Feel the Fever once more

Bot Glorioso (The Philippine Star) - March 24, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Before High School Musical and Glee came into the picture, there was the hit movie musical Saturday Night Fever that made a superstar out of John Travolta. Who would dare own up to standing in front of the mirror many times with left hand on the hip while the right index finger pointing to the sky, imagining to equal Travolta’s signature stance in the ’70s hit movie?

Well, here’s something that would make even the young generation want to go on the dancefloor and groove to the ‘70s beat with the staging of Saturday Night Fever under the production of Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group in cooperation with Robert Stigwood Organization. The onstage musical presentation will have an Asian tour — its first in eight years and comes on the heels of the show’s current UK tour — that is set to kick off in the Philippines.

Portraying Tony Manero on stage is Brandon Rubendall while Jenna Rubaii plays his love interest Stephanie Mangano. Brandon and Jenna were chosen from the hundreds who auditioned in New York. The two flew in from the US two weeks ago to formally announce the staging of the musical show at The Theatre of Solaire Resort and Casino from July 3 to 26.

Brandon said he did a lot of research to prepare him for the role. According to him, he wasn’t around the ‘70s yet that’s why “I’m doing a lot of reading from newspaper clippings that were from that time, articles about the time, and also watching movies does help to be able to see documentation of it.”

But he shares a lot of similarities with his character’s way of life. “I come from that same kind of family where we have to work hard because I’m so career driven but when I do party, I party hard. It helps that you lay low once in a while so it’s cool. I love disco music.”

It’s but natural, too, Brandon said, for him to feel pressure about playing the role that is too identified with Travolta.

“I do feel pressure for this particular role because it is an iconic John Travolta role. Of course, the people are going to expect much and I have to deliver.”

And just like a soldier ready for any battle, Brandon promised to “put my own thing on it. I’m a little nervous but that would be fine. Playing Tony, I think is gonna be great.”

For those not in the know, Brandon has appeared on Broadway via Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark and the revival of the Tony Award-winning musical Anything Goes. He was also part of Wicked, Hairspray and The Last 5 Years. He currently plays in the band Apollo Link and is occasionally part of the dance group performing with Madonna, Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez.

Brandon said he started performing in theater in high school and devoted most of his time to acting after he graduated in school.

“I dabbled in other things but my path was very clear that this is should I be doing. Last year was the first time that I was like thinking if I should be doing something else. But I can’t imagine doing something else; this is what I do — sing, dance and act. This is my passion so hopefully it will continue for the rest of my life.”

Asked if he expects to shoot to stardom after playing Tony, Brandon replied with a big laugh, “No, I’ve no expectations. I’m just gonna go play it the best I could and make sure that everybody will have a great time.”

What part of Saturday Night Fever is his favorite?

With co-star Jenna Rubaii

“I think it’s gonna be the dancing. What I like about the show is because people think that it is a party musical — just dancing and singing. Yes, that’s part of it but the show is really heavy; very dark. It touches on racism, family and stuff like that. The role requires me to sing and dance, to be happy and have fun but I also have to give a drama piece and be serious.”

Although the story was written decades ago, Brandon is certain that the issues being presented in the story are still relevant to this day.

“Racism is still out there and it’s sad that it is still an issue. Well, I haven’t personally experienced it yet but I have a lot of friends that still do. It’s really sad and I hate it,” said Brandon and he added in jest, “I hope I do shoot to superstardom (so) that I can be a voice for that.”

Brandon and Jenna flew back to the US last Saturday but the former said that they will return in May for the start of the rehearsals. He can’t wait to work with director Bobby Garcia whom he described as “a really awesome guy.”

He also looks forward to exploring more of the Philippines next time.

“I love it here. We have not much time to explore but the little time that I was able to go out, I’m obssessed with it; so nice. I’m really excited to come back and live here so I wish that we start rehearsal right now to just continue living here.”

“The people are just so welcoming. You know, I’ve been to a lot of places but I’ve never experienced any thing like that,” Brandon added.

(Saturday Night Fever Musical is also scheduled to run in Kuala Lumpur on Sept. 1 to 15; Singapore, Sept. 25 to Oct. 11; and Macau, playdates are to be announced. For tickets, call [632] 892-7078.)


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