"I'm so proud and honored to have my musical produced in Manila. I wish Repertory Philippines success in staging this important production," shares Mark Saltzman ("The Tin Pan Alley Rag," "Romeo & Bernadette") in an email message sent recently to BroadwayWorld Philippines. The show is scheduled to play its final performance on February 28.
Saltzman is an Emmy award-winning script and songwriter, and creator of musical plays THE TIN PAN ALLEY RAG (an Off-Broadway musical that toys around with a fictional meeting between Scott Joplin and a young Irving Berlin set in 1915) and ROMEO & BERNADETTE (a "camp meets opera" take-off from good old Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet"), among others.
Repertory Philippines' 73rd Season Valentine offering is Saltzman's musical comedy ROMEO & BERNADETTE. Here is entertainment at its funniest, with Neapolitan melodies you recognize but whose names you can't quite remember, i.e. "O Sole Mio" ("Now Or Never" recorded by Elvis Presley) or "Matinatta" ("Morning Song") by composer Ruggerio Leoncavallo.
ROMEO & BERNADETTE stars PJ Valerio ("High School Musical On Stage," "Altar Boyz") and Cris Villonco ("Hamlet").
Valerio plays Romeo, whose romantic features and image are perfect for the role. He is at once passionate and courtly, but woefully innocent. Although PJ is having great fun with his role, he says he has to get used to the Shakespearean manner of speaking, which he does practically throughout the show.
Villonco, on the one hand, returns to the Philippine stage to take on the role of Bernadette, a vulgar, sexy, spoiled brat who, deep within, is a well of tenderness capable of true love. She recently completed her performing contract with "The Golden Mickey" in Hong Kong Disneyland, which she recalls with great fondness. This great urge to be self-supporting and to be in a working atmosphere that she loves made her apply for the job. Very few people are aware that Villonco studied music and economics in New York City prior to her stint at Disneyland -- a unique combination and a formidable foundation for this young actor.
So how does Villonco relate to Bernadette? She gives a smile, and says that the role is great fun, and camp. "It's not really my forte, and I do have to loosen up a lot..." While admitting to the fact that she's not really into comedy, and is more at home with "serious" roles, this is her big challenge: to come across as the feisty, sexy Bernadette.
Repertory Philippines' Associate Artistic Director Joy Virata directs her 10 actors in the musical, one of them playing eight roles!
Rem Zamora ("Sweeney Todd," "Jesus Christ Superstar") takes on this humongous challenge with great ease and energy - and a sense of humor only he can give. And he is also assistant director to Ms. Virata. In ROMEO & BERNADETTE, Zamora plays an accordionist, an opera-style singer, a nervous airport immigration agent, a gay flamboyant florist, an Irish priest, a dominating female dance instructor, a female dressmaker, and a father to Donna. And then, he has to contend with three accents: Russian, Irish and Brooklyn. He says the hardest to learn were the accents. Especially the Irish one where he has to be extra careful he doesn't sound Indian.
The musical also features actors Red Concepcion (Brooklyn Guy/Dino), Liesl Batucan (Brooklyn Girl/Donna), Dido de la Paz (Sal Penza/Usher), Juno Henares (Camille Penza), Kenneth Keng (Tito Titone), James Paoleli (Don Del Canto/Airport Supervisor), and Jamie Wilson (Lips).
Choreography by Deana Aquino; costume design by Santi Obcena; set design by Denis Lagdameo; lighting design by John Batalla; and stage management by Gidget Tolentino and Mia Marcy.