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Arts and Culture

Karylle, Gian Magdangal star in Repertory Philippines' grander 'Carousel' live stage return

Kristofer Purnell - Philstar.com
Karylle, Gian Magdangal star in Repertory Philippines' grander 'Carousel' live stage return
Karylle Tatlonghari-Yuson and Gian Magdangal, with Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante and Lorenz Martinez in the background, play the leads of Repertory Philippines' "Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel"
Philstar.com / Kristofer Purnell

MANILA, Philippines — Repertory Philippines will be staging a contemporary version of "Rodgers and Hammerstein's (R&H) Carousel" with Karylle Tatlonghari and Gian Magdangal as among the lead characters in a minimized cast.

"R&H's Carousel" was initially going to be staged in May 2020 under the direction of Toff de Venecia, however, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented two years of live performances, making this return grander than ever imagined.

"[We are] stepping into a bold new stage with this reimagination that is post-modern and contemporary," said Repertory Philippines' Artistic Director Liesl Batucan-Del Rosario at the recent media launch for the musical.

Liesl was referring to "R&H's Carousel" being staged in the brand new Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez, a black box theater, made possible by a venue grant by the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

This will be the first time that Karylle, Gian, and Toff will be working with Repertory Philippines, which recently had the license with the R&H estate extended following the pandemic, thus allowing them to continue staging "R&H's Carousel."

The need for commentary

Toff's first encounter with "R&H's Carousel" was through segments of the "Hey, Mr. Producer!" concert honoring theater producer Cameron Mackintosh, but while he admired the choreography and singing, there was one thing that kept nagging at him.

"There's that really faulty porch scene text that I didn't realize was faulty until revisiting it again decades later," Toff admitted, referring to how in a post-#MeToo era, the world is more informed about misogyny and violence.

This is what filled Toff with the necessity to address these "landmines" in the text, which could be drowned out by the music, orchestration, and choreography.

"[In] previous stagings of this show, there is always this harkening to romanticism and grandiosity, which glosses over all these ["landmines"] we can no longer ignore at this point," Toff said.

As a director, Toff admitted to finding the social justice components of texts, which led to the initially planned 2020 production, and now the radically different 2022 staging.

"I'm most excited about being able to comment on this classical R&H 20th century musical and sort of come from a 21st century post-modern perspective," Toff continued, adding the production may inspire how future shows can be created post-pandemic.

Objective changes

Toff is aware that "R&H's Carousel" is normally done on a standard stage with grand set pieces, costumes, and choreography, but being in a black box theater meant that the musical's iconic bells and whistles will be absent.

"Basically, we're returning to the text and the space, infusing it with intention," the director explained, touching on how they will push against familiar tropes of "tyranny of the text and the Broadway form."

Apart from a post-modern take, Repertory Philippines' new staging of "R&H's Carousel" will be utilizing a two-piano orchestration rather than a full orchestra or a minus-one recording, which will be a first in the world by a major production.

"When you think of 'Carousel,' [it's] very grandiose, usually done by 24 to 30 orchestra members," said the show's musical director EJ Yatco. "But apparently, may license ang [R&H] estate for two-piano but in concerto style, so imagine all those instruments inserted into two pianos."

Yatco will be performing one of the pianos and will be assisted by veteran pianist Jed Balsamo; the two had also collaborated together for the "Himala" musical.

Cast breakdown

The 2020 production had an initial cast of 30 cast members — Toff admitted to have never previously worked with over five cast members — that was whittled down to 14 members for this new staging, which was both prompted by safety protocols and creative direction.

Karylle and Gian play Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow, respectively, and joining them as leads are Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante as Carrie Pipperidge and Lorenz Martinez as Enoch Snow.

Gian and Mikkie were already part of the inital 2020 cast which was already three weeks into rehearsals, while Nikki Gil was supposed to play Julie Jordan and Mikkie's real-life husband Nyoy Volante was assigned as Enoch Snow, however, the pandemic and Nikki's second pregnancy saw them step away.

In supporting roles are Roxy Aldiosa, Noel Rayos, Red Nuestro, Ballet Philippines' Gia Gequinto, and Mia Bolaños, the latter playing Nettie who sings the musical's famous song "You'll Never Walk Alone."

Making up the ensemble and dancers are Cara Barredo, Steven Hotchkiss, Paula Paguio, Roby Malubay, and Julio Laforteza with two swings to step in should an emergency arise.

Repertory Philippines' "Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel" will be staged from November 26 to December 18 in Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez Black Box Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

RELATED: LIST: Operas premiering in the Philippines until 2023

CAROUSEL

GIAN MAGDANGAL

KARYLLE

KARYLLE TATLONGHARI

REPERTORY PHILIPPINES

RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN

TOFF DE VENECIA

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