JC Santos, Anna Luna Star in LAM-ANG: AN ETHNO-EPIC MUSICAL; Show Opens 6 Dec.
The story itself varies, and even in the northern region of the Philippines, there are about 10-20 versions of the story...Tanghalang Pilipino's staging of "Lam-Ang" is a reimagined version that aims to tell the story as truthfully as possible.
Manila, Philippines - For its 33rd season's third production, Tanghalang Pilipino (TP) presents Lam-Ang: An Ethno-Epic Musical. With music and lyrics by Jen Darlene Torres and the new book by Eljay Castro Deldoc, the musical fits TP's mission to promoting Philippine culture and heritage and developing a sense of nationalism and heroism.
The musical tells the story of the oldest folk epic in Luzon Biag ni Lam-Ang, which is not well-known among the younger generation. At the media launch, Torres revealed the musical will not only have elements of chanting and indigenous instruments but also pop and alternative rock to get through their target audience of millennials and gen zs.
The folk epic tells the story of Lam-Ang and his search for his father. After that quest, he goes on to court a beautiful maiden from another town, Kannoyan. The story itself varies, and even in the northern region of the Philippines, there are about 10-20 versions of the story. The most popular transcription of the oral literature is that of Pedro Bukaneg, but as it was documented during the Spanish colonization, there is a reason to believe that his account contained biases. TP's staging of "Lam-Ang" is a reimagined version that aims to tell the story as truthfully as possible.
The musical will be co-directed by Fitz Edward Bitana and Marco Viaña, who have had adequate directorial backgrounds before Lam-Ang. Bitana said that they meet in the middle and communicate their visions well to see eye-to-eye on the staging. Viaña shared the time from their first rehearsal day that they asked the cast who among them is familiar with "Lam-Ang." The fact that very few members of the cast had an idea about the epic was further proof of the need to tell the story.
Playing his first lead role in a musical is JC Santos, who is best known for starring in various television shows and films. He is also a theater actor, graduating Theater Arts from the University of the Philippines Diliman and taking part in numerous Dulaang UP plays. "Ang dami kong natututunan (I learn a lot) every time I'm with them and it's always a pleasure and I'm so grateful," he said about his first time working with TP.
JC acknowledges that the discipline and skills for theater are very different from the big screen. "You're acting with your whole body and you have to be clear every time. 'Yong boses mo, kailangan laging malakas; kailangan klaro every time and kailangan mong mag-perform para sa taong nasa dulo. And kailangan truthful ka." (Your voice has to be loud and clear every time, and you have to perform for the person at the back. And you have to be truthful.)
For the auditions, everyone was given a song to be studied. According to the Viaña, JC came prepared with full choreography, clear character, and objective, and props. His performance told a story and he already had his own interpretation, which was a major factor why he was cast for the role of Lam-Ang.
"Ang laking bagay na yung kanyang physical abilities as JC Santos ay dinidiscover ng choreography at paano 'yon magagamit doon sa pag-kwento sa pagiging warrior ni Lam-Ang," said Viaña. (It is a big deal that his physical abilities as JC Santos are being discovered by the choreography as well as how it can be used to tell the story of Lam-Ang as a warrior.)
The role of Kannoyan, Lam-Ang's first love, will be played by Anna Luna. She is also known through her roles in TV shows and films. Last 2017, she won as Best Actress for the film Maestra at the Five Continents International Film Festival in Venezuela. Lam-Ang will be her first production that isn't produced by Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA).
She is honored to be entrusted with such a role for the musical. "Nagpapasalamat po ako kasi pangarap lang po ito na magkapag-perform ako sa Tanghalang Pilipino. Workshopper lang ako dati," she said. (I'm really thankful because performing with Tanghalang Pilipino was just a dream. I just used to be part of their workshop.")
Joining Santos and Luna in the cast are Tex Ordoñez-De Leon, Lance Reblando, Alvin Maghanoy, Hazel Maranan, Remus Villanueva, Paw Castillo, Joshua Cabiladas, Raflesia Bravo, Alys Serdenia, Miah Canton, Rapah Manalo, VJ Cortel, Gry Gimena, Gabo Tolentino, Francis Gatmaytan, along with members of the Tanghalang Pilipino Actors Company: Jonathan Tadioan, Ybes Bagadiong, JV Ibesate, Antonette Go, and Lhorvie Nuevo.
The artistic team includes TJ Ramos for musical direction and sound design, JM Cabling for choreography, Bonsai Cielo for costume design, and Meliton Roxas for lighting design.
"We're all working hard towards this production. Sigurado kaming maganda 'to," said JC. (We're sure that this will be brilliant.") Since the story is that of a warrior, the choreography is also worth looking forward to with all its fight scenes and "great, risky, death-defying stunts."
Lam-Ang: An Ethno-Epic Musical will run from 6 -15 December 2019 at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Photos: Carla Delgado