Repertory Philippines Celebrates 50 Years of Telling Stories

When it comes to plays in the Philippines, the leading name in English-language theater is Repertory Philippines. They are behind some of the country’s best plays, having produced 443 productions since it started in 1967. Yes, the company has been around for 50 years and they celebrated their golden anniversary with a lavish gala at The Theatre at Solaire.

REP: 50 Years of Telling Stories pays tribute to its history by inviting its current roster of talents and alumni to weave together the company’s story. It covers every aspect of producing a show, from narration to music, choreography, producers, performers, comedians, set designers, and directors.

The show opened with a tribute to Zeneida “Bibot” Amador, one of the five founders. Along with Baby Barredo, Leo Martinez, Tony and Monina Mercado, and Buddy Paez, the company opened with a Filipino production of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie, which was performed in front of seven people (only three were paying customers).

It took a while for the company to grow, but it has become one of the most trusted theater companies in the Philippines. It consistently produces five shows per season, with hits like Sweeney Todd, Evita, Oliver!, Jesus Christ Superstar, and more. It has also produced some of the Philippines’ biggest stars, including Lea Salonga, Monique Wilson, Pinky Amador, Subas Herrero, and Bernardo Bernardo. Many of them have started their own successful companies.

Some of the stars present during the musical gala were Rep co-founder Barredo, artistic director Joy Virata, and performers Monique Wilson, Franco Laurel, Sheila Francisco, Markki Stroem, Morissette Amon, Pinky Amador, Mitch Valdes, Ayam Barredo-Eckstein, Cara Barredo, Leo Martinez, Cocoy Laurel, EJ Villacorta, and many more.

What I love about the musical gala is that they didn’t forget the people behind the scenes. The show also paid tribute to the hard work of unsung heroes like production managers and stage managers who transform the “black box” into a wonderland that only great minds can think of.

Together the stars performed original songs and musical numbers from past Rep productions like A Chorus Line, Camp Rock, Annie, Pippin, Sound of Music, West Side Story, Jekyll and Hyde, and Seussical. My favorite part was the closing when a group of performers sang my favorite song from my favorite musical: “One Day More” from Les Miserables. For its curtain call, everyone came out to sing Rep’s anthem “Come Home to Rep.”

REP: 50 Years of Telling Stories gathered the best names in theater to produce the gala. Bart Guingona served as overall director, with the help of segment directors Jaime del Mundo, Miguel Faustmann, Audie Gemora, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Raymond Lauchengco, Freddie Santos, and Michael Williams. The great Ejay Yatco was the musical director and Luna Inocian was the writer.

It’s amazing that Repertory has produced quality theater for the past 50 years. I have said this over and over again: theater is Philippine entertainment’s best-kept secret. There is a voyeuristic pleasure in watching a story unfold right in front of your eyes, from the medical history of the vibrator in In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play to the teleserye-worthy family drama in August: Osage County.

Repertory surely has come far from that audience of seven in 1967.

This story is in partnership with Repertory Philippines. For updates and show schedules, visit the website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The company’s next shows are Beauty and the Beast from August 12 to December 4, 2017 and Hair from November to December 2017. Photos courtesy of Repertory Philippines.

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