BWW Interviews: Tony Winner David Gallo Talks What's Appealing About Doing Theater in the Philippines

Tony Award-winning scenic designer David Gallo as photographed by Oliver Oliveros

Every person that I've dealt with in the Philippines has been wonderful. The desire to get it right there is very strong.David Gallo

New York, December 4, 2012 -  Prolific Manila-based theater company Atlantis Productions' (Disney's "Aladdin," "In the Heights") much-lauded production of Maury Yeston's Tony Award-winning Broadway musical "Nine" had cast some of local tinseltown's brightest, biggest stars - from show biz royalty Cherie Gil to TV soap opera star Eula Valdez to you-name-it.  However, prior to these stars' descent on stage, unarguably, another colossal "star" was already preset on that stage at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater, and had caught Manila theatergoers by surprise; that "star" of the show belonged to Tony Award-winning scenic designer David Gallo's ("Drowsy Chaperone," "Memphis") larger-than-life, multi-step, and geometric Asian spa-inspired set design for "Nine."

Gallo, whose imposing set for "Nine" has been nominated for Best Set Design at the 2012 BroadwayWorld Philippines Awards, and whose works on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and in many international Theater Productions are  known for their physical largeness, has been wanting to do "Nine."

"The show's completely different from your normal song-and-dance musical: It has dream-like quality; it has a great score; it's a very cerebral musical; and it also puts these incredibly beautiful women on display. Who wouldn't want to do that?" Gallo told in an exclusive interview at his design studio in Midtown Manhattan.

Probably unknown to many, Gallo's stint with "Nine" was his second in the Philippines; the first was with Broadway Asia's international touring production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella," which premiered at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2008, starring Tony winner Lea Salonga, and directed by Bobby Garcia, "Nine's" director as well.

"I worked on 'Cinderella' for several weeks.  There was a tremendous amount of prop work that had to be done; there was a lot of craft that had to be accomplished. So I brought over Pete Sarafin, who's one of my main prop people, as my assistant. We spent a huge amount of time exploring all of the markets, small stores, and downtown alleyways. It was just an incredible experience of completely sinking into the daily life in Manila," he said. 

"Whereas for 'Nine,' I only spent 10 days [Gallo oversaw the previews, opening night prior to traveling to Hong Kong for another project].  I had associates at Atlantis Productions: Lex Marcos, a great designer in his own right, and Lawyn Cruz. Those two took care of everything for me. The set was already standing on stage when I got there."

Was His Set for "Nine" Expensive?

"It was a pretty elaborate set for what they usually do in that theater. And yes, that set was expensive," revealEd Gallo.

"However, working with Bobby [Garcia] is very different because he's a director/producer and a family friend. His understanding of the budget and the necessity of sticking to what works within the context of Atlantis is very important to him. I think the budget for 'Nine' was handled very well. No one ever came to me and said that 'you have to make this kind of cut' or 'we can't afford this and that.' They pretty much accepted the design as it came off my table," he added.

What Attracts Him to Working in the Philippines?

As of this writing, Gallo is fresh off a vacation at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida with his wife, Sarah, and their two children; and without missing a beat, Gallo and his wife, who also functions as his business/studio manager, are also all set for their next overseas work: this time for Dreamworks' "Madagascar Live!" tours in nine cities in the United Kingdom. 

However, Gallo's fondness to do more work in the Philippines in the near future remains intact.

"I'm currently in talks for a 'top secret' project in the Philippines," said Gallo.

"I love working in the Philippines because every person that I've dealt with there has been wonderful. The desire to get it right there is very strong. Everybody has the same kind of 'theater spark' that I think we all started off with. You kind of get jaded throughout the years. The gloss starts to sort of rub off on you inevitably.  But all the people there, no matter how long they've been in the business, they all have that incredible energy and enthusiasm for what they're doing -  in every person: from  the director to the choreographer to the stage manager (even the person in charge of support services). It's just great to be around people that really care so much."

As a scenic designer, Gallo's basic job is to help tell the story, and provide a physical environment for the play to take place. His set for "Nine" was conceived in order to tell that story. 

"My set was nothing; it was just an inanimate object. The work that Bobby did, the cast did, and the choreographers and the lighting people did - they all told a really clear story. My gratitude is really for the people who helped me tell the story, and the audience members who got the story," he said.

"I wish that the show could have had a longer run; I wish more people would get to see the work," he sighed.

For more information on Gallo, visit his official website at

To vote for his design at the 2012 BroadwayWorld Philippines Awards, click HERE.

Photos by Oliver Oliveros, Atlantis Productions

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