9 Works stages rom-com for Valentine's Day

By Miguel Dumaual, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jan 15 2013 06:30 PM | Updated as of Jan 16 2013 06:18 AM

'They're Playing Our Song' promises relatable love story

MANILA, Philippines -- Local theater company 9 Works Theatrical is welcoming Valentine's season with the revival of the musical comedy "They're Playing Our Song."

Written by award-winning composers Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager, the Broadway show was last staged in the Philippines in 2000. At the time, Tony Award winner Lea Salonga and Singaporean actor Adrian Pang took on the characters of lyricist Sonia Walsk and collaborator-turned-partner Vernon Gersch.

The local staging of "They're Playing Our Song" is directed by veteran theater actor Robbie Guevara. Photo by Miguel Dumaual, ABS-CBNnews.com

"Hamlisch and Sager were actually [in a relationship] before," Robbie Guevara, director of 9 Works Theatrical's "They're Playing Our Song," said during a press conference for the production held Tuesday at The Peninsula Manila hotel in Makati.

"'They're Playing Our Song' is actually the story of how they met, how they collaborated, how they eventually fell in love. What best way to tell a story than through something that's personal? They took that step, and it stood the test of time, and now, it's one of the best musicals ever written," he said.

Although the former couple eventually married their respective partners after their relationship, the maiden staging of the musical in 1978 effectively immortalized their love story.

"Even though it was written in the late '70s," Guevara said, "When you see our show, you'll feel that today, 10 years, 20 years and even 50 years from now, it will still hold its ground, and everyone will be able to relate to it."

Scheduled to run starting February 8 at the RCBC Plaza in Makati, "They're Playing Our Song" will feature Kapamilya singer-actress Nikki Gil and stage actor Lorenz Martinez in the lead roles.

The production promises Filipino viewers a faithful revival of the original, with some "modern" touches to the songs' instrumentation.

The setting, for instance, was not updated to 2013, according to Guevara.

"[We did not change the setting] mainly because the script calls for it -- he (Vernon) looks for a phone booth, because there were no cellphones yet that day," he said, adding in jest, "Also, it's more entertaining to see [the cast] clad in 1981 clothes, it's more interesting."

"But in terms of modernizing or making it more contemporary, the musical arrangement (Joseph Tolentino) will have that modern feel. We're not changing notes, we're not changing the way Hamlisch wrote the song, absolutely not," Guevara said.

Two hours of conversation

Also intact in the local staging is the original's "relatable" love story, which is told through "two hours of conversation."

Lorenz Martinez and Nikki Gil take on the characters of lyricist Sonia Walsk and collaborator-turned-partner Vernon Gersch in 9 Works Theatrical's "They're Playing Our Song". Photo by Miguel Dumaual, ABS-CBNnews.com

After taking on the title role in 9 Works Theatrical's staging of "Sweet Charity" last year, Gil related on Tuesday that the "two-person dialogue" in "They're Playing a Song" has proven to be a challenging undertaking.

"It's dialogue-heavy, seeing as there are only two characters in the show, and without giving too much, 50% of it would be me, and 50% of it would be Loy (Martinez). That, for me, was very challenging because it's kind of physically and mentally taxing to memorize a conversation," she said.

The characters' "inner voices" are also heard as Greek choruses join them on stage. Playing the male ensemble are stage actors James Stacey, Reb Atadero and Noel Rayos. The female ensemble, on the other hand, is composed of theater actresses Peachy Atilano, Jill Pena and Anna Santamaria.

Vernon and Sonia's conversations, lyrical or otherwise, will be relatable to any audience member, Guevara said.

According to the director, the local production will "emphasize" these familiar scenarios to make for a more "meaningful theater experience."

Likewise, Gil said, "When you hear it, when you listen to it, it's like eavesdropping on a conversation, which, let's admit it, we all love to do. Mahilig tayo maki-tsismis."

"The story's so real, it's so easy to relate to it, and I'm sure at one point in the story, you'll be like, 'Okay, yeah, I did go through that. I did have this conversation before,'" she said.

"They're Playing Our Song" will run at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium at RCBC Plaza in Makati until March 3.