Cast and Creatives Talk SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER Asian Tour
Manila, Philippines--Brandon Rubendall (Wicked" U.S. Tour) joined Jenna Rubaii ("American Idiot" U.S. and International Tour), Tony winner David Gallo ("Drowsy Chaperone"), other casts, and creative team members on the stage at Solaire Resort and Casino's Eclipse Bar in a '70s redux-themed afternoon in the second press conference of the Asian touring production of hit Broadway and West End musical SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER.
Touted as "the first Filipino-produced musical for the world," SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER kicks off its Asian tour in a strictly limited one-month Manila run playing all weekends at The Theatre in Solaire Resort and Casino from July 3 to 26.
Brought to Asia by Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group (ATEG), Ten Bridges Media Corporation, and Robert Stigwood Organisation, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER combines Broadway talents (headlined by Rubendall, Rubaii, and Nick Varricchio) with seasoned homegrown Filipino talents such as Mikkie Bradshaw (who played the title role in ATEG's production of "Carrie the Musical") and Carla Guevara-Laforteza (who starred as Kim in the 1995-97 West End productions of "Miss Saigon" and more recently, Dragon in ATEG's 2014 production of "Shrek the Musical").
"We had casting sessions in New York and Manila, and as always, the people you are looking for will always stand out--and we're just very lucky to get those who really stood out to join our cast!" says multi-awarded musical theater director Bobby Garcia on the grueling process of casting the right actors to take on the lead roles first introduced by the eponymous 1977 John Badham American dance film that established John Travolta as the bell-bottomed finger-pointing, hip-strutting sex symbol for the ages.
Don't Blame it on the Moonlight or Good Times-Blame it on The Bee Gees
During the recent press conference, lead couple Rubendall and Rubaii asked the press (and each other) the syrupy question "How Deep is Your Love?" in a duet of perhaps the most notoriously perennial wedding song written by The Bee Gees to have come out of the 1970s. The rest of the cast soon followed on stage in a colorful performance of the splashy ensemble number "Night Fever."
Rubaii (cast as Stephanie Mangano, Tony Manero's fantasy girlfriend and dance partner)--whose theater credits include "The Extraordinary Girl" in the U.S. Touring Production of the Green Day hit musical "American Idiot"--is also widely popular in the U.S. for her dead-on Britney Spears impressions.
"Oh the role is absolutely nothing like Britney Spears!" chimes in the equally svelte Rubaii on her take on Stephanie Mangano in a chat with BroadwayWorld.com.
"You just really have to see it to believe it!" she continues.
"Theater professionals here (Philippines) take their craft really, really seriously, and it's definitely always a pleasure to be working with talent like that," Rubaii adds in an extra thoughtful tone when asked how it was working with a racially diverse cast and crew.
Brandon Rubendall--who got his first big break as a singing lead in the U.S. Touring production of "Wicked"--began his career as a stage performer dancing for pop music icons Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, and Madonna--to name a few.
"I can say for certain that one thing that Fiyero and Tony Manero have in common is that they both loooove to dance!" Rubendall shares.
"But then again, Fiyero is just a bit too self-involved whereas Tony, he tries his best to understand the people around him, he's more empathetic that way," he adds.
"We're just so very lucky that we are in a show where we also get a chance to work with amazing Filipino talents, plus, it's also like having a built-in team of ready-and-willing tour guides to show us around! We're just so excited to be here!" Rubaii says when asked how the New York-cast leads plan on spending most of their weekdays off during SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER's month-long, weekends-only run at The Theatre in Solaire.
"Palawan is definitely one of the places I'm absolutely looking forward to visiting while we're here! After Manila, we're headed off to Malaysia and Singapore, and who knows what's next after that!" she adds.
Giving the Travolta Finger-1970s Brooklyn Style
Although SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (the film) is somewhat credited as the first mainstream flick to use the term "blowjob," some of its lesser known contributions to popular culture also extend into its gritty portrayal of Brooklyn and its gift of the "Travolta Finger."
"Of course we also had to work on incorporating the 'finger-pointing' moves into the new choreography!" adds Broadway choreographer Vince Pesce on the iconic 70's Travolta moves in a quick chat with event hosts.
Costume designer Eric Pineda--whose work has also appeared in many period-themed telenovela--says he "actually held back" when it came to designing the wardrobe for SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER.
"I wanted to focus on the reality and grittiness of Brooklyn. Texture was a great factor here, not just the color and the silhouette," Pineda adds.
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER also brings into the mix an internationally diverse list of critically acclaimed creatives, which include Tony and Drama Desk award-winning scenic designer David Gallo ("The Drowsy Chaperone," 2006).
"It's a Brooklyn-themed (scenic) design, and I worked from a lot of research and personal memories--I'm from Brooklyn. I think I was 10 when the film came out!" Gallo adds.
"This is my third time in the Philippines, and I think musical theater has a wonderful audience here," he adds.
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER is presented in Manila by PLDT and Citibank in cooperation with ABS-CBN, Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Philippine Star, Monster Radio RX 93.1, Crossover, Mellow 94.7 Sound Good, Retro DCG-FM, Makati Diamond Residences, First Unitel Travel, and Portfolio Studios.
For tickets call Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group at (632) 650-51-44 or (63917) 838-15-34; or visit TicketWorld at ticketworld.com.ph.
Photos: Jory Rivera