Manila: Markki Stroem Makes Stage Debut In NEXT TO NORMAL, 3/11-27
Co-written with Maria Irene Aserios
"Pilipinas Got Talent" crooner and multi-talented instrumentalist Markki Stroem leaves the klieg lights of local mainstream entertainment a bit to try his hand at acting and singing in the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning smash Broadway musical "next to normal".
For the first time, the electrifying and nearly sung-through masterpiece about your average dysfunctional American family, created by Tom Kitt (music) and Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics), reaches the Asia-Pacific region through Atlantis Productions Inc.'s staging of "next to normal" at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City, Manila, Philippines on March 11 through March 27, 2011.
"next to normal" is bowing out on Broadway this month after around 720 performances. However, the show's original star Alice Ripley currently headlines the national tour in the United States. Ripley won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role in "next to normal" -- she plays Diana, mother and wife in the Goodman household who's been suffering from manic-depressive disorder.
On the local front, Filipino-Norwegian Stroem essays the role of Henry -- he's the drug dependent suitor of Natalie who's the only daughter and most artistically-inclined of the Goodman family.
Stroem performs alongside Bea Garcia's Natalie.
Apart from Garcia, a small but veteran cast surrounds our professional theatre newbie - Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo plays Diana; Jett Pangan plays the Goodman's patriarch Dan; Felix Rivera plays the Goodman's only son Gabe; and Jake Macapagal plays Diana's psychotherapist Doctor Madden.
BroadwayWorld.com (Philippines) recently had a quick one-on-one interview with Stroem in Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao. He was in town as a special guest performer in big band singer Richard Poon and comedienne Pokwang's concert at the Atrium Limketkai Center last month.
BWW: Hi Markki!
MS: Hi, how are you doin' today? How's BroadwayWorld.com?
BWW: Pretty good!
BWW: We've heard that you're part of "next to normal" in Manila. Congratulations!
MS: Well, ever since I was a kid, I've always loved performing in musical theatre. It's one thing that I'd love to do. When I got the go signal from my manager (Mariole Alberto of Star Magic) that I could audition for this play, I said to myself why not try my hand again at musical theatre. I looked up "next to normal". I was so fascinated by the story, and by the different roles, by the different characters. They have a way of messing with your mind.
I actually listened to some of the songs. I was blown away by some of the lines. There's this opening song sung by Diana (Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo) to her daughter Natalie (Bea Garcia):
"Diana: Natalie, it's 3 in the morning, is everything ok?
Natalie: Everything's great, why wouldn't it be great? It's great! I've just got 3 more chapters of calculus a physics problem set, a history quiz and 2 pages on floral imagery in Flowers for Algernon' which so like, DUH, everything's so under control., it's just like calm.
Diana: Honey you need to slow down. Take some time for yourself. I'm going to have sex with your father.
Natalie: Well, great, I'm so glad I know that."
It's the words they say that just mess with your head. I personally enjoy it because psychology is one of my passions. I went to school and studied a bit of psychology. I hope you guys watch for this play. I've so many good things to say about "next to normal". I can go on and on...
BWW: By the way, how was the audition process like?
MS: It was an interesting process because the people that I was auditioning against were seasoned actors in Broadway shows in Manila. It was really scary because all these people were like maybe four or five or even 30 years in the industry. They know their stuff.
When I got the role of Henry, I was so ecstatic. As an individual, I know I'll grow so much more because these people can boost me up to try to reach that level that they've already reached. I'm so excited working with Menchu, Jett Pangan of The Dawn, and with Felix, Bea and Jake. When you watch this play, you will not be disappointed!
BWW: Given that you're very young, what experiences from your young life can you perhaps use when you play your role?
MS: My role is Henry. I'm the boyfriend of this genius kind of freak...
BWW: It's a very challenging role!
MS: It's interesting. It's probably not the most psychotic role in the play. But you know, I can draw from my experience in college and high school.
I got a lot of friends who actually messed up in their lives - they smoked, they were drug addicts, now they have nothing. They were trapped in their little world. I can draw from what they experienced. How did they grow up in high school? How did they grow up in college? What happened after college? How did they end up with nothing? What happened in their past that made them like that?
I'm trying to understand their emotions, their feelings, their life experiences.
BWW: Thank you for the time, Markki.
MS: Thank you too BroadwayWorld. I hope you guys watch for the play.