To the West side

WEST SIDE Story, STAGES’ major musical offering in 2008, is all set to go on stage with a strong cast headlined by Christian Bautista, Karylle, and London West End star Joanna Ampil; a live orchestra with Gerard Salonga as musical director; and a first-rate artistic team with Audie Gemora as executive producer, and Menchu LauchengcoYulo as director.

By Aprylle Liabres (Contributor)

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Published: Wed 9 Jul 2008, 11:49 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:09 PM

After rigid auditions that took two months, whose mix of aspirants emerged not only from the Philippines but also from other countries like Singapore, Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, STAGES has finally completed its cast of singers and dancers.

Balladeer Christian Bautista is playing the role of Tony. He is tall, handsome, and has the makings of a perfect romantic leading man. Singer and actress Karylle could match Natalie Wood’s film version of Maria. She is young and beautiful. She sings her songs with utmost conviction.

Meanwhile, the Philippines will get the rare chance to watch Joanna Ampil in her first musical theatre assignment in Manila after sixteen years playing lead roles in London. Joanna has agreed to share the role of Maria with Karylle because she has long wanted to perform for her kababayans who cannot easily afford to go to London to watch her in a musical.

Local audiences have to see why Joanna is a favourite of British producer Cameron Mackintosh of Miss Saigon fame. Joanna, at one time, was even handpicked by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber to play Mary Magdalene in the London production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Ex-Philippine Idol finalist Gian Magdangal returns to the theater after a three-year hiatus to play the pivotal role of Riff. He is seen in the reality show Philippine Idol on ABC 5, and “SOP Rules” on GMA 7.

Another world-class import, Filipino Australian Rowena Vilar, who played Kim, Gigi, and Ellen in the recent Australian tour of Miss Saigon, joins the cast of West Side Story. Highly recommended by Leo Valdez, who played The Engineer in Miss Saigon, Rowena will be flying in to share the role of the feisty Anita with local theatre and pop artist Pam G.

Since West Side Story is primarily a dance musical, the artistic team had to call professional dance groups, and handpick very strong dancers for the supporting cast. Jazz choreographer James Laforteza has been tasked to reconstruct Jerome Robbins’ original choreography in the Broadway production.

It is interesting to note that musical director Gerard Salonga has been longing to do West Side Story. Lea Salonga’s husband Rob Chien, who now manages the FILharmoniKA orchestra under Ambient Media, went the extra mile to make it possible for them to play for the production.

Manila’s theatre-going public has been looking forward to the re-staging of this classic Broadway musical, including a growing number of fundraising groups, and block buyers.“We initially opened up sixteen shows to fundraising groups, and block buyers. We ended up opening four more shows to accommodate the demand coming from these groups, which is interestingly a pretty good mix of both Filipino and foreign investors, including a Swiss block buyer,” said Gemora.

West Side Story was first staged in Manila back in 1982 with Audie as Riff and Menchu as Maria.

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