Friday, November 21, 2008

Isay Alvarez and Nestor Torre come full circle in the new musical ‘Cory’

When “Cory,” with music by Lourdes “Bing” Pimentel, starts its initial run at the Meralco Theater Nov. 29-Dec. 1, the enduring relationship between director Nestor Torre and actress-singer Isay Alvarez will have come full circle.

Alvarez's performing career was launched in a big way when Torre picked her among many auditionees to play the female lead in “Magsimula Ka,” the original Filipino musical he co-wrote with award-winning composer Gines Tan.

“Magsimula Ka” was presented at the Cultural Center of the Philippines for an initial 10-performance run, but ended up being performed for more than 150 times! It also garnered rave reviews and was dubbed “the first Filipino musical that works.”

High level of performances were set by young leads Alvarez, Dio Marco, Robert Seña, Bobby Martino, Jonjon Briones, Gigi Posadas, Tricia Amper, Jograd dela Torre, Beverly Salviejo, Arlene Borja, Andy Bais, Rito Asilo, all of whom have since established themselves as gifted performing artists here and abroad.

Alvarez, Seña, Martino and Briones were four of the Filipinos cast in the initial London production of “Miss Saigon,” and all three male talents started out in the chorus but graduated to male lead roles of The Engineer in various productions all over the world.

They attribute their success in part to the training and seriousness of purpose they learned from appearing in Torre’s original Filipino musicals.

After her long and acclaimed stint in “Miss Saigon,” Alvarez and Seña returned to the Philippines to raise their children in a Filipino setting, and share with young talents what they had learned from performing abroad.

For their new talent-development studio, Spotlight Artists Center, they asked their mentor Torre to teach the country’s first-ever combined acting, scriptwriting and directing workshop, students of which include Miriam Quiambao, Lorenzo Mara, Mike Sandejas and Seña himself.

When Torre was tapped by producer-composer Pimentel to write and direct an original Filipino musical as a tribute to former president Cory Aquino, he looked far and wide to cast the show’s challenging title role—but eventually decided that Alvarez was the best choice for the plum part.

After two decades, Alvarez and Torre are working together again, in one of the most significant projects of their careers.

A lot has happened since “Magsimula Ka,” but the actress and her director have been rehearsing so well together that it sometimes feels like their first landmark musical ended its run only yesterday.

And yet, Alvarez and Torre have indeed changed—they’ve matured as theater workers from the many productions they’ve separately been involved with through the years, and they’ve become better artists, as a result. Instead of being daunted, however, both have focused on working as hard and insightfully as they can, to make the musical a fitting tribute to Cory Aquino.

Leads are Sherwin Sozon as Ninoy Aquino, Seña as Ferdinand Marcos, Pinky Marquez as Imelda Marcos and Tommy Abuel as the reporter, with major support from Bais, Edmund Sicam, Asilo and Lou Veloso.

Musical director, conductor, and arranger is Leo Quinitio. Special makeup by Fanny Serrano, official photographer Rene Gaviola, wigs from Lynelle Mannequin.

“Cory” runs at the Meralco Theater on Nov. 29 (8 p.m.), Nov. 30 (3 and 8 p.m.), Dec. 1 (8 p.m.), and Jan. 16-17, 2009. Tickets are available at Customer Service, Star Mall, Edsa Shaw. Call 8513120.

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