OJ Mariano, Kalila Aguilos, and Ballet Philippines' dancers
By Jude Cartalaba
Manila, Philippines, November 27, 2012 - Two of the country's most talented and active thespians, OJ Mariano ("Rent," "Forbidden Broadway") and Kalila Aguilos ("Jekyll and Hyde," Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah") are chosen to play Rama and Sita respectively in the revival production of the hit pop ballet musical "Rama Hari," based on the Indian epic "Ramayana," and directed and choreographed by Ballet Philippines' founder Alice Reyes, which runs at the Cultural Center of the Philippines' (CCP) main theater from Friday, November 30 until Sunday, December 9.
In a recent exclusive interview with BroadwayWorld.com, Mariano and Aguilos talked about their characters and "Rama Hari," whose original production opened 32 years ago, also at the CCP.
Aguilos, who was all set for her self-imposed hiatus after her critically-acclaimed performance as Lucy Harris in a local production of Frank Wildhorn's "Jekyll and Hyde," could not say no to Paul Alexander Morales, Ballet Philippines' artistic director, who approached her to take on the role of Sita, originally played by now Original Pilipino Music (OPM) icon Kuh Ledesma.
"I grew up watching the show when my mom [Gigi Escalante] was part of its first production; she was [antagonist] Ravana's sister Soorphanaka," Aguilos revealed.
For Aguilos, portraying Sita, Rama's wife, the adopted daughter of King Janak, is quite a challenge. In the ballet musical, the citizens of Janak's kingdom regarded Sita as a blessed child.
"Sita's character is quite far out from the many roles I've played. She's known for her dedication, self-sacrifice, courage, and purity. She's esteemed as a standard-setter for wifely and womanly virtues for all Hindu women; a goody two-shoes. I was more identified with roles like a strong-willed woman, dominant," she said.
"I had to tone down my kind of acting, but should remain powerful as a goddess."
Mariano auditioned for the role of Rama, originally played by another OPM luminary Basil Valdez, and said, "This one is a prestigious role for me."
"Rama is my very first lead role as well."
"The pressure is too much. I never saw any production that is similar to "Rama Hari" in order for me to base on, but I think my take on Rama is fresh and totally different," Mariano told BroadwayWorld.com.
Aguilos, when not acting on stage is a familiar face on television because she is part of ABS CBN's soap opera "Please Be Careful With My Heart." Mariano was one of ABS CBN's past singing talent winners; he has also ventured into performing arts via various musical Theater Productions shown in the Philippines and in Singapore - he was last seen playing the role of Gary Coleman in the musical comedy "Avenue Q" at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.
With Mariano's kingly presence and singing prowess matched with Aguilos' strong sultry looks and impeccable singing - their take on Rama and Sita is one that musical theater and ballet aficionados should watch for.
For tickets, call Ballet Philippines at (632) 5511003 or Ticketworld at (632) 8919999; or visit ballet.ph.
Photos by Jory Rivera