Soprano Celine Fabie to alternate with Aicelle Santos in new 'Himala' run

Totel V. de Jesus

Posted at Aug 28 2019 01:00 PM | Updated as of Aug 28 2019 02:09 PM

Soprano Celine Fabie with original Elsa Aicelle Santos at the press conference for 'Himala: Isang Musikal.' Erickson Dela Cruz 

MANILA -- The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical's restaging of "Himala: Isang Musikal" this year gets a major boost with new cast members led by soprano Celine Fabie, Vic Robinson, and Shiela Francisco. 

This was announced on Tuesday by the production team as the three performed excerpts from the musical with original cast members from the 2018 run.

May Bayot-de Castro, the original Elsa in the 2003 run by Tanghalang Pilipino (TP), also makes a comeback, this time to play Nanay Saling, alternating with Francisco. 

Fabie will play Elsa, alternating with Aicelle Santos, the original Elsa in the 2018 run. A long-time member of the Ryan Cayabyab Singers, Fabie's theater credits include "Katy! the Musical," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Once On This Island," and "Jesus Christ Superstar."

Fabie is also the granddaughter of the late legendary actress Mona Lisa, who died on August 25, at age 97. 

Meanwhile, theater fanatics who are still dealing with their separation anxiety from "Ang Huling El Bimbo" will get to see Francisco and Robinson again onstage. Francisco holds the record of playing Tiya Dely for the entire 115 performances of the rock musical with no alternate. Robinson, who essayed the roles of Young Emman and squad leader Andre Antonio in "AHEB" will play Pilo, the boyfriend of Elsa's friend Chayong, alternating with 2018 original cast member Sandino Martin. 

The cast and creative team at the press conference for 'Himala: Isang Musikal.' Erickson Dela Cruz 

Based on the iconic 1982 film written by Ricky Lee and directed by the late National Artist for Film Ishmael Bernal, "Himala" follows the story of teenaged faith-healer Elsa, played by Nora Aunor, in a remote community called Barrio Cupang during the Martial Law years. 

For the musical, Lee also served as writer and lyricist, with Vincent de Jesus as composer and musical director.

Lee said he wrote the story of Elsa inspired by real events.

"Based sa real events sa isang dalagita sa Mindoro noong 1967, upon which I wrote a script in 1976, peddled it around, walang makuhang producer, until it won a grant sa ECP in 1982. Buhay pa 'yung dalagita, midwife na sa Saudi," Lee said in a follow-up interview Wednesday. ECP or the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines is a government arm during the Marcos years tasked to produce original, local films. 

A critique of religious fanaticism, blind faith, the Filipinos' adherence to supertitious beliefs, among others, the story of Elsa has become one of the most compelling, haunting tales in modern cinema. 

When Vice President Leni Robredo saw "Himala: Isang Musikal" last year, she praised it for its "awesome performances, beautiful songs, excellent production and having a timely message." She endorsed: "The musical is a must-watch."

National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab describes this acclaimed film-to-stage production "a triumph of theater and music." 

Directed by the much-awarded theater wunderkind, Ed Lacson Jr., "Himala: Isang Musikal" will have a limited run from September 20 to October 20, 2019 at the Power Mac Center Spotlight in Circuit Makati. 

"We're restaging this musical now for the present generation, for those who are too young when it was staged in 2003, for those who missed it last year, so that they'll experience how beautiful 'Himala' is and why it's called a modern classic in Philippine theater history," said Lacson.