For Men

A standing ovation for Bambi Verzo

TOFF of the world - Christopher De Venecia - The Philippine Star

Those of us who’ve seen Wicked onstage know the feeling when Elphaba mounts her broomstick, soars to the heavens, and belts out Defying Gravity. It’s the kind of life-changing theatrical moment that leaves a mark on you, even after you’ve left the theater. “Tell them how I am defying gravity,” the green witch sings, commanding audiences with her towering presence, bravado and climactic empowerment. But these words just as well apply to producing powerhouse and marketing visionary Bambi Rivera Verzo, who left us all too soon this past weekend to join our Creator.

Those who’ve flocked to CCP, RCBC and Solaire theaters to watch Broadway-cast productions of Cats, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Singin’ in the Rain and Wicked (which returns to Manila in February next year) have marveled at the amazing talent onstage and the kind of production values and theatrical moments that audiences previously could only dream of seeing on Broadway and the West End. But Bambi’s tenacity, incredible vision, attention to detail and magnanimity as executive producer for Concertus Manila has made possible the arrival of all these groundbreaking shows on our local shores.

We saw the iconic chandelier fall in Phantom of the Opera, the time dragon hoisted above the stage in Wicked — even saw a downpour pelt the stage in Singin’ in the Rain. Bambi’s contributions to the local theater scene have changed the landscape of Philippine theater forever.

A wise woman once said, “Life is like a play. There is a beginning and there is an end. We go back to God, the greatest producer of all, so make the most out of life while you’re alive and keep thanking God for everything in your life.” Bambi was as fun as she was fearless. She was a woman of stature who remained humble and devoid of any pretense, as her best friend Cynthia Almario always says. And in the pursuit of her passion, she changed a lot of lives. Rather than mourn, we celebrate how she defied gravity and give her our biggest standing ovation yet. To paraphrase another song from Wicked, “Because we knew you, we have been changed for good.”

Francis Lumen, Lea Salonga, Lunchbox Theatrical Productions chief executive James Cundall and Bambi Rivera Verzo during the gala night for Cats: The Musical.

Cynthia Almario, interior designer and Bambi’s best friend:

“I will miss seeing Bambi at Gala Night. I will miss watching tennis matches and stalking Rafa (Nadal) with her. I will miss her fearlessness, wackiness and all our misadventures. But most of all, I will miss her love and friendship that I hold so dear to my heart. Bambi and I are cut from the same cloth, one where pure optimism reigns. Whatever trials, stresses, surprises would come her way, she was ready for the challenge and still managed to sing and dance in the rain.”

Francis Lumen, former business partner and concert promoter:

“Bambi has been my best friend and partner who, even in times of crisis, managed to laugh, find solutions and not blame anyone. The people who have had a chance to work with Bambi have been blessed to be among the recipients of her kindness and her cheerful spirit as she worked with everyone! Very low-key and very humble, she will be so missed by the entertainment industry.”

Tim Yap, media personality:

“Two things I love — the theater and traveling — and these are what Bambi and I shared during our travels to Australia, the UK, South Africa, New Zealand, Singapore and more to catch the gala performances of many musicals that she was preparing to premiere in Manila. We would just talk about shows and what would work back home for the Philippine audience and I loved how she would listen and how we would plan new ways of promoting the arts. She was very receptive and open to new ways of doing things. She was a visionary, a leader, a dear friend. She will be missed.”

Michael Cassel, executive producer of Michael Cassel Group (international producer of Les Miserables):

“We had the joy of working with Bambi on Les Miserables. From the moment we first met, Bambi’s energy was infectious as was her enthusiasm and love for her work, her life, her friends and her colleagues. She was a force to be reckoned with and we will all miss her enormously.”

James Cundall, chief executive of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions:

“Without a doubt, it has been one of life’s real privileges and joys to have known and worked with Bambi. As a producer, Bambi was integral in changing the face of Philippine entertainment forever with her work on the major West End and Broadway shows. She was a master of marketing and planning with an attention to detail that was world class. Her energy, utter enthusiasm, infectious laughter, glamour and, above all, loyalty and deep friendship will be missed by all of us who were lucky enough to walk, all too briefly, with her. Her talents were unique and Bambi was the best of the best.”

Bob Sewell, president of Ticketworld:

“Bambi was the brightest light in any room. Her enthusiasm for life and for work was infectious. It was like she was defying gravity each day of her life, so it is not hard to imagine that I will always think of her when I hear that all-so-recognizable hit song from Wicked.”

Tana Verzo, Bambi’s daughter:

“Besides her laugh, her warm hugs, and the way she kisses my nose, I’m going to miss the way she was on top of everything no matter how far away she was. I’ll also miss her passion for what she does and how she put her family before anything else. The song For Good from Wicked best represents the way my mom touched the hearts of everyone she met, and they are changed for good.”

Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante, theater actress and Bambi’s niece:

“Aunt Bambi was always finding ways to bring the cousins together. We would often go out to dinner and Cibo and afterwards, she would drive us around with the windows down blasting J.Lo on the radio. A song that best describes her would be For Good (from Wicked). She had a very infectious personality and when you are as close to her as my cousins and I were, you couldn’t help but be influenced by her nurturing nature.”

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