Story and photos by Alvin I. Dacanay
Ballet Philippines’ (BP) Firebird and Other Ballets, which included the reimagining of a Russian ballet based on a folk tale about the titular bird in a precolonial Philippine setting, emerged as the most honored production with seven awards at the 9th Philstage Gawad Buhay, which saw English-language theatrical productions and last year’s breakout television star JC Santos also triumph.
In a ceremony hosted by actor-comedian Jon Santos and held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ (CCP) Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (Little Theater) on May 10, Firebird won for outstanding modern dance production, ensemble performance for modern dance, and choreography for a dance production for its “Weighted Whispers” ballet.
The BP 47th-season opener also won for outstanding classical dance production; female lead performance in classical dance for Rita Winder; and male and female featured performance in classical dance for Cyril Fallar and Denise Parungao, respectively, for its “Firebird” ballet.
Winder also scored as oustanding female lead performance in modern dance for another BP production, Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko (Sing It and I’ll Dance), which uses the songs of popular 1970s group VST & Co. to chronicle the blossoming romance between a college student and a construction worker.
Two of her co-dancers in the Martial Law-set dance-musical, JM Cordero and dance great Edna Vida, nabbed awards for male lead performance and female featured performance in modern dance, respectively.
In the awards’ theater division, Red Turnip Theater (RTT) swept the play categories. Its production of Nick Payne’s Constellations, which the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Fran Katigbak described as a “boy-meets-girl (story) with alternate versions,” nabbed prizes for outstanding production of existing material for a play; male lead performance for JC Santos, who shot to fame as the third wheel in the James Reid-Nadine Lustre love team in the ABS-CBN primetime series Till I Met You and who was not present at the ceremony; and female lead performance for Cris Villonco.
Another Red Turnip production, Nina Raine’s Tribes, about a young deaf man who learns how to truly express himself, won five awards: outstanding ensemble performance in a play; male featured performance for Teroy Guzman, his second straight victory in this category; female featured performance for Angela Padilla; sound design for Teresa Barrozo; and stage direction for Topper Fabregas.
Full House Theater Co. (FHTC), the resident production outfit of Resorts World Manila, dominated the musical categories. Its production of the Broadway musical Annie also clinched five prizes: outstanding production of existing material for a musical; outstanding ensemble performance in a muscial; female lead performance for 10-year-old Krystal Brimmer, who played John Lloyd Cruz’s daughter in Erik Matti’s 2015 crime thriller Honor Thy Father; female featured performance for Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo; and stage direction for actor Michael Williams.
Jef Flores, who won last year as outstanding male lead performance in a play for Red Turnip’s This is Our Youth, was honored as that category’s musical counterpart this year for 9 Works Theatrical’s (9WT) production of the late Tony award-winner Jonathan Larson’s Tick, Tick…Boom! His co-star Ariel Reonal, meanwhile, clinched the award for male featured performance.
The Philippine Educational Theater Association’s (Peta) 3 Stars and a Sun, a musical about a futuristic, dystopian Philippine society that featured the songs of the late rapper Francis Magalona, came to the ceremony with 13 nominations and left with four trophies: outstanding musical—original or translation/adaptation; original libretto for Mixkaela Villalon and Palanca award-winning playwright Rody Vera; musical direction for Myke Salomon; and costume design for Gino Gonzales.
Early in the ceremony, actor-director Audie L. Gemora and Peta Artistic Director Maribel Legarda, president and vice president, respectively, of award-giving body Philippine Legitimate Stage Artists Group (Philstage), paid tribute to two of the country’s leading theater companies, Peta and Repertory Philippines (Rep), which are celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Called onstage by Gemora and Legarda to be recognized on behalf of their organizations, Rep co-founder Carmen “Baby” Barredo and Peta founder Cecile Guidote-Alvarez recalled with humor their days as classmates at what was then St. Paul’s College Manila and as respected theater practitioner Fr. James B. Reuter, S.J.’s “babies,” and the establishment and achievements of their respective companies.
