Joanna Ampil is Grizabella in Cats 2019 international tour

Filipina international performer Joanna Ampil headlines the Cats 2019 international tour, playing the role of Grizabella, it was announced on July 11, 2019.

 Last seen in Manila in 2010, the Manila leg of Cats 2019 tour opens on Nov. 6, at The Theatre at Solaire.

Ampil had been featured in several West End musicals, such as Miss Saigon, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Avenue Q. She played the role of Fantine in Les Misérables in London.

       Also on Thursday, the producers have announced the names of the full cast for the Manila season of Cats.

       Joining Ampil are: Luke Fraser Yates, George Hinson, Gavin Eden, Kirsty Ingram, Elizabeth Futter, Sally Frith, Erica-Jayne Alden, Amy Whittle, Ellie Young, Holly Willock, Danielle Cato, Gabrielle Coca, Cian Hughes, Rhys Batten, Thomas Inge, Mukeni Nel, Lloyd Davies, Abigail Dever, Alexandra Wright, Elly Shaw, Liam Buckland, Lee Nicholson, and Brian O’Muiri.

Resident director is Dane Quixall.

Cats is based on T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which was a collection of poems describing the “psychology and sociology of cats” published in 1939.

The muscal Cats first returned to the West End in December 2014, reuniting the original creative team: Director Trevor Nunn, Associate Director and Choreographer Gillian Lynne, Designer John Napier, and Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Following a second season at the London Palladium in 2015 and a UK Tour in 2016, the production embarked on an international tour in 2017 and now continues to tour the world throughout 2018 and 2019.

Cats, one of the longest-running shows in West End and on Broadway, received its world premiere at the New London Theatre in 1981 where it played for 21 record-breaking years and almost 9,000 performances. The production was the winner of the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best Musical. 

In 1983, the Broadway production became the recipient of seven Tony awards including Best Musical, and ran for 18 years. 

Since its world premiere, Cats has been presented in over 30 countries, has been translated into 15 languages and has been seen by over 73 million people worldwide.

Both the original London and Broadway cast recordings won Grammy Awards for Best Cast Album. 

The classic Lloyd Webber score includes Memory which has been recorded by over 150 artists from Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis to Liberace and Barry Manilow.

The international tour of the Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Theatre production of Cats is again presented by David Ian Productions.

For inquiries, please visit


CATS 2019 opens in Manila on Nov. 6 / Lunchbox Productions Photo

NOTES ON VLF 15 SET B: Life’s daily disquieting disturbances and discoveries, discomforts and delights


Intended or not, the three plays in this year’s Set B of Virgin LabFest15 attempt to showcase variations in life’s daily disquieting disturbances and discoveries. And the discomforts and delights they bring.

        In Layeta Bucoy’s “The Unreachable Star” directed by Mara Marasigan, the bipolar disorder of a a UP Los Banos student  (Ali played by Lorrie Figueroa) unravels her parents (Tatay, Raffy Tejada and Nanay Tex Ordonez-de Leon) elaborate plans for her to seek political office, which will bring in cash they badly need.

        To complicate the family friction, the boyfriend of Ali’s older brother (Kuya, Reynald Santos) has also plans to vie for the same political office.    

        Figueroa must summon gumption in order not be bowled over by the presence of the competent Tejada, De Leon, and Santos, notably during their heated arguments.

        However, Marasigan’s able direction of the Bucoy material managed to maintain the tension during the 45-minute run, without descending into melodramatic morass.

        “Anak Ka Ng …” by U Z Eliserio and directed by Maynard Manansala assembles Skyzx Labastilla (Connie, the mother), Krystle Valentio (Pina, daughter of Connie), and Rafa Tibayan (Niko, boyfriend of Pina).

        OFW Connie returns to the Philippines after the death of her husband, the father of Pina, to settle family matters. And she eventually meets Niko.

        During the caustic confrontation between mother and daughter, years of stifled anger and resentments explode. The usual story of OFW children feeling abandoned by their fathers or mothers who went overseas to earn money to better their lives. This is the daily narrative of more than 10 million Filipinos.

