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Walang Aray: PETA’s ‘irreverent’ musical finally returns

Walang Aray: PETA’s ‘irreverent’ musical finally returns

Walang Aray: PETA's ‘irreverent’ musical finally returns

After three years of hiatus because of the pandemic, the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) makes a resounding comeback to live performances with the musical Walang Aray by Rody Vera. It is an all-original Filipino musical based on the 1902 zarzuela, Walang Sugat by Severino Reyes. The media launch occurred on November 28. The PETA showed what it prepared, announcing how it will kick-start 2023 with Walang Aray after years of a global pandemic.

Walang Aray: PETA’s ‘irreverent’ musical finally returns

I hope ‘Walang Aray’ is a bandage that allows us to heal our wounds so we can soldier on and move forward. . . because there is nowhere for us to go but to move forward,” PETA Artistic Director Maribel Legarda shared in her opening speech.

She also discussed the theater’s collaboration with Indie.Go Media and Star Magic. The partnership between the three companies comes after the displacement of the creative and cultural sectors during the pandemic. Indie.Go CEO-Founder Jun Reyes has been the driving force behind Walang Aray production, creating a screenplay based on his great-grandfather’s Walang Sugat. Moreover, working with Star Magic allows PETA to continue its tradition of inviting television and film artists.

Directed by Ian Segarra, the musical features young artists and creatives from PETA, giving life to Rody Vera’s updated stage version. Included on the creative team are Gio Gahol as the choreographer, David Esguerra as the lighting designer, Jaylo Conanan as the costume designer, musical director and sound designer Vince Lim, and production designer Julio Garcia. With only three months left before opening night, the theater company shared a peek at its staging elements. PETA showed what the audience should expect from the Walang Aray production.

Bombshell Performances, Gen Z Slangs, and Historical Relevance

Right off the bat, PETA’s Maribel Legarda told us—the audience—to bear with the production as they rehearsed for only three weeks. That disclaimer, however, did not prepare us for the brilliance that is Walang Aray. Despite watching only two acts, we were hooked the second the lights revealed the cast in its glory. The first act revolved around Julia and Tenyong, played by Marynor Madamesila and Gio Gahol respectively. In under 10 minutes, we found ourselves chuckling and giggling as the two banter, displaying their otherworldly chemistry for us to bear witness.

Neomi Gonzales also stood out as Juana, Julia’s mother. Her portrayal of a Filipino mother was more than spot-on. She flawlessly captured how a Filipino mother communicates with her children—loud, concerned, and charmingly inquisitive of her child’s secrets. Playing Julia’s suitor Miguel from Europe, Jarred Jaicten also gave an astounding performance. His portrayal of Tenyong’s supposed rival for Julia’s heart left us wondering whether we should root for Tenyong or him. Kiks Baento and Carlon Motabato also shone as Monica and Lucas, Julia and Tenyong’s trusted house helpers. Despite playing the leads’ helpers, the pair definitely stole the spotlight with its humorous exchanges.

Tumindig at Umibig, says ‘Walang Aray’

Besides the formidable cast’s undeniable chemistry with each other, what really stood out was how Walang Aray balanced comedy, heart, and historical relevance. Although it wasn’t historically accurate (because of the dialogue’s Gen Z slang), the musical allowed us to be in two places at once: the past and the present. It was set during the Spanish colonization but the dialogue made everything feel timely. Besides the modern touch of trends and lingo, the musical’s message is also relevant to the current political landscape.

Walang Aray’s tagline is: “Tumindig at Umibig”. That phrase, alone, was enough for us to grasp what the musical wanted to express. This “irreverent” musical, as PETA’s Maribel Legarda described it, did not merely blur the line between fighting for what’s right and fighting for what you love. It merged the two, revealing that sometimes, what we love and what’s right are connected. The musical also didn’t stick to one type of love—romantic. It explored other kinds such as familial love and patriotism. Packaged in glittered bombshell performances, we can absolutely say that Walang Aray succeeded in its call to fight and love or fight for love (tumindig at umibig).

Curtain Call: The Cast and Production Behind the Musical

Former Pinoy Big Brother contestants and Star Magic’s Hottest Musical Couple, Alexa Ilacad and KD Estrada will alternate with theater veterans Marynor Madamesila and Gio Gahol. The four (4) artists will share the lead roles of Julia and Tenyong. With KD and Alexa’s shared fondness and talent for music and acting, the audience can expect a spectacular performance from them. But because Walang Aray is the pair’s first theatrical production, they found it challenging. KD shared some of his worries,

‘Pag nagkamali ka sa stage, dire-diretso lang ‘yon, you can’t stop it. I was born and raised speaking English kahit dito ako pinalaki. That was the biggest challenge for me. I’m really practicing Tagalog every day, kahit sa parents ko tina-Tagalugan [tina-Tagalog] ko na sila. I’m working on it.

Meanwhile, Alexa said she initially hesitated with the role. According to her, it wasn’t like her experiences as a TV actress and performer. She added,

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We don’t have to memorize a hundred pages. We don’t sing live and there’s a prompter if we need to. Ibang klase. I had no faith in myself but everyone in Star Magic believed in me and said ‘kaya mo ‘yan’.

Walang Aray: PETA's ‘irreverent’ musical finally returns 10
Photo | Florence Atabay

PETA artists Gie Onida, Norbs Portales, Neomi Gonzales, John Moran, Tom Bienvenida, Donn Boco, Gerard Dy, Yeyin Dela Cruz, Ada Tayao, Ayla Garcia, Gardo Exconde, and Csai Habla are also involved in the production. Despite undoubtedly being put together in a short amount of time, the musical successfully demonstrated our historic fight against our oppressors.

The hypocrisy, the power trips, hidden desires, deceptions, and idiosyncrasies—they’re all still here. And I think that’s exactly what makes this ‘slight’ adjustment from the original zarzuela relatable to us today,” Rody Vera said.

Walang Aray: Relieving the Arays of the Displaced Artists during the pandemic

The adjustments to the musical’s songs and dialogue really make the show more relevant to the audience. Walang Aray incorporates modern slang, funk and pop music, and tongue-in-cheek humor that people of all ages can enjoy. With music by Vince Lim alongside the changes made, this comeback will surely hit differently after its 3-year hiatus. Its tagline tumindig at umibig” encourages the audience to overcome obstacles and stand up for what they love. . . may it be it their country, their family, and/or their love for art and theater.

From its poster to the people behind it, Walang Aray is described as “irreverent”. The disclaimer served as a warning or a proud announcement that it is unlike any other musical play. “Irreverent” means poking fun at things that should be taken seriously. Walang Aray certainly achieved that without overstepping, without straying far away from its source material: Severino Reyes’ Walang Sugat. We dare say that this musical is an ode to Severino Reyes. It also feels like a love letter addressed to the artists forced to stop creating because of the pandemic.

Needless to say, it’s always warm and nice to witness such love and passion. We are more than honored to get a glimpse of that love. With over 50 shows, Walang Aray will run at the PETA Theater Center from February 17 to May 14, 2023. Tickets will go on sale starting December 10, 2022 via TicketWorld.com.ph.

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