‘Contra Mundum,’ a nerve-wracking experience for Bea Alonzo, Paulo Avelino and Jericho Rosales
This is just to get my feet wet,” said film and TV actress Bea Alonzo of her “cameo appearance,” in the musical “Contra Mundum” held on May 6 at the Metropolitan Theater.
Together with Culturtain Musicat Productions, the Met staged the concert version of “Ang Larawan,” based on the original play by National Artist for Literature, Nick Joaquin. “Contra Mundum: Ang All-Star Concert ng ‘Ang Larawan,’” is set in Intramuros right before World War II. In her first-ever musical gig, Bea plays fashionable socialite Elsa Montes. “Prior to this, I never had the chance to sing even on a variety-show stage, so this is definitely nerve-wracking for me. I said ‘yes’ to it because I really wanted to get out of my comfort zone,” she began.
“I told my manager, Shirley Kuan, that I wanted to do something different to refresh my soul [and] to reignite my passion for this industry, like a musical. She called to say she had a role for me and the production would be in May. This was only a few weeks before the show date, so I asked, ‘Kaya ko ba ‘yan?’ She said, ‘Of course! This is just a cameo appearance,’” Bea recalled.
“Later, I learned that I could have fun with the character, especially since her songs weren’t so difficult to perform. I don’t think I could take on one of the major characters yet. Hopefully, next year, I can do more,” the actress told Inquirer Entertainment at the show’s after-party.
Full character background
Even though her part was merely a cameo, Bea made sure to create a full character background, she said. “I was thinking that maybe when she was young, she was sent to the United States by her rich parents. She comes back to the Philippines just when the country is on the brink of war. She is so sheltered and so oblivious to everything that’s happening outside her bubble that she relates the controversial Marasigan painting to something superficial, like fashion,” Bea said.
She wears two dresses by designer Francis Libiran, vintage accessories by Whisenhunt jewelry, a purse by Bea Valdez, and hats designed by Neric Beltran.
“She probably has deep childhood pains so to cover them up, she pretends to be somebody who is really shallow. This is her defense mechanism. It’s like she’s saying, ‘You cannot get through me!’”
Meanwhile, Jericho Rosales, who plays Tony Javier in Act 2, said he was so excited to do the project that he moved his schedule around the dates he was supposed to rehearse for the musical. Like Bea, he was a bundle of nerves during the night of the performance.
“Imagine being backed up by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, or having (National Artist for Music) Ryan Cayabyab conducting behind you. You also have lines to deliver in front of a thousand people, live, at the Met, no less. Sometimes, you can’t help but ask, ‘Will I black out?’ My dedication to rehearsing helped avoid that. I always felt excited when they said I’d have to rehearse or when I have voice lessons,” he said.
Since “Contra Mundum” was just a one-night gig, Jericho said he hoped for more of this in the future. “The theater people here are now saying they will call me about other productions. This excites me so much—too bad my entire year is already booked,” said Jericho, who is set to work on two action series, “Sellblock” and the yet-untitled prequel to Erik Matti’s “On the Job,” until yearend.
Paulo Avelino, who played Tony in Loi Arcenas’ musical film “Ang Larawan” along with Rachel Alejandro and Joanna Ampil, said the nice thing about being part of “Contra Mundum” was that “the parts I sang and the lines I delivered as Tony (in Act 3) weren’t part of the film.”
“I’m open to doing it again. I’ve always been looking for a project that I could do onstage. I’m happy that this was my first because I got to work with the best of the best in the industry and I learned so much from them,” he said.
Paulo admitted to having felt a bit of pressure because he did the play in between taping for an upcoming teleserye for ABS-CBN. “I don’t mind juggling multiple projects. Of all the things I did for this show, I enjoyed the singing part the most. Mrs. C (Emy Punzalan-Cayabyab, wife of Ryan) was there to guide me. After rehearsal, she would discuss with me how I could improve my singing and balance my emotions. Theater work requires discipline and presence,” he observed.
Paulo said it’s a good thing that more mainstream actors like him are trying to do stage work. “This actually makes you a better actor. It grounds you. Depending on the material, you can really explore acting. I actually admire veteran actors like Nonie Buencamino (as Manolo Marasigan), who juggles film, TV and theater,” he said.
Even musical director Ryan was surprised that big-name stars agreed to take part in the show. “To think they will not earn much from this. Even then, they came to rehearsals and voice lessons—not once, but three times a week—with Mrs. C. They all did great tonight,” he said. “I think it’s the material that attracted them to this particular gig. Hindi kasi basta-basta! I think they understood that it was an important production.”
“Contra Mundum” follows the plight of unmarried sisters Candida and Paula Marasigan, the daughters of high-profile painter Don Lorenzo Marasigan. It was produced by Celeste Legaspi, Girlie Rodis and Aaron Veloso, and directed by Chris Millado.
Joaquin’s literary play “A Portrait of an Artist as a Filipino” was translated in Filipino by National Artist for Theater and Literature Rolando Tinio. The original costume design is by National Artist for Theater and Design Salvador Bernal.
Performers included Rachel and Hajji Alejandro, Kakai Bautista, Roeder Camañag, Ricky Davao, Dulce, Bituin Escalante, Jaime Fabregas, Nonoy Froilan, Audie Gemora, Nanette Inventor, Agot Isidro, Karylle, Celeste Legaspi, Jojit Lorenzo, Sandino Martin, Bodjie Pascua, Aicelle Santos, Markki Stroem, Kakki Teodoro, Mitch Valdes, Nyoy Volante, Mikkie Bradshow-Volante and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, with the members of Alice Reyes Dance Philippines.