Caredivas is Bright and Sparkly, but With a Sharp Bite

I remember falling in love with Caredivas when it first came out in 2011. In a blog post, I mentioned, “If Caredivas runs again, you should definitely check it out. You never know, it might pull off a Cher and decide to do a comeback.” And here we are, six years later, and the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) brought the musical back. And yes, I still believe believe you should check it out. This year’s run is brighter and sparklier, and does not lose the charm and heart that captivated audiences in 2011.

For those not familiar, Caredivas follows five gay caregivers in Israel who moonlight as drag queens in clubs. The musical explores their jobs, their friendships, their passion for performing, and the uncertainty of their migrant status in a war-torn land.

At the surface, you will be dazzled by the musical’s strong numbers, the flashy costumes, and the biting sense of humor and dynamic shared by the cast. But under the fluff and glitter is a gutwrenching story of sacrifice and the lengths we go to for our family back home, the friends we develop in a land full of strangers, and if we’re lucky, the partner we can share the good and bad times with.

When Caredivas first premiered in 2011, it dominated the PhilStage Gawad Buhay! Awards and went home with seven trophies, including Outstanding Ensemble Performance, Outstanding Musical Production, Outstanding Stage Direction (for Maribel Legarda), Outstanding Original Libretto (for Liza Magtoto and Vincent de Jesus), and Outstanding Musical Direction (for de Jesus).

It’s clear to see why it bagged those awards, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it won the same awards this year. Legarda returns to direct Caredivas this 2017 for its 50th anniversary, along with Melvin Lee as Chelsea, Vincent de Jesus as Shai, Buddy Caramat as Jonee (though I watched Thou Reyes this year), and Jason Barcial as Thalia. Replacing the now-famous Jerald Napoles is Gio Gahol as Kayla.

It’s hard to pick a favorite “diva” as all the actors work together so well as a group. They all shared an incredible bond, and it almost seemed like second nature for them to portray these roles, especially when they committed a few minor but noticeable (at least for me) gaffes. At one point, de Jesus’s pants were falling apart, and he made light of his wardrobe malfunction with a lighthearted joke. At some point in the musical, two actors called their co-actors by the wrong name, and only a sharp-eyed observer could tell the brilliant ad lib that ensued.

Alternating with the cast are Red Concepcion as Chelsea; Ricci Chan as Kayla; Ron Alfonso as Shai; and Dudz Terana as Thalia. Joining them are Myke Salomon and Jef Flores as Faraj, Paul Holme and Leo Rialp as Isaac; Joan Bugcat and Gold Villar-Lim as Nonah, Eric dela Cruz as Avi, Sherry Lara as Sarah, and Eko Baquial and Joseph Madriaga as the ensemble.

It took six long years for Caredivas to come back. Don’t let it take six more years for you to see it.

PETA’s Caredivas will run from February 3 to March 19 (Tuesday to Sunday shows at 3PM and 8PM) at the PETA Theater Center, located at No. 5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City. For tickets and reservations, visit www.ticketworld.com.ph or call 891-9999.

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