GMG Productions aims to bring 2 musicals a year to PH

Totel V. de Jesus

Posted at Mar 09 2023 07:10 PM

‘The Sound of Music’ is 30th show brought to PH by GMG Productions

Photo courtesy of Joselito “Toots” Tolentino
GMG Productions' Sam Sewell flanked by Markki Stroem and Karylle Tatlonghari. Photo courtesy of Joselito “Toots” Tolentino

MANILA -- The recently opened Broadway hit “The Sound of Music” at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater is the 30th show brought to Manila by the same group that brought us “Cats,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “Matilda the Musical,” among others. 

This Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic about the Von Trapp family’s escape to freedom in World War II opened last March 7 and runs five days a week, Tuesday to Sunday until March 26.

The much-awaited return of this Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic in Manila is part of the international tour presented by Broadway International Group, Broadway Asia, AMA Group of Companies and in association with GMG Productions.

“As far as the team is concerned, if we’re going to count some repeats, ‘The Sound of Music’ marks our 30th production,” Sam Sewell, associate producer of GMG Productions, told ABS-CBN News via Facebook Messenger. 

Among those that had second runs in Manila were “Phantom of the Opera,” “Wicked,” “Mama Mia” and “Cats.” 

“So that’s eight already,” she said, although not including “The Sound of Music” at the Solaire Theatre in 2017.

“Our team was involved but it was a different production, the set was different, the cast members were different, even the staging was different,” she told ABS-CBN News. 

Two productions per year

She revealed GMG Productions are only able to bring two big productions per year. 

“That’s our cap. It still depends on the tour producers who are separate from us. There are limitations in the physical productions. There’s a calendar for almost two years depending on the availability of theaters around the world. That’s how much time we have in between seasons,” she explained.

In mid-2022, when local theater companies bravely resumed staging productions halted by COVID-19, there were a few hiccups. These were postponed shows due to actors testing positive to the coronavirus, sometimes a few hours before opening night. 

When GMG Productions and its partners joined in the fourth quarter of the year with the limited one-month-long staging of “We Will Rock You” at the newly-opened Samsung Performing Arts Theater in Circuit Makati City, there was only the severe tropical storm ‘Paeng’ (international name ‘Nalgae’) during the first week after opening night that deterred some audiences. After that, everything went on smoothly. 

Broadway fix

Since the opening of the theaters last year, GMG Productions has been the only one currently giving Filipino theater lovers their Broadway fix.

Atlantis Productions and Nine Works Theatricals are still in hiatus. In December, there’s Repertory Philippines with “Carousel,” which Toff De Venecia directed as a stripped-down musical. 

And that’s all. 

Now on the third year of the pandemic and when everything seemed to be manageable, “The Sound of Music” comes in the first quarter of 2023 to give the Filipino theater lovers their “Broadway shot in the arms.”

“For us, it’s such an honor and a pleasure to be providing this kind of productions for the Filipino audience,” Sewell told ABS-CBN News.

“Unlike before, if you wanted to watch ‘Phantom of the Opera’ or ‘Lion King’ with the original sets and costumes, you have to buy tickets overseas because they’re only available there. We’re glad in helping expand the experiences of the Filipino audiences. 

“And now, there’s the opportunity for Filipino actors to join the production. That would make it doubly special. We’re happy for Markki Stroem and Karylle Tatlonghari joining ‘The Sound of Music’,” she added. 

Tatlonghari plays Baroness Elsa von Schraeder, the beautiful, cosmopolitan woman who has her eyes set firmly on Captain von Trapp, while Stroem plays the handsome Rolf.

They two Filipino actors join the cast from the international tour.

There’s Jill-Christine Wiley, who has played the iconic character Maria Rainer 500 times. Trevor Martin essays Captain von Trapp and Lauren Kidwell as Mother Abbes. 

During the press con, there was a question on the anti-Nazi political undertone to which Martin said, “There’s no way to get around it. It’s a very real thing that happened to these real people – Georg von Trapp was a real person, so was Maria Rainer, and obviously these situations really did happen.”

“There are some parts that are brought into the theatrical realm a little bit more in the show, but that context is still there. The symbols are there on stage as well, the same way that they would have in that time period, and you have these real people reacting to those real symbols, to that real authoritarian tyrannical government that’s forcing them out of their home. 

“As I became more political, I am more appreciative of the anti-dictatorship libertarian message of the musical play,” Martin added.

In an earlier interview, Kidwell said this version is for audiences who have seen the movie and who have not. “Those who has no idea what ‘The Sound of Music’ is, you should come, more than anything because the story will speak to you. ”

Broadway International Group and Broadway Asia co-founder Marc Routh said the original director Jack O’Brien has reimagined the show "to really dig deep into the heart of the show and find a lot of the humanity, a lot of the honesty, and the integrity of this really beautiful musical.” 

“The Sound of Music” follows the true-to-life story of Maria, the fun-loving governess who changed the lives of the widowed Captain von Trapp and his seven children by reintroducing them to music. The show culminates with the family’s flight across the Austrian mountains as tensions rise prior to the outbreak of World War II.

The musical is celebrating its 65th birthday in 2024. It has won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and the Grammy Award for Best Show Album, for its original run. The classic 1965 film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer won five Oscars, including Best Picture. 

What's next?

When GMG Productions helped bring “Matilda the Musical” to Manila in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic happened and in the middle of the run, like all live performances it was closed without a definite date for re-opening.

Tickets were refunded and the cast members all composed of foreign actors, mostly Australians and South Africans, managed to catch the last flights out of Manila to their home countries before the government-imposed quarantine lockdowns started on March 15, 2020. 

“(With) Matilda, the productions had to stop back then. Now, is it coming back to Manila? I guess it depends on the availability of the tour. It’s on a different leg of and Manila is not included,” Sewell told ABS-CBN News last Friday in an online conversation.

“We may not see it soon but I won’t say never, not at least in the next few years,” she said. 

Asked about the next big musicals they are bringing to the Philippines after “The Sound of Music,” Sewell opted to keep mum about it. 

“Eto muna, ‘The Sound of Music’ muna,” she said, laughing. 

“It is a very exciting season coming up for GMGP. Everything that has been put hold in the pandemic we’re gonna come up with a bang in the next season. Abangan.”