        Despite the stale OFW plot, Eliserio’s script spins the story in a luscious fashion, which is utilized by Manansala to optimize the acting synergy between Labastilla and Valentino. Add the short but marked appearance by Tibayan, and you have a refreshing take on the trite OFW parent-children relationship.

        Of the three plays in this set, “Wanted: Male Boarders,” by Rick Patriarca and directed by George de Jesus III, taunts the audience for its licentious content.

        The three long-time residents of a Cavite boarding house are Ross Pesigan (Marco), Aj Sison (Ian), and Vincent Pajara (Andrew). Melody, played by Lance Reblando, is a new, transgender boarder.

        It would be narrow to categorize this latest Patriarca work as appealing to the LGBTQ community.

In Patriaca’s material, the boarding house is a metaphor for a community or a locale, where residents (in this case all males) are trying to discover who they are and what they want in life.

De Jesus, as always, fully unleashes his originality and creativity in breathing life into the pages written by Patriarca. The time lapse turns the quiet audience into a rambunctious flock.

Cheers to Reblando, Pesigan, Sison, and Pajara.

Virgin LabFest 2015 Images

Noli Me Tangere, The Opera returns to CCP June 21-23 only

Two days after the Philippines marked the 158th birthday of National Hero Jose P. Rizal, “Noli Me Tangere, The Opera” by the J and S Productions, starts its limited run at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on June 21, 2019.

          It runs until June 23, 2019.

Based on Rizal’s 1887 classic novel of the same name, “Noli Me Tangere, The Opera,” world premiered in 1957, featuring the music and libretto by National Artists Felipe Padilla de Leon and Guillermo Tolentino, respectively.

          For this June 2019 run, the Department of Education (DepEd), National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), CCP, and the Enrique Zobel Foundation collaborated.

One notable feature of Noli, the Opera is its orchestral arrangements, which were influenced by kundiman and the Western classical music tradition.

Noli broke box office records at the CCP with three sold-out performances last March, which have also prompted this June re-run.

Alongside the opera’s triumphant return to the CCP, is an art exhibit titled “Ang Sampung Pangarap ni Rizal,” which features the artworks of the Pasig Art Club members and other guest artists.

Part of the proceeds of the art exhibit will go to 10 different youth organizations and groups, which include Tanghalang Mandaluyong, Natasha Goulbourn Foundation, Soup Kitchen of Pasig, Phil-Asia Assistance Foundation, Gota de Leche, Pasig Catholic College Center for Culture and Arts, Sagip Batangpalengke, Teach Peace Build Peace Movement, San Pablo Apostol of Tondo Youth Ministry, and Hospicio de San Jose.

“We’re thrilled that our stage production of Felipe Padilla De Leon, and Guillermo Tolentino’s ‘Noli Me Tangere, The Opera,’ which we first produced in New York City in 2013, will be back at the CCP this weekend, which also culminates the 158th birth-anniversary week of Dr. Jose Rizal,” J and S Productions executive producers Edwin Josue and Jerry Sibal, said.

Sibal is also the show’s director and set and costume designer.

“Noli Me Tangere, The Opera’ celebrates the timeless work of our national hero and two national artists, as well as the immense talent of our young classical singers and musicians,” the said.

Co-directed with veteran theater director-playwright Jose Jeffrey Camañag, the opera features the 53-piece Noli Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Herminigildo Ranera, who will bring to life the opera’s beloved arias such as “Kay Tamis Ng Buhay,” “Awit Ng Gabi Ni Sisa,” “Gising na, O Inang Ko,” and “Sa Lupang Pangako.”

The opera stars Bianca Lopez (Maria Clara), Mheco Manlangit (Maria Clara), Nomher U. Nival (Juan Crisostomo Ibarra), Ivan Nery (Juan Crisostomo Ibarra), Joseleo Logdat (Elias, Pilosopo Tasyo), Greg Abelardo de Leon (Elias, Pilosopo Tasyo), Nil’s Flores (Padre Damaso), Ronaldo Villaruel Abarquez (Padre Damaso, Kapitan Tiago), Miguel Espiritu (Kapitan Tiago), Allison Cervantes (Sisa), Bernadette Mamauag (Sisa), Miguel Suarez (Basilio), Matteo Teehankee (Basilio), Johann Andra (Basilio), Mia Bolaños (Doña Victorina), Charina Althea Balmores (Sinang), Micah David J. Galang (Andeng), Krissan Manikan-Tan (Tiya Isabel), Rare Jireh Yzel Columna (Victoria), Paul Dominique Galvez (Albino), Santino Juan Santiago (Crispin), Jose Mari Javato (Padre Salvi), Oliver Pineda (Tenyente Guevarra), Timothy Racho (Alferez), Ruzzel Clemeno (Don Filipo), Lorenz Edward Sarondo (Linares), Renz Nathaniel Cruz (Manlilibing), and Airo Saret (Manlilibing).

