Tony Award-winning scenic designer David Gallo as photographed by Oliver Oliveros
Every person that I've dealt with in the Philippines has been wonderful. The desire to get it right there is very strong. – David Gallo
New York, December 4, 2012 - Prolific Manila-based theater company Atlantis Productions' (Disney's "Aladdin," "In the Heights") much-lauded production of Maury Yeston's Tony Award-winning Broadway musical "Nine" had cast some of local tinseltown's brightest, biggest stars - from show biz royalty Cherie Gil to TV soap opera star Eula Valdez to you-name-it. However, prior to these stars' descent on stage, unarguably, another colossal "star" was already preset on that stage at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater, and had caught Manila theatergoers by surprise; that "star" of the show belonged to Tony Award-winning scenic designer David Gallo's ("Drowsy Chaperone," "Memphis") larger-than-life, multi-step, and geometric Asian spa-inspired set design for "Nine."
Gallo, whose imposing set for "Nine" has been nominated for Best Set Design at the 2012 BroadwayWorld Philippines Awards, and whose works on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and in many international Theater Productions are known for their physical largeness, has been wanting to do "Nine."
"The show's completely different from your normal song-and-dance musical: It has dream-like quality; it has a great score; it's a very cerebral musical; and it also puts these incredibly beautiful women on display. Who wouldn't want to do that?" Gallo told BroadwayWorld.com in an exclusive interview at his design studio in Midtown Manhattan.
Probably unknown to many, Gallo's stint with "Nine" was his second in the Philippines; the first was with Broadway Asia's international touring production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella," which premiered at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2008, starring Tony winner Lea Salonga, and directed by Bobby Garcia, "Nine's" director as well.
"I worked on 'Cinderella' for several weeks. There was a tremendous amount of prop work that had to be done; there was a lot of craft that had to be accomplished. So I brought over Pete Sarafin, who's one of my main prop people, as my assistant. We spent a huge amount of time exploring all of the markets, small stores, and downtown alleyways. It was just an incredible experience of completely sinking into the daily life in Manila," he said.
"Whereas for 'Nine,' I only spent 10 days [Gallo oversaw the previews, opening night prior to traveling to Hong Kong for another project]. I had associates at Atlantis Productions: Lex Marcos, a great designer in his own right, and Lawyn Cruz. Those two took care of everything for me. The set was already standing on stage when I got there."
Was His Set for "Nine" Expensive?
"It was a pretty elaborate set for what they usually do in that theater. And yes, that set was expensive," revealEd Gallo.
"However, working with Bobby [Garcia] is very different because he's a director/producer and a family friend. His understanding of the budget and the necessity of sticking to what works within the context of Atlantis is very important to him. I think the budget for 'Nine' was handled very well. No one ever came to me and said that 'you have to make this kind of cut' or 'we can't afford this and that.' They pretty much accepted the design as it came off my table," he added.
What Attracts Him to Working in the Philippines?