By Mary Ann Bardinas
From astounding the theater-goers on its first two runs at the PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association) Theater Center Studios in 2016 and leaving the public in great awe through its Dan Villegas-helmed film adaptation for the 2017 Cinema One Originals Film Festival, Changing Partners is about to get re-staged this month at the PETA-Phinma Theater.
Since the musical play is on its umpteenth run, why should the avid-goers and the first-timers not miss the opportunity to catch it on-stage once again?
It’s bolder and bigger
When asked regarding this delightful rerun’s difference to its predecessors, playwright-musical director Vincent de Jesus and director Rem Zamora told One Music PH during the musical play’s press junket last May 2 that there would be minimal changes from its original and silver screen renditions when it comes to the music and their approach to the unique narrative.
They divulged that they tried “updating” the script, but unanimously refused to do so.
“Binasa naming lahat and then may consensus kami na ‘Vince, no. Let’s stick to the old. Not this one’, which is good because we’re going back to the original. Not because we don’t like the film. Kasi we have been true; the film was a different thing,” Vince said.
Still, the re-run would be more daring according to them, for their and the actors’ knowledge about the characters Alex and Cris are richer after discovering a lot from pulling on their own experiences and of other people.
Aside from that, the song composed by the renowned librettist for the flick will also be included in its upcoming nine shows.
From being staged in the 115-seater studio located at the third floor of the PETA Theater Center, it will be moved to the more spacious 400-seater PETA-Phinma Theater, with the larger set created by production designer Ben Padero, who also did PETA’s recent production “Night, Mother”.
The undisputable ensemble
Since Day One, there are only four top-caliber actors on Vince’s mind – veterans Agot Isidro and Jojit Lorenzo and seasoned young artists Anna Luna and Sandino Martin. And they have been reprising their roles both in the re-stagings and the movie.
Agot has been in the show business for half of her age and debuted on theater via the musical play HONK!, which was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling in 2003. Meanwhile, Jojit has been involved in stage productions since 1989 before transitioning to the screen as a character actor.
Sandino and Anna have the same career path as Jojit, with the former taking up Theater Arts in University of the Philippines where he used to be active in plays alongside contemporaries JC Santos and JM de Guzman while the latter doing professional theater since she was 15 years old.
They’re team-ups might be unlikely for many, but they are just the right mix to immortalize the piece that was first presented in a full-house, one-night only Stage Reading at the Virgin Labfest in July 2016 attended by actors Ricky Ibe, Patricia Ismael, Giannina Ocampo, and Sandino, and was orchestrated by Direk Rem.
In fact, they bagged the Special Citation for Ensemble Acting and the Best Actress and Best Actor accolades from the Cinema One Originals Film Festival in 2017.
It’s a one-of-a-kind masterpiece
Ever heard or saw a story that has only four cast members portraying eight distinct characters? Well, you’re not alone because the cast themselves were perplexed by the first time they read the script.
“Noong binasa ko yung script, sabi ko, ‘Uy, lesbian pala ako rito. Ay, hindi. Ah, interesting’. Kasi ‘yon nga, isang istorya played by different characters and genders,” Agot recalled.
Anna felt the same way too, recalling “Noong nalaman ko ‘yong story at nabasa ko, sabi ko ‘Paano mangyayari ‘to?’, kasi apat na actors tapos walong characters. Bale tigdadalawa kami. ‘Paano mangyayari?’ Doon pumasok yung brilliance ni Direk Rem dahil nagawan niya ng justice e. ‘Anong mangyayari? Paano kami magtatagpo-tagpo?’”.
But unlike them, Jojit wasn’t surprised with the flow of the narrative since he attended the stage reading held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), and immediately expressed his intention to join its production.
Moreover, Anna told One Music PH that this used to be just a passion project that magnificently thrived into a world-class theater piece.
“Masaya ako dahil nabigay sa akin ang role na ‘to. Noong una, passion project lang talaga siya. Pito lang kami, apat na actors, si Vince de Jesus, Director Rem Zamora, at isang stage manager. Kami rin ang nagpinta, bumuo ng set, nagdala ng kung ano-ano. Sobrang amin ‘to,” she enthusiastically shared.
And all their efforts, time, and sacrifices paid off as its script notched the Best Full-Length Play award in the Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature and swiped eight of the recognitions bestowed by Cinema One Originals and bagged five trophies from the PMPC Star Awards 2018.
A rare gem indeed!
The riveting, exciting scenes
Of course, every actor has their own share of favorite scenes or lines in every project they do.
For Jojit, he mentioned the most heartbreaking line from Alex’s song “Yung Pakiramdam”, “Yung pakiramdam na ang kanyang ngiti di mo alam kung ikaw ang dahilan…”
Agot wanted to sample a song of Sandino’s Cris, but since it’s a male key, she wasn’t able to do it.
Anna, on her part, assured that the spectators would like the scene when she blurted out “Di nga ako magaling mag-alaga, lahat namamatay!”
“Hindi dahil sa nilalako namin to, kasi ang genius ng pagkakasulat ni Sir Vince e, at si Vincent de Jesus ang isa sa nirerespetong musical director dito sa ating bansa at samahan pa natin ng direktor na mataba rin ang utak,” she stated.
However, One Music PH failed to get Sandino’s choice for he had to leave the press junket earlier due to prior commitment.
Besides, those who are going to watch it are advised by the cast to bring rolls of tissue for there will be lots of heartbreaking and tear-jerking scenes that will be complemented by the poignant piano and cello accompaniments of Vince and Poch Gutierrez, respectively.
It’s a love story
Many Filipinos are suckers for romantic-comedies, attested by how movies and teleseryes fare. If you’re one of those we are referring to, then this stage play may not be for you. But since this a torch musical, you can still perhaps find yourself in Alex and/or Cris.
Described as anti-romcom, this follows the story of May-December lovers Alex (Agot and Jojit) and Cris (Sandino and Anna), who were taken apart by their 15-year age gap, differences, and infidelity that put an end to their six-year romance. It explores the pleasures and pains of romantic relationships and imposes the universal message of how all affairs are alike, regardless of the genders of the people involved.
Don’t miss the return of Changing Partners: The Stage Musical which will run for two weekends, beginning May 11 up to the 20th, at the PETA Theater Center, Quezon City.