By By Pablo A. Tariman
posted 30-Jul-2018  ·  
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Roeder Camanag and Norman Penaflorida as Waterina and Gee-gee. First musical on war-time comfort gays.

Tale of comfort gays has been taken up in the Gil Portes film, “Markova” but has there been an original musical on the same subject?

Well, one is coming up in August called “Gee-Gee at Waterina” with music by Jesse Lucas, choreography by Lezlie Dailisan and direction by Andrew de Real.

Playing the title roles are Roeder Camanag and Norman Penaflorida.

The theater piece first surfaced in the CCP Virgin Labfest in 2005 while a short version of it was produced by Cine Malaya in 2006.

For Jesse Lucas, the challenge of the original musical is composing and arranging music that sounds fresh, accessible, light, audience-friendly and timeless. “What is tough doing original musicals is plotting the emotions in the narrative through songs and production numbers. Getting the right feel with the right melody, rhythm, tempo and arrangement at precise moments in the musical.”

Also an active film and teleserye scorer, he said he has long waited to go back to musical theater with a contemporary material and libretto. “‘Gee-gee and Waterina’ is just perfect. I've done heavy-themed historical musicals for Tanghalang Pilipino with Nonon Padilla way back 1998 and 2002 (Aguinaldo 1898 and Ang Pagpatay kay Luna). I collaborated with Ballet Philippines in 2004 for the dance-musical, Darna.  But I would say doing musical theater works has more artistic and creative control.”

He points out he is very visual when composing and arranging music. “My musical choices are usually dependent on the colors I see and hear during the time I play music on my piano along with the libretto. And, while hearing and imagining the ideal voices of the singers that we intend to cast in the musical.”

For Roeder, portraying an aging drag queen and comfort gay is the big challenge. “There are actually many layers to the character. But in the end, it’s not much of being gay that I want to focus on but more on the strength of character who happens to be gay.”

To prepare for the part, Roeder has to lose weight and take dance classes. “I have not danced in a long, long time and in this new role, I’m dancing and doing all the female parts. Before, I used to do all the lifts. Now, it’s the opposite. Ako na ang binubuhat. I had to practice walking and dancing in heels and understand the life temperament and coping mechanisms of an elder drag queen. It’s true, you to find something in the character that resonates in you. So that you can portray the character with conviction.”

A member of the Gantimpala Foundation for 20 years, Norman Penaflorida (Gee-Gee) was Padre Damaso and Alferes in Gantimpala’s production of Kanser The Musical by Jomar Fleras.

The big break came from directors Jun Pablo and Frannie Zamora who honed him in several straight plays.

He resonates with the role as in real life, he has a business called The Closet which is related in many ways to theater shows. “I am an image and event stylist in real life. My passion for theater is summarized in the song, What I Did for Love a line of which goes, ‘"Won't regret, won't forget what I did for love.”

How does a composer’s week look like a week before opening night?

Jesse affirms it’s always been filled with excitement as he sees all the other elements in the musical being come together -- acting, lights and set, choreography, the works.

Director Andrew de Real told the Inquirer directing a musical is not as complicated as it looks. “For as long as you have a good musical director and a good ensemble who understands what the real message of the story is. A musical is nothing but good storytelling.”

(Gee-Gee at Waterina will be staged at Arts Above, Artist Playground II, 112 West Venue Bldg., West Avenue, Quezon City.

The performance are as follows:

August 18 (3pm & 7pm)

August 19 (3pm & 7pm)

August 25 (3pm & 7pm)

August 26 (3pm & 7pm)

For inquiries, please call Ms. Kimberly Somoza at 0975-9193179.)

Composer Jesse Lucas. From film scoring, teleserye and now the challenge of musicals.
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