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SWEENEY TODD Manila Ends Run 12/13

SWEENEY TODD Manila cast

Bringing Stephen Sondheim's SWEENEY TODD closer to Manila theater audiences may at first seem like a Herculean task.  After all, the taste of sweet, blood-curling revenge is not everyone's favorite bedtime story.  But that was what Repertory Philippines has been doing in its incarnation of the musical thriller, set to end its highly successful run on December 13, Sunday, 3:30 and 8 p.m. at Onstage, Greenbelt 1, Ayala Center, Makati City.

And even though revenge was in the air, disappointment definitely was not as theater stalwart Audie Gemora tickles the audience's dark sides portraying the manic barber Sweeney Todd.  Todd's signature song number "Epiphany" has been reciprocated with shattering applause since the show's opening night.

"I saw SWEENEY TODD on Broadway back the '80s. When George Hearn sang "Epiphany" while attacking the audience with his razor, my hair stood on end. When Repertory Philippines did it in the '80s I was too young for the part, but now it's perfect and everything just fell into place. It's my dream role that has come true," says Gemora.

Providing wicked comic relief as the kookily infatuated meat pie maker Mrs. Lovett is seasoned stage actress Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, This is her second foray into Sweeney's world as she played Johanna in Repertory Philippines' staging in 1982.  "Those two times were very different. Joanna is the ingénue and I, being fairly new to theater at that time, wasn't able to just simply relish the songs. Now, I get to savor Sondheim's character-driven music. The way he writes music is the way you should perform it, and Lovett as we all know is kooky. Her lines are long and very wordy, so I had to keep up with the fast and jagged tempo of the music."

"The orchestra, conducted by Gerard Salonga, was nothing short of luscious and full-bodied (despite there being only 13 of them in the pit at one time). Sondheim had written a demanding score (brilliantly orchestrated by the masterful Jonathan Tunick), but these players were up to the challenge, and I must laud them," says Tony winner Lea Salonga in her show review.

The concoction of light and dark moments in SWEENEY TODD was something veteran director Michael Williams intended to do in this particular revival of the musical. "We played around the gray area with the characters, like Judge Turpin had personal demons he was fighting, and Lovett was a survivor who had an affection for the boy Toby. She was searching for love and made up her own pseudo, nuclear family with Sweeney Todd as the father. This was a contrast to the previous staging of SWEENEY TODD, which had very caricaturish, cardboardish characters," Williams shares, adding that even the costumes and stage props were crafted to bring the audience closer to the play. "We did not want the stage to look like a curio piece, something plucked out from the cabinet. I think production designers Mio Infante and Gino Gonzales did a great job carrying that out with the scenery and wardrobe."

Williams credits his co-director and Repertory Philippines' artistic director Baby Barredo for harmonizing the haunting melodies with the scenery to perfectly fit the acoustics at the Onstage Theatre.

As SWEENEY TODD draws to close, Repertory Philippines ushers in a very hectic 2010 with Peter Quilter's DUETS in January, Mark Saltzman's ROMEO & BERNADETTE in February, 2010 Repertory Philippines Summer Workshop in April to May, Peter Shaffer's EQUUS in July, Jim Eiler and Jeanne Bargy's SLEEPING BEAUTY in August to December and Jason Howard and Mindi Dickstein's LITTLE WOMEN in November to December.

For tickets to SWEENEY TODD's last two performances, call Repertory Philippines (632) 887-0710, 888-0887 or visit or call Tickeworld (632) 891-9999 or visit


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