The ‘ghost’ in Cris Villonco
DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda (The Philippine Star) - April 12, 2014 - 12:00am

One of the country’s finest musical theater performers, Cris Villonco, returns to the stage as Molly in Atlantis Productions and Ten Bridges Media Corp’s highly-anticipated staging of Ghost The Musical which runs from April 25 to May 11 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City.

Cris, the granddaughter of musical legend Armida Siguion-Reyna, has appeared in numerous plays and musicals including Closer, A Little Night Music, The Sound of Music, Jekyll & Hyde, Les Miserables, Orosman at Zafira, Noli Me Tangere and Alikabok. The role of Molly, played by Demi Moore in the classic film, will be one of her biggest challenges to date.

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film of 1990, Ghost won numerous awards worldwide and is one of the highest-grossing films of all time. It starred Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Tony Goldwyn and Whoopi Goldberg and was directed by Jerry Zucker.

Ghost The Musical features an original pop score from multiple Grammy Award-winners Dave Stewart (one half of the ’80s pop duo the Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard (co-writer with Alanis Morissette on the multi-platinum album Jagged Little Pill, among many other notable credits).

Also headlining the Philippine cast are Christian Bautista (West Side Story, Cinderella) as Sam and former Miss Saigon star Ima Castro (Aida, In The Heights, Piaf) as Oda Mae.

Directed by Bobby Garcia, Ghost The Musical is presented through a special licensing agreement with Theatrical Rights Worldwide. Bobby says of Cris, “She brings tender fragility to the role of Molly. In Cris’ hands, watching Molly regain her strength and rebuild her life after the loss of her love is truly a heartbreaking experience.”

With Ghost The Musical opening soon, rehearsals have become very intense, but we were able to catch up with Cris after a long rehearsal day to ask her some questions.

When did you start performing in musical theater?

“I was nine years old. My mother and I just came from New York where I watched my first three musicals: Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables. I fell in love with all three. The last day of auditions for Repertory Philippines’ Les Miserables was on the same day we arrived back in Manila. I ran to the auditions, passed and I have been performing ever since.”

Do you feel a responsibility to carry on the musical legacy that your grandmother, Armida Siguion-Reyna, started?

“Absolutely. I learned so much from being a part of Aawitan Kita. I was exposed to valuable singers and composers at a young age, I had one-on-one sessions with my lola to improve my Tagalog (which is not accented and twang-free) and she was a stickler for diction and enunciation. With the help of my titos and titas, we hope that Aawitan Kita will continue and evolve for years to come.”

What have been your most memorable roles to date?

“Little Cossette in Repertory Philippines’ Les Miserables, Bising Vallejo in Musicat’s Alikabok, Zafira in Dulaang UP’s Orosman at Zafira, Maria Clara in Tanghalang Pilipino’s Noli Me Tangere, Viola in PETA’s D’Wondertwins of Boac, Alice in Red Turnip’s Closer and Molly Jensen in Atlantis’ Ghost.”

What is it about performing on stage that you love?

“I love the process, the development of your character, and the intense group work that happens inside a rehearsal studio. It is my first time to work with Ima and Christian. It’s exciting what each of us have to give to and take from each other during the scenes. The spontaneity of emotions and reactions that happen lives, in every show is something I look forward to every time.”

How did you feel when you were cast as Molly in Ghost?

“I cried for about three days. When I went to the cattle call auditions, I wasn’t expecting to be considered for Molly. My personal life was a roller coaster at that time so when our director, Bobby Garcia told me I got the role, all I remembered telling him was ‘Thank you, Thank you. I needed this. I needed this.’”

What has it been like working with Christian Bautista? What can audiences expect from him as Sam?

“It’s funny that although we’ve been in the theater circuit for years, this is my first time to work with Christian on stage. We’re both a ball of nerves, but we have contained it somehow and work really well together. Christian’s Sam is reserved and yet so passionate and full of heart. I hope audiences will see that.”

What are your dream roles?
“Candida in Tinio and Cayabyab’s Larawan, Evita, and anything Sondheim.”

(For tickets to Ghost The Musical, call Atlantis Productions at 892-7078, Ticketworld at 891-9999 or visit Ghost The Musical is recommended for ages 13 and above. Please be advised that there is mild violence, mature themes and dialogue.)

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