Barredo emphasized the importance of passion in her speech, saying that it and “theater walk hand-in-hand” and “keeps theater alive.”
For her part, Guidote-Alvarez reminded the attendees that theater acts as a “mirror to our identity, the memory that protects our history, the anchor that keeps us rooted, the engine that promotes our culture, and the lighthouse that guides our action.”
Also honored are this year’s recipients of the Natatanging Gawad Buhay for Lifetime Achievement: actor-directors Joy Virata of Rep and Soxie Topacio of Peta. Rep’s current artistic director, Virata pioneered her company’s Theater for Young Adults Program, among other onstage and offstage accomplishments; while Topacio helmed many of Peta’s most important productions, including Canuplin, Macli-ing Dulag, and 1896.
In her speech, Virata expressed gratitude to the late Rep co-founder Zenaida “Bibot” Amador for turning “a (late-30s) housewife into an actress,” as well as her husband, former Prime Minister Cesar Virata and their daughter Gillian.
Here is the complete list of winners:
■ Musical—Original or Translation/Adaptation: 3 Stars and a Sun
■ Production of Existing Material for a Musical: Annie
■ Direction of a Musical: Michael Williams, Annie
■ Ensemble Performance for a Musical: Annie
■ Male Lead Performance in a Musical: Jef Flores, Tick, Tick…Boom!
■ Female Lead Performance in a Musical: Krystal Brimmer, Annie
■ Male Featured Performance in a Musical: Ariel Reonal, Tick, Tick…Boom!
■ Female Featured Performance in a Musical: Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Annie
■ Original Libretto: Mixkaela Villalon and Rody Vera, 3 Stars and a Sun
■ Production of Existing Material for a Play: Constellations
■ Direction of a Play: Topper Fabregas, Tribes
■ Ensemble Performance for a Play: Tribes
■ Male Lead Performance in a Play: JC Santos, Constellations
■ Female Lead Performance in a Play: Cris Villonco, Constellations
■ Male Featured Performance in a Play: Teroy Guzman, Tribes
■ Female Featured Performance in a Play: Angela Padilla, Tribes
■ Translation or Adaptation: Rolando Tinio, Pangarap sa Isang Gabi ng Gitnang Tag-araw (Midsummer Night’s Dream) (Tanghalang Pilipino)
■ Classical Dance Production: “Firebird” from Firebird and Other Ballets
■ Modern Dance Production: “Weighted Whispers” from Firebird and Other Ballets
■ Ensemble Performance for Modern Dance: “Weighted Whispers” from Firebird and Other Ballets
■ Male Lead Performance in Classical Dance: Rudy de Dios, Cinderella (Ballet Manila)
■ Male Lead Performance in Modern Dance: JM Cordero, Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko
■ Female Lead Performance in Classical Dance: Rita Winder, “Firebird” from Firebird and Other Ballets
■ Female Lead Performance in Modern Dance: Rita Winder, Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko
■ Male Featured Performance in Classical Dance: Cyril Fallar, “Firebird” from Firebird and Other Ballets
■ Male Featured Performance in Modern Dance: Erl Sorilla, Simoun (BP)
■ Female Featured Performance in Classical Dance: Denise Parungao, “Firebird” from Firebird and Other Ballets
■ Female Featured Performance in Modern Dance: Edna Vida, Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko.
■ Choreography for a Dance Production: Carlo Pacis, “Weighted Whispers” from Firebird and Other Ballets
■ Choreography for a Musical or Play: PJ Rebullida, American Idiot (9WT)
■ Costume Design: Gino Gonzales, 3 Stars and a Sun
■ Lighting Design: John Batalla, Almost, Maine (Rep)
■ Musical Direction: Myke Salomon, 3 Stars and a Sun
■ Original Musical Composition: Malek Lopez, Opera (BP)
■ Set Design: Mio Infante, American Idiot.
■ Sound Design: Teresa Barrozo, Tribes
NATATANGING GAWAD BUHAY
■ Joy Virata
■ Soxie Topacio