Photo Coverage: In Rehearsal With Upstart Productions' COMPANY; Show Opens Sept. 13
Manila, Philippines--This September, Upstart Productions stages "Company," the Tony Award-winning musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by George Furth. The musical comedy centers around Bobby, a bachelor who can't seem to find a suitable partner for himself. The musical explores the different kinds of relationships he has with the people in his life. He looks into his friends' respective marriages and assesses his romantic attachments.
Playing the lead role is OJ Mariano (who is a member of the vocal group "The Company"). He said of his character: "Bobby is like the accidental central character. What's important in this show is the relationships that are presented to you from the married couples, my relationships with the single ladies, and I think my main importance in the show is sort of a perspective of the audience. He is somebody who hasn't gotten his foot on a relationship, hasn't settled on what to do with that kind of belief. He's always been a bachelor, he's always had fleeting relationships, and never really gotten into serious ones. Being presented with all these scenarios and situations with the married couples and his dynamic with the single girls, it gives him this thesis towards the end what he wants to do with all this information."
According to Director Topper Fabregas, Upstart Productions' Artistic Director Joel Trinidad always wanted to do "Company," and last year, he was approached which regards to him directing the show. "When they offered 'Company,' I never directed a musical before but at least I felt in my blood [that] I have something to say. There's something I want to say with it and yeah, I think I can be the right storyteller for it," he said.
Topper has previously directed The Necessary Theatre's "Blackbird" (2017) and Red Turnip Theater's "This is Our Youth" (2015) and "Rabbit Hole" (2014). All these productions have been straight plays, marking "Company" as his first musical to direct. "On a personal level, it's so sprawling. There are so many elements. It's also such a great reminder of the art of collaboration. There's the music, there's the choreography, and there's a cast of 14 also. It's quite inspiring, actually," he said. "I get to work with music, with dance, but basically to put all these heightened elements together, so I get to step out of my comfort zone. I also get to be a little bit more whimsical and playful with the staging and so I have to take risks."
So far, the rehearsal process has been challenging for everyone involved, but rewarding as well. "I'm enjoying the company of everybody and the support I'm getting from each person. There's just so much to learn from everybody, from each individual. Every single day you learn something new: you learn something new about this person, you learn something new about the process, you learn something new about theater. It's been a joy and I think it was meant to be," OJ said.
What makes any production succeed is the group of people working together to produce a quality staging, and as a director, Topper values how all the elements of the show come together. "It comes with its challenges, of course, just like any musical, but it's so great because it's been collaborative," he said about directing a Sondheim musical. "I had to learn how to be a bit more malleable because it's a collaborative effort. This whole show is a collaborative effort."
The cast includes Caisa Borromeo as Marta, Jill Peña as Kathy, Maronne Cruz as April, Cathy Azanza-Dy as Amy, James Uy as Paul, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo as Joanne, Sweet Plantado-Tiongson as Sarah, Joel Trinidad as Harry, Michael Williams as Larry, Bianca Lopez as Jenny, Chino Veguillas as David, Nicky Triviño as Susan, and Ariel Reonal as Peter.
For the creative team, they have Rony Fortich for musical direction, Nancy Crowe for choreography, Joey Mendoza for set design, Marlon Rivera for costume design, Jethro Joaquin for sound design, and Meliton Roxas for lighting design.
In this staging of "Company," Topper chose to stray away from the typical proscenium staging to further portray the feeling of a fast-paced, vibrant city with lots of people coming and going. "There's something about doing it in the round that just feels more open, more vulnerable, and more playful. [...] It just makes sense to do it this way," he said.
In all its essence, "Company" is about companionship. Perhaps Filipino audiences won't have a particularly difficult time connecting to the story and finding a character they relate to. As OJ said, "It's all about relationships. It's about love, it's about friendship. Filipinos are known to have this affinity for that kind of thing, for relationships, for anything that concerns love." Topper added, "It's also a love letter to New York City. Like, Manila kind of feels like that. You don't sleep. It's the city that never sleeps. It's a big metropolis so also that feel of it is quite relatable."
Make sure to catch "Company" from September 13-22, 2019, at the Maybank Performing Arts Theatre in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig!
Buy tickets (P1,500-3,500) at TicketWorld.com.ph.
Photos: Carla Delgado
Bianca Lopez, Chino Veguillas
With Director Topper Fabregas