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PETA Theater returns to live theater with new original musical

THE PHILIPPINE Educational Theater Association (PETA) returns to live theater with a new original musical, Rody Vera’s Walang Aray.

The musical was chosen to launch the company’s comeback and cap the company’s Emerald year after waiting in the wings since its first laboratory performances in 2018 and 2019.

After the coronavirus pandemic disrupted life for the last three years, the audience deserves a time to laugh and enjoy themselves.

“It’s necessary, after three years of what we went through — not only the pandemic, but also the elections — to do something irreverent and funny. I think that is what people need right now. They need a space to laugh, to sort of allow themselves to have fun and enjoy something,” PETA artistic director, Maribel Legarda said at the media launch on Nov. 28.

“But of course, in PETA, it’s not just having fun. PETA believes that good comedy makes you think and reflect, and Walang Aray is exactly that,” Ms. Legarda added.

Presented by PETA with Indie.Go Media, in partnership with Star Magic, Walang Aray is an adaptation of a screenplay of the same name, based on Severino Reyes’ classic zarzuela, Walang Sugat.

“We must evolve. We cannot do things over and over the same way, we must change, challenge, and chase forward. That is why Walang Sugat evolved to Walang Aray, from the stage, adapted to screenplay, and back to the stage — and we tried to make the comeback different,” Ms. Legarda said.

Jun Reyes, the grandson of Severino Reyes said, that if his grandfather is alive today, “He would be amazed.”

“The retelling of this story with the creative mind of Rody [Vera] is made more relevant for our generation now,” Mr. Reyes said. “It [is] history retold in a fresh way…I think he would be very happy of the refreshed idea for his classic Walang Sugat.”

Mr. Reyes first commissioned playwright Rody Vera in 2008 to do a hip film version of the story. It was envisioned as a jukebox musical which would feature OPM songs. However, the film project was shelved for almost a decade.

“I decided to have it read by PETA Artistic Director Maribel Legarda, hoping it could be adapted into a stage play instead. She was interested but wanted original songs written in place of the OPM covers. Initially I was a bit reluctant because some of the scenes in the screenplay were written with the chosen OPM song in mind,” said Mr. Vera in his playwright’s notes.

Walang Aray follows lovers Julia and Tenyong who struggle to hide their relationship from Julia’s mother Juana who wants her daughter to wed the affluent Miguel. However, Julia and Tenyong’s relationship struggles when she joins the revolution.

Walang Aray merges the classic with contemporary language, pop tunes, and tongue-in-cheek humor.

“Walang Aray also pokes fun at the usual villains in our history — but also it is just as irreverent at those we have traditionally held high in our regard: the demure Filipina, now a feisty, daring, passionate woman who knows exactly what she wants and will do anything to achieve it,” Mr. Vera wrote.

With the various issues continuously plaguing the nation, Mr. Vera noted that Filipinos overcome them “with a stubborn resilience and defiance in ways only we Pinoys know best: our scathing and penetrating humor.

“Whether we laugh at ourselves or we laugh at our oppressors, we have used it to understand and frame our lives as Pinoys, still keeping our dignity intact despite our furtive mischievous smile,” he wrote.

Walang Aray stars Star Magic’s KD Estrada and Alexa Ilacad (KDLex), alternating with theater artists Gio Gahol and Marynor Madamesila as Tenyong and Julia.

The cast includes PETA artists Jarred Jaicten, Kiki Baento, Carlon Matobato, Gie Onida, Norbs Portales, Neomi Gonzales, John Moran, Tom Bienvenida, Donn Boco, Gerard Dy, Yeyin Dela Cruz, Ada Tayao, and Ayla Garcia.

Young PETA artists make up the creative team including Ian Segarra (director), Vince Lim (composer, musical director, sound designer, additional lyrics), Happy Constantino (sound designer), Gio Gahol (choreographer), Julio Garcia (production designer) and Ayla Garcia (voice coach). They are joined by guest artists David Esguerra (lighting designer), and JayLo Cunanan (costume designer).

Walang Aray will run at the PETA Theater Center from Feb. 17 to May 14, 2023. Tickets will be available via starting Dec. 10. For bulk tickets and show buying inquiries, contact Mitch Go at 0917-539-1112. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman

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