They are joined by Angeli Benipayo, Cris Go, Eden Lorrice Dumlao, Erielle Fornes, Katrine Jamar Sunga, Kevin Chen, Marifel Motilla, Mavel Bautista, Michael Del Rosario, Neomi Giron, Otepp Billeza, Sheila Gamo, Via Villasin, Ray Justin Cornelio, Courtney Gormley, Grace Pedrocillo, Larian Villamarin, and Marian Maxilom.

Rounding out its creative team are Dingdong Fiel, assistant musical director and pianist; Ronan H. Ferrer, voice coach and choirmaster; Albert Figueras, co-costume designer; Dennis Marasigan, lighting designer; TJ Ramos, sound designer and engineer, and Alan Dela Rama, graphics and video designer.

“Noli Me Tangere, The Opera” tells the timeless story about love, betrayal, and hope set against a repulsive backdrop of tyranny, torture, and murder. It follows Juan Crisostomo Ibarra who returns to the Philippines after pursuing scholarly studies in Europe. He plans to open up a school and marry Maria Clara, his betrothed.

However, parish priest Padre Damaso, the archenemy of the Ibarras, is out to hinder Crisostomo’s agenda.

“Noli Me Tangere, The Opera” paints a clear picture of the so-called “social cancer” that illustrates the rotten system of governance, the illicit way of the church, and the unfavorable trade of the privileged class.

The show is performed with English supertitles.

To buy tickets, call 0915 593 4777, 0947 168 1714, CCP Box Office 02 832 3704/06, or visit (Official hashtags: #NoliMeTangereOpera #NoliOpera)

J and S Productions Image

Spanish songs, zarzuela with soprano María Bayo

Acclaimed Spanish soprano María Bayo performs on June 25, 2019, 730 pm, at the Hyundai Hall Areté, Ateneo de Manila University.

Bayo, who won the Spanish National Award for Music in 2009, will be accompanied on piano by French Maciej Pikulski.

The show offers the audience a rare opportunity to listen to songs by Spanish contemporary composers inspired by traditional music, as well as some zarzuela.

The concert in Metro Manila, organized by the Embassy of Spain in the Philippines, the Instituto Cervantes and Areté. Before coming to Manila, Bayo performed in Beijing, Tokyo, and Jakarta.

“Acclaimed for the luminosity and clarity of her voice, for her technical virtuosity and her gifts for acting and expressiveness, for two decades María Bayo has been the most internationally renowned Spanish soprano,” the Instituto Cervantes said.

“She is considered one of the best performers in the world for feminine roles by Rossini and Mozart and has sung at the Teatro Real in Madrid, La Scala in Milan, the Staatsoper in Berlin, the Bastille and Palais Garnier in Paris, the Metropolitan Opera House in New York among many others.

“Chameleon-like and leaving no stone unturned with regard to music as well as acting,” it said María Bayo has an extremely wide repertoire which spans from Händel and Cavalli to Puccini, Debussy, Poulenc and Stravinsky.

Her interest in Spanish repertoire has also led her to record a large number of zarzuelas from all ages and revive many others that had been lost in obscurity, as well as operas and chamber music, collaborating with the most outstanding and respected conductors and directors of her generation.

“Her work to find the truth of a character and its psychological rough edges to then take it through her own voice to the stage or recording studio has earned her the highest acclaim in the world of music and culture,” the Instituto Cervantes said.

Pikulski is a soloist, chamber musician, and accompanist to leading singers, who has already performed in over 300 concert halls in five continents. The specialist music press has acclaimed Pikulski for his “poetic sensitivity” and “powerful technique,” praising him as a “magnificent musician” and “great pianist.”

