FILIPINO musical theater artists are
again trying to make their presence felt, as if trying to
steal the limelight from their more popular cousins, the
so-called “pop idols.” Not that they don’t deserve acclaim and
adulation; it’s just that pop artists are somehow more
accessible to the masses. Then, too, pop artists are handled
by promoters who are more adept with hype. It takes an
internationally-hyped West End or Broadway production for
a Pinoy to be adored by kababayans. That’s how Lea Salonga,
Leo Valdez and Robert Seña became household names.
US-based Pinoy musical theater artists Paolo
Montalban and Jose Llana are in town to promote their
Philippine-recorded albums. Both perform a mixture of pop
songs and Broadway favorites. Both were also featured
performers in the successful Broadway revival of The King and
I. Paolo, though, has the advantage of having appeared in at
least one US-made TV series that fortunately made it to the
Philippines, namely, Mortal Kombat. He also appeared in a
modern retelling of Cinderella on television, opposite singer
Brandy, and which, again, fortunately, was shown on local TV.
Thus, it is somehow easier to hype Paolo for massive
public adulation than it is for Jose.
Paolo was signed up by Vicor Music Corp.
while Jose did his album for Viva Records. We hear that Viva
Records artist Regine Velasquez is set to do a duet with
Jose for her next album. If the song gets used as the
album’s carrier single, it would surely boost the guy’s
popularity in the country. Meanwhile, some Vicor
publicists have been trying to romantically link Paolo with
In contrast, Carlo Orosa once tried to bea
pop star but he’s now fully focused on having a career in
theater. He waxed a record once but at this point, he
admits he’s not going to be the next Gary Valenciano or Martin
Nievera. But he may yet become as famous as Robert Seña.
Like the latter, Orosa is comfortable in both leading and
supporting roles. He was praised for his performance as
Nicodemus, the mermaid princess’ confidante in Trumpet’s
Happily, his time to play the lead has
finally come. He gets to play the lead role as the Ugly
Duckling in Trumpet’s next production, the musical comedy
But, wait, is Carlo capable of being funny?
Yes, especially on stage. He’s been doing
impersonations of a wide range of personalities: from his
fellow ex-Kundirana members Ogie Alcasid, Dingdong Avanzado,
and Randy Santiago to Christopher de Leon and televangelists
Wilde Almeda and Eddie Villanueva.
Honk! will be directed by Chari
Arespacochaga and Audie Gemora who, when they saw the play in
Singapore, both instantly decided that it can be staged in the
Philippines with Carlo portraying the lead role.
“I can relate to the Ugly Duckling
character. Because I often feel that way, and
practically everything I do is an attempt to turn myself
into an adorable swan,” Carlo says
Honk! is slated to go on stage at Meralco
Theater in August, with Franco Laurel alternating as Ugly
Franco has finer looks than Carlo, but we’ve
never seen him do comedy. Franco once appeared in a re-staging
of Rama Sita at the UP Theater, but since then he has chosen
to focus on pop. Carlo and Franco aren’t as popular as as
Martin Nievera or Ogie Alcasid, but if Honk! becomes a box
office hit, who knows, the two could be the first theater
artists to hit the mainstream. We can perhaps even expect
other Pinoy ex-pats who are quietly doing well in some theater
companies in the US and elsewhere to come home and wow us.
Maybe, Cynthia Onrubia, who choreographed the dazzling
dance numbers for the film version of Chicago, might come home
one day and find Pinoy producers ready and willing to invest
on her terpsichorean genius.