brashness with an awkward, touching vulnerability.
Ivan Niccolo Nery. With his physical heft, he was another unusual choice for an alternate Ibarra in the Noli opera. When he sang, however, his dramatic tenor fleshed out Felipe Tolentino's music with power and authority.
K-La Rivera. A luminous, star-making debut in Atlantis' In the Heights. She is, without question, big-leagues material--comely, self-assured, vocally gifted. May she be a staple in many more musicals.
Ross Pesigan. Much of the resonance of the loss-of-innocence story at the heart of Floy Quintos' Fake was courtesy of the ideal casting of Pesigan, who embodied our best memories of childhood curiosity and early heartbreak.
Tina Ramos. You haven't heard of her yet--but this girl rocked the house as the carnivorous plant Audrey II in Ateneo Blue Repertory's production of Little Shop of Horrors, recalling a young Bituin Escalante with her sass and soulful voice.
Tippy Dos Santos. As Wendy in Repertory Philippines' Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure, this angelic-looking TV star knocked out her musical moments with clarion singing, and gave her character a winningly sharp, no-nonsense edge.
Markki Stroem. According to Lea Salonga herself, writing about Atlantis Productions' Next to Normal: “Newcomer Markki Stroem had a lovely singing voice and great stage presence as Henry.” Amen.
Brian Sy. In Sintang Dalisay, the required “unity of expressive dance and articulate verse-acting was achieved most impressively” by this young Tanghalang Ateneo actor, we wrote in August this year.
Dudz Teraña. A long-time PETA actor, he had few lines and not one solo song in Care Divas, but by God, everything about her ditzy caregiver-drag queen Thalia, from deadpan line reading to lascivious poses, generated the loudest peals of laughter in the house.
Marco Viaña. Uniformly fine turns in a trio of plays this year--Kawala, Bombita, and especially Kafatiran, where he was both hilarious and poignant as a young man in Katipunan-era Philippines awakening to the heaving world inside and outside of him.
Did I forget anyone? Feel free to remind me. Your turn--who were the fresh faces in theater that made you sit up last year?

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