#TheaterPH - Rody Vera’s Walang Aray is Severino Reyes’ Walang Sugat Born Anew

The Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), with its brand-new original Filipino musical Walang Aray, makes a significant return to live performances.

According to playwright Rody Vera, Jun Reyes, an award-winning filmmaker, seasoned commercial director, and the creator of renowned creative content business Indie.Go Media, originally commissioned a screenplay for Walang Aray in 2007. Reyes, Severino Reyes's great-grandson and creative heir, penned the well-known zarzuela Walang Sugat in 1898, which served as the inspiration for Walang Aray.

The Indie.Go Media film project, however, did not push through as originally planned, as Vera tells, “I had so much fun writing the screenplay, but unfortunately, the cost of doing such a wonderful musical film was much too high. The piece was shelved and for more than ten years it remained in the ‘baul’.”

When Vera presented Walang Aray to PETA in 2018, artistic director Maribel Legarda proposed using original music for the production rather than the OPM songs that were originally intended. "At first, I was hesitant, claiming that the OPM song I chose to perform was a crucial component of the overall style and tone of the screenplay. However, when Vince Lim released his first few tracks, I was impressed, Vera gushed. Walang Aray was first performed in a PETA Lab show in 2018 and 2019 under the direction of Ian Segarra with original music and musical direction by Vince Lim, following extensive alterations and revisions to translate the musical from screen to stage. This production received a warm reception from both audiences and critics.

Walang Aray has been updated for the stage by Vera, and it is literature and history brought to life in the most cutting-edge and enjoyable way possible. The musical deftly combines the enduring with the contemporary, using funk and pop music as well as tongue-in-cheek humor.

The musical zarzuela, which has been dubbed "outdated," has been reimagined for modern audiences without sacrificing its roots, and the historical story also has resonance in the present day. It is a farce and a tribute with many dimensions.

Vera states that amidst the humor and entertainment, Walang Aray also provides commentary on the institutions of old. But is it just poking fun at the villains of our history? Not quite, because the institutions placed under farcical scrutiny in Walang Aray are still here, though modified or configured differently.

“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,” Vera explains.

As the first show to hit the PETA stage after the COVID-19 pandemic, Walang Aray represents the hope that theater can now enter a new chapter after years of global tragedy and hardships. “The pandemic was a long, terrible nightmare and now, we’re back on track ready to fulfill what we all planned – and more!,” says Vera. “While we’re aware these things indeed happened and may happen again, we’re also here to remind people that theater, always... ALWAYS dies and is born anew.”

Walang Aray celebrates the joys and victories of Filipinos, while remembering our colorful history in the theater, and against our oppressors. The musical is top-billed by Star Magic’s “hottest musical couple” #KDLex, KD Estrada and Alexa Ilacad, alternating with triple threat theater artists Gio Gahol and Marynor Madamesila as Tenyong and Julia. The cast also features PETA artists Jarred Jaicten, Kiki Baento, Carlon Matobato, Gie Onida, Norbs Portales, Neomi Gonzales, John Moran, Tom Bienvenida, Donn Boco, Gerard Dy, Yeyin Dela Cruz, Ada Tayao, and Ayla Garcia, with Gardo Exconde and Csai Habla as the swings.

The musical features young PETA artists at the helm of its creatives: Ian Segarra (director), Vince Lim (composer, musical director, sound designer, additional lyrics), Happy Constantino (sound designer), Gio Gahol (choreographer), Julio Garcia (production designer) and Ayla Garcia (voice coach). They are joined by guest artists, David Esguerra (lighting designer), and JayLo Cunanan (costume designer).

Walang Aray will run at the PETA Theater Center from Feb 17-May 14, 2023. Tickets are available via TicketWorld.com.ph starting December 10, 2022. For bulk tickets and showbuying inquiries, contact Mitch Go at 0917-539-1112.

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