It’s fascinating to watch Tirso Cruz III at the rehearsals of “Katy,” which began its two-week, 12-show run at the CCP on Jan. 17 (call 891-9999). As pleasantly surprised as we are about how he has maintained his youthful good looks, his co-actors tell us that the seasoned former screen partner of Nora Aunor is likewise devoid of bad attitude—and is a joy to work with.
After rehearsals, when Tricia Amper-Jimenez asked him if he could answer some questions for us, he gladly obliged. At sixtysomething, Pip is as busy as ever: He’ll soon be seen in a pivotal role on ABS-CBN’s “Kailangan Ko’y Ikaw,” alongside Robin Padilla, Anne Curtis and Kris Aquino.
But, for the next two weeks, the veteran actor is focused on essaying the role of bodabil and Pinoy jazz queen Katy dela Cruz’s strict but doting father in the eagerly anticipated revival of Ryan Cayabyab and Jose Javier Reyes’ landmark musical, still under NUT’s direction.
Aside from Cruz and Isay Alvarez (who plays the adult Katy), the stellar cast also includes Yedda Lambucon, Leana Tabunar and Aicelle Santos (as the teenage and young-adult Katy), Dulce, Gian Magdangal, Epy Quizon, Lou Veloso, Tricia Amper-Jimenez, Celine Fabie, CJ Mangahis, Andy Bais, Poppert Bernadas, Sheng Belmonte, Sheenly Gener, Enteng Evangelista, Neomi Gonzales, Astarte Abraham, Jeyvi Castillo, Gimbey dela Cruz, Lito Cipriano, Aaron Ching, Carlon Matobato and China Cojuangco.
The former matinee idol shares, “The last stage productions that I acted in were for director Behn Cervantes, in the early ’90s. I heard great things about ‘Katy’ during its first run in the ’80s—so, when I was asked to audition, I had no second thoughts about it.
“I’ve been missing the discipline of the theater—which requires actors to be constantly on their toes, kasi ‘pag sumablay ka, how are you going to recover? That’s part of the challenge and the thrill—it’s very demanding!
“Then, when I read the script, ang cute ng relationship ng Tatay kay Katy—it’s a bond that resonates with people, because it’s real!”
Cruz sings one of Philippine theater’s most enduring show tunes, “Tingnan Mo Nga Naman”—and listening to it still gives us goose bumps: “Hanggang kailan mo ako kailangan?/ Kailan ka ‘di natakot sa sigaw ng langit?/ Tingnan mo nga naman, ano/ Kay bilis umikot ng mundo/ Ang dating batang takot sa kulog/ Ngayon ay hinahamon pa ito…”
Tirso explains, “The musical beautifully captures a father’s protective instinct. He’s strict, but Katy always gets what she wants, anyway.
“In show biz, women need to be tough—at alam ng tatay na delikado ang field na ito para sa pinakamamahal n’yang anak. What makes it even more painful is that, as the story progresses, nangyayari ang kinatatakutan n’ya—and he feels guilty that he’s unable to shield her from heartbreak!
“I have the same relationship with my children—I have two older boys and a daughter, who’s a prinsesita! Sabi nga ng asawa ko, ‘Aminin mo—biased ka sa babae!’ (Laughs) But, it’s true: In the eyes of a father, a daughter will always stay young. Ang tingin mo palagi sa kanya, fragile, because you want to make sure that nothing goes wrong in her life!”
What’s the hardest thing about playing the father? The actor replies, “It’s hard to age gracefully onstage—you can’t look old and still sing like a young man. At the same time, you can’t mess up the notes, either! Hindi dapat nawawala sa tono kahit punung-puno ka na ng emotion—it’s a tough but fulfilling balancing act!”
How does he keep himself fit and young-looking? Tirso beams, “I don’t let stress get to me. If you can’t find the solution to your problem today, try again tomorrow. Life is too short to focus on things that make us unhappy!”