Mark on being Marcos
Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - August 1, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - ‘I never thought I’d ever get the chance to do lead theater roles. When I finally got into theater, I realized there really is a reason that I had my start in a community theater in Cagayan de Oro. I never imagined it was preparation for something bigger. Grabe si Lord! Looking back, wow, what a journey it’s been for me. Who would have thought a probinsyano like me could make it to West End.’

 

It must feel like a whirlwind for Mark Bautista: He auditioned in early July among a highly-competitive field of veteran stage actors and pop singers; he learned he won the coveted role mid-July; and he’s already leaving for London this August.

During yesterday’s presscon at the headquarters of Viva Entertainment (his management), Mark cut a picture of unbridled excitement, like a happy kid on a spinning merry-go-round, at being selected to play one of the lead roles in the West End production of Here Lies Love. Described as an “immersive theatrical event” that “traces the astonishing journey of Imelda Marcos, (former) First Lady of the Philippines, from her meteoric rise to power to descent into infamy and disgrace,” Here Lies Love stars Mark as the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos alongside British-Cantonese actor Dean John-Wilson as Ninoy Aquino and Australian-Filipino actress Natalie Mendoza as Imelda Marcos.

Here Lies Love started out as a conceptual album by David Byrne, the main songwriter of the New Wave band Talking Heads, in partnership with English DJ-music producer Fatboy Slim on its disco-themed music, before it was adapted for stage — first Off-Broadway and now on West End’s Dorfman Theatre (National Theatre) beginning in late September.

Calling it the biggest surprise in his life, Mark (who was in Hong Kong with his brother when he received the good news) embraces the “new experience, new chapter” in his showbiz career. He will be missed from the local scene for six months and will fly out of the country on Aug. 16 to begin rehearsals in London, where close friend Rachelle Ann Go is making waves as Gigi in the revival production of Miss Saigon.

With the announcement that he’s set to play a controversial figure in Philippine history comes negative reactions as well. Mark said it is expected, adding that the musical “steers clear of the political side. (Yes) I’ve gotten reactions on social media, but this is arts… this is entertainment.”

As part of his preparation, he wants to meet the former First Lady herself.

“Sabi ko nga gusto kong ma-interview si Madam Imelda na parang magpakilala ako na I will be doing the role of the ex-president. I want to ask her what was he like as a person, as a husband and a lover? Gusto ko rin itanong, kung alam niya ba ang musical na ’to, or nakaka-flatter ba ang musical na ’to or not? I want to meet her before I leave.”

Prior to Here Lies Love, Mark has only acted in two professional plays, Tanghalang Pilipino’s Noli Me Tangere and Atlantis Productions’ The Full Monty. When asked what was his edge over the more seasoned auditionees that most likely impressed the casting team from the UK, Mark said, “I don’t want to say na ako yung pinakamagaling, or that I was the best. But I believe in fate and destiny, I believe everyone can be given this kind of chance. Sabi ko nga, I think we’re all destined for greatness, it really depends on how you respond or react to what life brings you.”

Mark admitted that he had his fears, related to his career here and his family, him being the breadwinner.

But he was inspired to give it a try after he skipped the Miss Saigon auditions because “natakot talaga ako. Afterwards, I really thought, ‘What if I tried out? What if I auditioned? Will I make it or not?’ So, ang sakit pala ’pag puro ka what-ifs. I had regrets. (So when the auditions for Here Lies Love came), I told myself, by hook or by crook, I would go for it.”

Mark added, “It’s a once-in- a-lifetime offer. I thought, (nobody knows when) will the next auditions be for Asian talents for West End? I had to take the risk. Whatever happens, the important thing is that I’m able to do West End. There’s a fear na baka makalimutan ako pero bahala na si Lord, nilagay Niya ako dito, so bahala na Siya.”

While Mark is more popularly known as a balladeer and pop singer whose foray into showbiz began when he placed second to Sarah Geronimo in Star For A Night, few actually know that long before all that, he had an auspicious beginning in theater. He was 17 years old when he joined a Visayan community theater called Pasundayag in his hometown in Cagayan de Oro. He started at the front of house, in charge of the ticket sales, until he was promoted to sing the National Anthem, then the invocation, until he was asked to fill in for actors who were absent.

“I never thought I’d ever get the chance to do lead theater roles. When I finally got into theater, I realized there really is a reason that I had my start in a theater in CDO. I never imagined it was preparation for something bigger. Grabe si Lord! Looking back, wow, what a journey it’s been for me. Who would have thought a probinsyano like me could make it to West End.”

BUT I DAVID BYRNE DEAN JOHN-WILSON HERE LIES LOVE IMELDA MARCOS MARK MISS SAIGON THEATER WEST END WHEN I
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