Markki Stroem is playing Shane Gray in the stage version of Disney’s “Camp Rock,” which wraps up its run at Repertory Philippines tomorrow. But, the hunky Filipino-Norwegian runner-up of “Pilipinas Got Talent” swears he’s farthest from Joe Jonas’ singing, dancing and tweener-baiting alter ego. He quips, “This is my ‘happy’ side—but, I’m more comfortable in ‘darker,’ unconventional fare.”
Stroem is on a roll. Part of his impressive multimedia romp this year includes his exceptional gender-bending portrayal in the movie, “Slumber Party,” and his genre-boosting first album, “Thousands of Pieces”—which is notable for jazzy, self-penned tracks (the radio-friendly “Kung Pwede Lang Ibalik,” the “Fever”-channeling “Iron Curtain,” and “Steal Your Soul,” with Zia Quizon) and for effectively reconfiguring Carly Rae Jepsen’s campy dance anthem, “Call Me Maybe.”
His singing prowess and strong presence may have initially been noticed by mainstream audiences in ABS-CBN’s popular talent search, but Markki really began his foray into performing when he was 8 years old, when he acted in Repertory’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and New Voice Company’s “Babes in Toyland” showcases.
We first saw Markki in Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s three-in-one play (directed by John Mulhall for the International School), “The Apple Tree”—where he played a girl!
Stroem shares, “I graduated with a degree in Marketing and Hotel and Restaurant Management in Switzerland, but I came home to pursue a career in music. That was when I found myself joining the reality search.” He wrote eight of the 10 tracks in his album, including his first song, “Exchanging Glances,” written when he was 16.
Up close, it doesn’t take long for anyone to realize that there’s more to Markki than his dreamy good looks. Reacting to what we thought of his gay-themed movie and his acting choices in it, he began explaining a marketing study on niche markets and tapping into the homosexual market without alienating the heterosexual crowd—the guy is no intellectual pushover!
And, if many of his theater contemporaries prefer English-language productions, the singer-actor disclosed that one of the coveted roles he’s rooting for is in a Tagalog production (the other is for the horror musical based on Stephen King’s “Carrie”)! He explains, “I want to do at least one play a year to develop my talent and stay sharp.”
Christmas is just around the corner—what is his favorite Christmas carol? Stroem’s eyes light up as he answers, “I like the melody of ‘O Holy Night,’—it’s heart-warming.”
After “Slumber Party,” isn’t he concerned about getting typecast in gay roles? Markki beams, “As an actor, I have no limitations—and I like doing different things. I don’t mind people speculating about my sexuality, because I’m very comfortable with who I am. It’s better for viewers to like me for being effective than having them say how ‘trying hard’ I look in a role! Besides, doesn’t that make things more interesting?” (Laughs)