He holds a professorship with tenure at the Centro Superior de Música in San Sebastian, Spain.

The program of the concert will include so-called “cultured songs,” such as songs from folk music that have been arranged with new, rich harmonies in line with the style of different 20th century composers.

The musical tradition that has inspired these compositions stems from Spain but has also made a round-trip to Latin America and thus, the works by Eduard Toldrá will bring us to the Mediterranean tradition whereas Xavier Montsalvatge’s will allow us to travel to the Antilles.

The program also includes songs by Óscar Esplá, Jesús García Leoz, Antoni Parera Fons, Antón García Abril, Astor Piazzolla.

Two zarzuela pieces will complete the concert: one by Cuban composer Gonzalo Roig and another by one of the best known zarzuela composers, Francisco Asenjo Barbieri.

The concert will take place at Areté, 7.30 pm on June 25, 2019. Tickets (Balcony: Php350; Orchestra: Php500) can be obtained directly from Areté or on-line through

For further information please visit Instituto Cervantes’ website ( and Facebook page ( INSTITUTO CERVANTES DE MANILA IMAGE

Search for outstanding microentrepreneurs launched

The annual Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards (CMA), or the search for the country’s most successful microentrepreneurs, has been launched on June, 18, 2019 at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

BSP Gov. Benjamin E. Diokno and Citi Philippines Chief Executive Officer Aftab Ahmed led the launch of the 17th CMA, which honors microentrepreneurs who have overcome poverty by partnering with microfinance institutions that support the government’s financial inclusion and enterprise development initiatives.

Funded by Citi Foundation, the nationwide search is a partnership among BSP, Cit Philippines, and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines (MCPl).

“The partnership with MCPl and Citi Philippines remains one of BSP’s cornerstones in stakeholder engagement for financial inclusion. The Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards, as the fruit of such remarkable partnership, serves as an important platform to convey the message that collaboration with a strong shared vision, coupled with responsive policies and reforms, can bring the best out of the Filipino people, ” Diokno said.

This year’s national selection committee is headed by Diokno and Ahmed and committee members include Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, SM Investments Corporation Vice Chair Tessie Sy-Coson, Ayala Corp. President Fernando Zobel de Ayala, JG Summit Holdings President and CEO Lance Y. Gokongwei, RFM Corp. President and CEO Jose Ma. A. Concepcion III, former Philippine Daily Inquirer Chair Marixi Rufino-Prieto, UP Diliman Chancellor Michael L. Tan, Samahan ng mga Pilipina para sa Reporma at Kaunlaran Philippines President lmelda M. Nicolas, and MSME Development Council Mindanao private sector representative Mary Ann Montemayor.

“We are thrilled that after 17 years, the CMA continues to provide economic empowerment opportunities for microentrepreneurs, including a growing number of young people. We take pride in the fact that this initiative has helped us make a meaningful and lasting contribution on the diversity front. A sizeable percentage of the award recipients have been women and the program has empowered them and helped them improve the lives of their families and communities,” Ahmed said.

The CMA has significantly helped several microentrepreneurs. 2018 Youth Microentrepreneur of the Year winner Mary Grace Bayalas said, “My win at the 2018 CMA helped me expand my business. It was not only the cash prize that was important but also the skills and knowledge I acquired from the training that CMA provided. I also deeply value the connections I have made with fellow microentrepreneurs.”

The awards are open to microenterprises with assets less than P3 million. To be recognized are the CMA National winner, regional awardees from the three major island groups (Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao), Youth Microentrepreneur of the Year and three special awards that are open to different categories including agriculture, green/sustainable business, community leadership, startup micro-business, persons with disabilities, social innovation, financial technology/digital enterprise, and preservation of traditions.

The CMA national winner will receive P200,000 while the three regional awardees, youth awardee and special awardees will each get P100,000. Loan officers and MFl branch partners of the awardees will each get a cash incentive of P10,000. Semi-finalists will get a cash incentive of P10,000.00

Deadline for submission of entries is July 19, 2019. Entries should be submitted to MCPl. Finalists will be chosen by the Country Team composed of officers of Citi Philippines, MCPl and BSP. The National Selection Committee will select the winners who will be awarded on November 26, 2019.

