By MARGA MAGALONG
The year has, so far, proved to be an exciting time for theater in Manila. With the advent of the thought-provoking play Angry Christ, musicals like Fun Home and Wicked, and West Side Story and Sound of Music lined up in the coming months, I’m surprised theater fans haven’t dramatically fainted yet. Although, whether you’re a theater geek or a beer-guzzling football fan, it doesn’t matter. Your schedule is about to get a lot more exciting.
Globe LIVE in collaboration with 9Works Theatrical brings you Disney’s Newsies The Broadway Musical. A musical loosely based on the 1899 Newsboys strike provoked by newspaper moguls, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, raising distribution prices. Unfair trade! Exploitative labor! Feast on this, social injustice! Jack Kelly (played by Gian Magdangal) calls on his band of misfit Newsies to rally against the corrupt ways of the man.
If you’ve heard anything about Newsies it’s the choreography. It’s won a Tony award for Best Choreography; known for its high energy fusion of different dance styles like ballet, jazz, and tons of aerial flips. I know what you’re thinking — you’re probably worried about whether quality had been compromised. Hell no. In fact, preparation for the choreography is akin to hell. The production partnered with Training Ground to make 100 percent of the cast a “triple-threat,” meaning, competent in singing, dancing and acting. During the Newsies press conference, host Quark Henares referred to its intensity as “like a Spartan training.” Jef Flores, playing Davey and the current “It-boy of Philippine theater,” stated he was never a natural at ballet, but it was in Training Ground that he had to toughen up to meet the standard of Newsies. “I have a duty in Training Ground to keep up and excel. This is a musical for people to enter and be brilliant. It’s not enough that I manage.” Executive producer, Joe Caliro, shares the quality these plays push for “There is so much talent in the Philippines, and with proper training, we can elevate our skills to be world-class.”
And a triple-threat they are! The cast is a high-energy ragtag bunch of renaissance men and women.
One of the Newsies is Jan Mayo, a pilot who can play the saxophone and do cheer stunts. Playing Jack Kelly is Gian Magdangal, a former boy band member turned actor, he’s established himself in the theatre world bagging roles as Danny Zuko in Grease and Hong Kong Disneyland’s Golden Mickeys. Joni Galeste is a formally trained professional ballerina, and when she’s not on stage she’s in the great outdoors being a “staunch environmentalist, cyclist, and climber!”
We’re careful not to leave out the most peculiar cast member, Tory Cortez. One of the youngest in the cast, he’s played both young Scrooge and Jonathon in Globe LIVE and 9Works’ A Christmas Carol. In an exclusive interview, GIST asks him if he found it intimidating how the rest of the cast had been older than him. Tory Cortez confidently says how he’s always been working with kids in previous plays but Newsies has offered him a learning experience he’ll cherish forever. “Before, I’d get really nervous — and I’d be like ‘How will I remember all their names?’ But it’s actually really fun and they’re really nice to both me and Daniel.” He then adds how playing a Newsie amidst his accomplished and skilled cast members has provided him both a challenge and an avenue to grow as an actor “It’s the most challenging role I’ve done. And I’m not really doing the intense dances as compared to the other actors, maybe because I’m a kid. Before I wasn’t really as good of an actor, but now, I think I’m getting better.”
Cute and talented boys dressed in 19th century workwear? High-energy choreography integrating jazz, hip-hop, gymnastics, and ballet? An important piece of history on the youth’s power to rally against #TheSYSTEM ? Seems like all factors of what makes a good musical checks out — and if that’s not your thing, then go for the underlying social relevance of youth and protest.
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Buy your tickets here to catch Newsies showing at the Globe Iconic Store Bonifacio High Street Amphitheater, BGC on July 7-9, 14-16, 21-23 & 28-30, 2017 at 8:00 p.m.