Ten years ago, Sandino Martin had his baptism in professional theater via Atlantis Productions’ “Spring Awakening.” He was Otto, a supporting role and one of the “disturbed” friends of the central character, Melchior Gabor, played by Joaquin Pedro Valdes.
It was 2009 and this original German play on repressed teenagers by Frank Wedekind that was adapted into a musical by Steven Sater (book and lyrics) and pop rocker Duncan Sheik (music) had been running on Broadway for three years, having debuted at the Eugene O’ Neill Theater in December 2006.
“Iyong audition tapes namin, pinadala sa States. Ganun ka-rigid,” Martin recalled. He was only 17 then and it was a big break for him.
“Imagine Lea Michele was discovered via ‘Spring Awakening,’ first in Off Broadway then Broadway,” he noted. Atlantis’ re-staging ran from September 25 to October 17, 2009 at the RCBC Theater.
For the past two weekends, Martin has been playing Melchior Gabor in Ateneo Blue Repertory’s re-staging of this modern classic which will run until this Sunday, April 14.
“I’ve come full circle,” he told ABS-CBN News. “After doing television, films, and other plays and musicals, when I heard they (BlueRep) are re-staging this, I knew I can’t let this opportunity pass me by.”
BlueRep initially staged “Spring Awakening” from February to March 2013 with director Andrei Nikolai Pamintuan. Curiously, it was the same year his opus, “Sa Wakas: The Pinoy Rock Musical,” had its debut run.
For the 2019 re-staging, Missy Maramara is co-directing with Darrell Uy, and EJ Yatco returns as musical director.
Choreographer and sounds designer is Mica Fajardo of Repertory Philippines. Set design and lighting design are by Ohm David and Miyo Sta. Maria, respectively.
“I know EJ (Yatco) and I asked him if I can audition. And luckily, I got in. I went to the callback,” Martin said.
“Back in 2009, I really thought I understood the play,” Martin said. At the time, he was a theater arts major at UP Diliman and was an active member of Dulaang UP.
He had acted for several DUP plays like Floy Quintos’ “Atang” and Anton Juan’s “Hinabing Pakpak.” But when he did “Spring Awakening,” he was on a leave of absence.
Joaquin Pedro Valdes remembered Martin during those times, calling him by the nickname Inno.
Now that his Otto is playing Melchior, Valdes said: “Inno has grown to be such a wonderful performer. He was a like our little brother when he played Otto in our 2009 production of ‘Spring Awakening’ with ATEG (Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group).”
He went on: “Always asking questions and so eager to learn. I couldn’t be prouder to hear that he’s playing Melchior Gabor, a role I love dearly. I couldn’t have picked a finer actor to pass the baton to. Just sad I can’t see him slay the role.” Since 2018, Valdes has been playing Thuy in the touring production of “Miss Saigon” in the United Kingdom.
After the Atlantis run, Martin went back to school and acted in more plays like DUP’s “Isang Panaginip na Fili” and Gantimpala Theater’s “Katipunan Anak ng Bayan,” playing Bonifacio. For the first time with PETA, he acted in the rap musical about William Shakespeare titled “William.”
In 2013, Martin was back to Atlantis for “Piaf,” played by the magnificent Pinky Amador. He was also part of Ballet Philippines’ “Manhid” in 2015, and “Awitin Mo, Isasayaw Ko” in 2016.
In those 10 years between doing musicals and plays, Martin has also become active in soaps and films. Newspaper and magazine write-ups had the phrases “up-and-coming” and “promising indie actor” attached to him.
Then came Vincent de Jesus’ “Changing Partners,” the award-winning hit musical that was also adapted into an equally prize-winning film that sealed Martin’s career as an actor in both genres.
In 2018, Martin played Pilo in 9 Works Theatrical’s re-staging of De Jesus and Ricky Lee’s “Himala: The Musical,” which incidentally will have another run in September this year.
On television, he is also part of the upcoming ABS-CBN soap titled “Mea Culpa” starring Jodi Sta. Maria. It is co-directed by Dan Villegas (same director of “Changing Partners” the movie) and Andoy Ranay. His co-stars are Tony Labrusca and Bela Padilla.
One may wonder how Martin is able to juggle his time between doing television and musical theater.
We asked him how a typical week is for him, and he said: “Monday is taping for ‘Mea Culpa’ from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. the next day. Then on Tuesday, I have to be awake before 2 p.m. to do rehearsals for ‘Spring Awakening’ until 11 p.m. Then wake up at 7 a.m., Wednesday, for another day of taping. M-W-F, I do the soap then T-Th-S, I am with Blue Rep, until Sunday,” he said. Incidentally, we are reminded of Duncan Sheik’s hit in the 1990s, “Barely Breathing.”
“Kaya naman, ginusto ko ito eh,” he added, laughing at the realization on how he was able to cope with such a busy schedule.
At BlueRep, Martin is aware that he is the most senior, the “kuya.” Cast members are composed of BlueRep’s homegrown talents like Krystal Kane and Erika Rafael playing Wendla, Ian Pangilinan as Martin’s alternate for Melchior, and Jason Tan Liwag playing Moritz, among others.
Now 27, Martin is able to observe the changes in younger theater actors. “Iba na ang lenggwahe nila,” he said with a giggle.
“So after 10 years, somehow may isang reason. I always believe it’s going full circle. Now, I am doing Melchior, am studying someone else’s belief. And the voice of ‘Spring Awakening’ is Melchior.”
And like summing all up those 10 years, he made reference to Valdes’ term of endearment: “Ako po si Sandino. Hindi na ako Inno.”
“Spring Awakening” runs until April 14, with 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. shows, at the Hyundai Hall of Arete at Ateneo de Manila University.