MANILA -- Showbiz royalty Karylle was only in high school when she first encountered the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “Carousel.”
“I remember watching ‘Carousel’ at Meralco Theater with my dad [Dr. Modesto Tatlonghari],” she recalled. “That was in 1996.
“I also had a classmate who was studying piano and we would always do ‘If I Loved You’ in her home all the time. That was 25 years ago. It was jamming for us, our karaoke song, although there was no karaoke yet at that time.
“But something else always keeps coming back every time we would hang out, because we would always hang out in friend’s houses. The music of ‘Carousel’ was so memorable.”
This time, Karylle steps into the shoes of Julie Jordan in Repertory Philippines’ staging of “Carousel,” that goes onstage starting November 26 at the CCP’s Tanghalang Ignacio Jimenez (Black Box Theater). Gian Magdangal plays Billy Bigelow.
Both artists are making their Repertory Philippines debut, as well as Toff De Venecia, who is making his directorial debut for Rep.
“There have been a number of plays that have been out this season, this year,” Karylle pointed out. “Of course, we’d like to join them. It’s a lot to feel all at the same time. I’m learning a lot, feeling rather like a student again.
“It’s just great because Toff is a great teacher. There’s much to learn and we do want to give the audience something more. We cannot break out from where we left off. Who are we now? We are exploring that, as well.
“All the feelings are coming out and I’m seeing that in our safe place. It’s just nice to play around and not make a mistake. It’s fun. Thank you for being in this journey with us. This is a collaborative effort.”
Karylle and Magdangal first worked together in “West Side Story,” staged in 2008. “We were classmates in our Trumpets workshop,” she recalled. “We would jog around the theater. That was something I look back on when I think of Gian.
“From our audition in ‘Carousel,’ I knew this was going to work. We know each other well. Our families know each other. The trust is there. After my audition, he said, ‘Thank you.’ I asked, ‘Why?’
“That kind of made an impression that it was going to be a good partnership. If I got the role.”
Popular songs from “Carousel” include “If I Loved You,” “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
“Gian has been with us since the 2020 staging,” De Venecia said. “We were already three weeks into rehearsals when the pandemic happened.
“The ‘Carousel’ that you will see now is radically different from the 2020 staging, which was radically different, anyway.
“Coming from a 21st century, post-modern perspective, this is the ‘Carousel’ that we know, but then, it’s also the ‘Carousel’ that we don’t,” De Venecia explained. "Maybe that can present a vision for theater in terms of how it’s to be created post-pandemic."
Also in “Carousel” are Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante as Carrie Pipperidge, Lorenz Martinez as Enoch Snow, Noel Rayor as Jigger Craigin, Mia Bolaños as Nettie Fowler, Gia Gequinto as Louise, Roxy Aldosa as Mrs. Mullin and Red Nuestro as David Bascombie.
Karylle’s last musical was Ballet Philippines’ “Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko,” in 2016. “A lot of people had a realization this pandemic,” she said. “They changed jobs or went to another country.
“Given the chance, I really wanted to return to theater. Then the chance came. That’s why I’m doing ‘Carousel’.”
Karylle first ventured into theater musical in 2000, when she played Princess Sapphire in “Little Mermaid.” That was followed seven years later by “Seussical” (2007) where she took on the role as Cat in the Hat.
Her memorable Maria in “West Side Story” opposite Christian Bautista happened in 2008. Then she played Sita in “Rama Hari” in 2012, followed by the lead in “Cinderella” in 2013.
The 2020 original staging of Rep’s “Carousel” was supposed to have an orchestra and a cast of 30-plus actors. However, when they continued the conversation for “Carousel” throughout this pandemic, Rep was compelled to whittle down the cast to 14 actors.
“We are grateful to the estate of Rodgers and Hammerstein for extending Rep’s contract,” said Rep’s artistic director Liesl Batucan-del Rosario. “They are very much aware of what’s happening globally to the theater industry.”