'Camp Rock' is Rep's answer to 'brain drain'


Posted at Oct 23 2012 08:24 PM | Updated as of Oct 24 2012 04:33 AM

'Miss Saigon' spells 'brain drain' for theater, says Gemora

MANILA, Philippines -- The upcoming local stage musical adaptation of Disney's "Camp Rock" series of films will not only introduce "tween" audiences to theater. 

Markki Stroem and Morrisette Amon lead the cast of Repertory Philippines' "Camp Rock,"
which opens on November 16 at the Onstage Theater in Greenbelt, Makati.

More importantly, it will also be a venue to breed new talents that will "replace" those who have earned their place on the international stage.

"As you know, 'Miss Saigon' is coming back to audition pretty soon. So it's going to be another great brain drain. Mawawala na naman 'yung mga artista na nate-train namin," said stage director and actor Audie Gemora of local theater production company Repertory Philippines.

In November, the producers of the acclaimed stage musical "Miss Saigon," the play that launched Filipina performer Lea Salonga's international career, will return to the Philippines to audition hopefuls for the show's West End revival in London.

"But it's heartening to think that there are a lot of young talent coming up, to just replace who ever's going to leave. There's just no end to the supply of talents when it comes to the Philippines," Gemora said during a Monday press conference for "Camp Rock: The Musical."

Repertory Philippines' last show for the year is based on the film "Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam," but will feature songs from the two "Camp Rock" movies from Disney.

The original films starred American singer Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers, pop star Demi Lovato, as well as Filipina-American performer Anna Maria Perez de Tagle.

Addressing supposed criticisms directed at Repertory Philippines for its string of stage adaptations of foreign productions, Gemora said the theater company prides itself in training young local talents, its "biggest contribution" to Philippine theater.

"[Repertory Philippines] has been training talent not only on how good on the stage they could be, but [on finding] the real passion and love for the theater," Gemora said.

Noting the company's beginnings -- Repertory Philippines is now on its 45th year and its 76th season -- Gemora said the theater group has always been "about discovering new talents."

"At that time (1970s), we were the young ones, and when [Repertory Philippines] opened its doors to young people, a lot of young people came in, and new blood pumped into this company. And we're still here, and we're still doing the same thing," he said.

New batch

In pursuit of this goal, Gemora said "Camp Rock," as a source material, was ideal in that it had several roles for young actors, unlike most theater productions.

"It is a great play for young people. The sad thing about most musicals, is that there aren't many musicals that have roles for young people. There's really not much material for them. Here, we discovered a lot of young talents," Gemora said.

According to Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, associate artistic director at Repertory Philippines, 380 hopefuls auditioned for "Camp Rock." This was narrowed down to 200, further down to a hundred, and then down to 50.

Now set to take on the role of Jonas in the original films is Kapamilya singer Markki Stroem. He will be joined by Morissette Amon, who emerged runner-up in a defunct reality talent search in 2010.

As evidenced by the wealth of young talents on stage during the Monday press conference for "Camp Rock," the "replacements" are indeed at the ready to take on the stage their predecessors have left for them to perform on.

"It's this wonderful cycle," said Gemora of Filipino talents leaving for opportunities overseas. "That's life, the circle of life. And it's always going to be better for young people to go abroad and have the experience and working big time, and then to come back and share their know-how as well."

"So we don't have to be afraid," he added, "[because] we're ever ready to train a new batch of talents."

"Camp Rock" will open on November 16 at the Onstage Theater in Greenbelt, Makati, where it will run for one month.