Aside from the prizes, CMA awardees also get access to supplementary tools that can help them grow their businesses. They will receive microinsurance coverage and a nine-day entrepreneurship training at the Citi Microenterprise Development Center, a laptop each and basic computer training. They also gain automatic membership to the CMA Alumni Network to build their market connections and to participate in a mentoring program that will help them further improve their businesses.

CMA was introduced in 2002 when Citi marked its 100th year in the Philippines and in Asia. The awards program has since been adopted as a global program and introduced in over 30 countries. In the last decade, it has honored over 100 Filipinos, many of whom have grown their businesses significantly in terms of profits and assets.

Japan calls on high school Filipino student filmmakers to join competition

Japanese and Filipino authorities are calling on all Filipino high school students in grade 10-12, except those who have already been to Japan as part of previous Asian International Children’s Film Festivals, to join the Asian International Children’s Film Festival 2019.

The Japan Information and Culture Center (JICC) of the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines, in cooperation with the National Youth Commission (NYC), is now accepting entries for the Asian International Children’s Film Festival 2019.

Interested students may submit a three-minute videos tackling the theme: “How do you think about causing others trouble? Is it okay if only you are good? Can you think about other people?”

Deadline for submission of entries is on Aug.16, 2019.

The Asian International Children’s Film Festival was launched as a platform for creative interaction and cultural exchange among young filmmakers from Japan, East Asia, and Southeast Asia by allowing them to share their thoughts on certain universal topics through short films.

The Philippines took home the Grand Prize for last year’s film festival with the entry “I Did It.”

For this year’s top three Filipino finalists, they will go to Japan on Dec. 2, 2019 to participate in activities related to the international leg of the competition.

All expenses for the trip will be shouldered by the Government of Japan through the Jenesys 2019 Program. The Jenesys Program aims to strengthen international relations among the youths of Japan, East Asia, and Southeast Asia by facilitating various cultural and academic exchanges.

To join the competition, please download the official forms and guidelines from the Embassy of Japan website:

For other inquiries, please call the Japan Information and Culture Center at 551-5710 local 2318 or send an e-mail at You may also direct your questions to the office of the National Youth Commission at or call the number 426-8733.

Japan Information and Culture Center – Philippines Image

Tanghalang Pilipino announces 2019-2020 season line-up

      A play paying homage to Filipino to farm workers, another giving life to an Ilocano epic hero, a production fleshing out Muslim-Christian interactions, and the restaging of a musical about Apolinario Mabini have been lined up for the 2019-2020 season of Tanghalang Pilipino.

      Prof. Nicanor Tiongson’s Mabining Mandirigma runs from Aug. 16 to Sept. 1, 2019, featuring Monique Wilson, Arman Ferrer, David Ezra, and Jamie Wilson. Monique and Jamie are children of actor Johnny Wilson.

Mabining Mandirigma is a steam-punk musical theater production on the heroism and love of country by Apolinario Mabini, considered at the “brains of the Philippine Revolution.”

Directed by Chris Millado, the musical also has  tapped Joed Balsamo for music and Toym Imao for production design. Book and lyrics by Tiongson.

The husband-and-wife team of Bibeth Orteza and Carlos Siguion Reyna shares the limelight with actors Jonathan Tad Tadioan, Marco Viana, and the Tanghalang Pilipino’s Actors Company in Katsuri.

From Oct. 4 to 28, Katsuri, an Orteza adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men set in a feudal sugar cane farm, is staged as “a tribute to Filipino farm workers.” Direction is by Siguion Reyna.

The play Lam-ang, a Jen Darlene Torres and Eljay Deldoc version of Pedro Bucaneg’s accounts of the Ilocano epic hero, goes on stage from Nov. 29 to Dec. 15.

Direction by Fitz Bitana and Marco Viana. Cast members are to be announced yet.

      The season closer is Malou Jacob’s Batang Mujahideen, a play advocating peace and understanding between Muslims and Christians. It runs from Feb. 21 to March 8, 2020. Guelan Luarca directs.

For more information, please call 8321125 local 1620 or 1621.