Rep reopens with postmodern take on Carousel

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CAST of the musical Carousel

TWO years after Repertory Philippines’ production of Carousel was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the cast will finally be able to perform a stripped-down postmodern version of the musical in a new venue — the Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez within the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) complex — on Nov. 26.

Created by Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics) in 1945, Carousel follows the story of carnival barker Billy Bigelow who falls in love with and marries the sweet yet naïve millworker Julie Jordan.

After learning Julie is pregnant, desperate for money, Billy is forced to participate in a robbery that ends in tragedy. He is then given a second chance to make things right. Carousel features musical theater classics like “If I Loved You,” “June is Bustin’ Out All Over,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

Christopher “Toff” De Venecia, who marks his Rep directorial debut, said that his postmodernist take on the material differs in “staging and intentionality” from Rep’s first showing of Carousel in 1996 directed by company co-founder Carmen “Baby” Barredo.

“As a creative, I’ve always gravitated towards the political. Reading the text in 2019, I inherently paid attention to lyrics and lines that perhaps other productions would gloss over — and the latter is certainly very tempting as this R&H musical is closest to an opera. Ergo, it’s easy to romanticize and get swept away by the largesse of the music,” Mr. De Venecia said.

“From a contemporary lens, there are a lot of themes that are embedded in the text that can be quite triggering. You can consider them thematic landmines. So, we paid closer attention to these and they became the impetus for how we approached certain scenes and numbers in the show,” he added.

Citing recent events such as the #MeToo movement to the so-called non-essentialism of art in a time of crisis, Mr. De Venecia said that “there’s a lot of intertextuality that weaves its way into this staging — hence the postmodernism. It’s quite playful and self-aware too.”

Adjusting to health guidelines in the new normal, the original cast of 30 is now downsized to 14. The orchestral accompaniments will use a two-piano musical orchestration. 

Rep’s production will be led by Gian Magdangal as Billy Bigelow and Karylle Tatlonghari as Julie Jordan in their debut Rep production, Joining the two leads are Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante as Carrie Pipperidge, Julie’s best friend, and Lorenz Martinez as Enoch Snow, Carrie’s love interest.

Also in the cast are Red Nuestro, Roxy Aldiosa, Julio Laforteza, Gia Gequinto, Noel Rayos, Mia Bolaño, Roby Mallubay, Paula Paguio, Steven Hotchkiss, Cara Barredo, Czar Decena, and Kyla Rivera-Soong (who is also the show’s assistant director).

“I actually wasn’t sure as to whether Rep would push through with staging Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel given the scale of the production that was intended for the 2020 run and issues of sustainability in the new normal,” said Mr. De Venecia.

“As a producer myself, I kept these in mind in the many conversations that I had with the Rep team during the lockdown. As attached as I was as a director to the 2020 version that we were already rehearsing (it took me about a year to prepare for that), I had to let go and recalibrate,” he added.

Mr. De Venecia, who is also the managing artistic director of The Sandbox Collective and a representative of Pangasinan, has always been interested in forging a discourse about the arts and storytelling beyond its theatrical performance.

“I’m excited for individual and collective audience takeaways. I hope what they experience will galvanize conversations outside of the theater’s four walls,” he said. 

Tickets for Carousel are available through the CCP Box Office, TicketWorld, and SM Tickets. Ticket prices range from P1,000 to P3,000. For updates, visit www.repertoryphilippines.ph, or follow Repertory Philippines on Facebook and Instagram. Educators and school representatives who are interested in the show can e-mail sales@repphil.org. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman