MANILA – They were asked to come home and many heeded the call.
Repertory Philippines celebrated its 50th anniversary on Sunday with a star-studded, one-night-only musical extravaganza at The Theater at Solaire with an estimated 135-member cast of past and present members in attendance.
“I don’t think you will ever see a show of this magnitude ever again wherein all the bright stars of Rep and theater will be performing for you on one stage for one night,” noted Repertory Philippines president and CEO Mindy Perez-Rubio in her opening remarks.
It was no empty boast. With eight directors and six choreographers, the fast-paced show dubbed “Rep: 50 Years of Telling Stories” was more than anything a showcase of talent.
Rep, founded in 1967 by the late Zeneida Amador, together with Baby Barredo, Leo Martinez and Tony and Monina Mercado, was created as an actors’ company and through the years it has become a training ground for the brightest names in Philippine theater.
“Rep is the seed that sprouted roots that grew into a magnificent tree that bore to fruit of actors and artists that later on spread their wings and started their own companies and made names for themselves. And all these companies can trace their roots definitely back to that one magnificent tree called Rep," Perez-Rubio said.
Among the top names who participated in Sunday's gala were Rep stalwarts Monique Wilson, Audie Gemora, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Bart Guingona, Joy Virata, Michael Williams, Pinky Amador, Cocoy Laurel, Miguel Faustmann and Freddie Santos.
It also included special appearances from Mitch Valdes, Markki Stroem and Morisette Amon, who at one point in their careers starred in a Rep production.
Notably absent on Sunday was Lea Salonga, who is currently in New York to attend the Tony Awards. Salonga, along with many of the cast members of international productions of "Miss Saigon," started their theater careers in Rep.
But Sunday's show wasn't just about actors. Rep also acknowledged many of the artists who have worked at the company from directors and choreographers to costume, light and set designers and makeup artists.
It even included a segment, set to Stephen Sondheim's "Putting It Together," that paid tribute to the stage crew; while a touching "In Memoriam" number included the company's office and administrative staff who have passed away.
The finale, which featured the entire cast onstage, featured a symbolic "passing of the torch" as original cast members of Rep's acclaimed production of "Les Miserables" gave their microphones to "new Rep blood" that includes Caisa Borromeo, Joaquin Valdez and Becca Coates, fresh from her widely praised performance in "Agnes of God."
An emotional Gemora, who joined Rep in 1978 at the age of 19, admitted crying "shamelessly onstage at the end of the show."
"You know what they say when your life flashes before you," Gemora, now 58, shared on Facebook. "Well all the memories flooded in that moment in no particular detail but collectively as a feeling. I was among my kind."
"We... who have flown the coop will always return to the nest where we learned to fly. This commemoration was important so that old guards and the next generation alike understand and commit to our calling... to tell stories onstage," he wrote.
Here are some of the memorable numbers from “Rep: 50 Years of Telling Stories.”
Monique Wilson performs "The Story Goes On" from the musical "Baby." Gian Carlo Vizcarra, Star Cinema
Joy Virata leads the ensemble in a rousing performance of "All The Thinks You Can Think" from the musical "Seussical." Gian Carlo Vizcarra, Star Cinema
Ballerina Maritoni Tordesillas and PJ Rebullida dance a ballet to "If I Love You" from the musical "Carousel." Gian Carlo Vizcarra, Star Cinema
Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo leads the ensemble in performing "Magic to Do" from the musical "Pippin." Gian Carlo Vizcarra, Star Cinema
Cocoy Laurel returns to the Rep stage as he reprises his role as Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables." Gian Carlo Vizcarra, Star Cinema
Mitch Valdes gamely joins JM Rodriguez, Franco Laurel, Jack Salud and Red Nuestro in the number "Comedy Tonight" from the musical "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." Gian Carlo Vizcarra, Star Cinema
Miguel Faustmann reprises his role as Tevye from "Fiddler on the Roof" as he leads the company in singing "Tradition." Gian Carlo Vizcarra, Star Cinema
Audie Gemora (third from right) perform "One" from "A Chorus Line," which was his first production for Rep. Gian Carlo Vizcarra, Star Cinema
Morissette Amon reprises her role in "Camp Rock" opposite original leading man Markki Stroem (not in photo). Gian Carlo Vizcarra, Star Cinema
Raymond Lauchengco (with microphone) performs in the finale "Come Home to Rep." Gian Carlo Vizcarra, Star Cinema