Juan Miguel Severo, Boo Gabunada join 'Dekada 70' musical

Totel V. de Jesus

Posted at Nov 14 2019 03:48 PM | Updated as of Nov 14 2019 04:43 PM

'Dekada 70 the Musical' tickets now available 

Spoken word artist-playwright-singer-actor Juan Miguel Severo is Willy, the activist best friend of Jules Bartolome. Photo courtesy of Pat Valera

MANILA -- When the new cast members for the re-staging of Pat Valera's "Dekada 70" musical were announced a few days ago, the names Juan Miguel Severo and Boo Gabunada immediately caught the attention of most theater followers.

"I’ve always been a fan of musicals. Frustration ko na mag-musical dati pa. My first was PETA’s 'A Game of Trolls,' which was also about Martial Law and historical revisionism," Severo told ABS-CBN News on Wednesday. Severo played Eman Lacaba in the musical written by Liza Magtoto and directed by PETA artistic director Maribel Legarda. 

In theater circles, Severo is known for writing the critically acclaimed one-act play "Hintayan Ng Langit" in 2015, which was staged at the annual Virgin Labfest at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The story of former lovers reunited in purgatory was re-staged the following year as part of the Revisited Set and was also adapted into an award-winning film in 2018 directed by Dan Villegas with Eddie Garcia and Gina Pareño in the lead roles. 

Besides being an actor for television, film and the stage, Severo is a well-known singer, spoken word artist and activist. And to be part of "Dekada 70" is like destiny. 

"As an artist-activist, obviously I feel strongly about this subject that’s why I didn’t have to think about it, talagang sure agad ako na I want to be part of ('Dekada 70)," Severo said. 

"Dekada 70" is adapted from the seminal best-selling novel by Lualhati Bautista. It tackles the stuggles of a middle-class family during Martial Law, composed of five sons Jules, Gani, Em, Jason and Bingo, told from the point of view of their mother, Amanda Bartolome. Despite her aspirations to have a job and eventually a career, her husband Julian wants her to stay as housewife. 

In 2002, it was adapted into a film under Star Cinema with Vilma Santos as Amanda and Christopher de Leon as Julian. 

The musical adaptation was first staged in June 2018, by UP Dulaang Laboratoryo. 

It had a re-staging with a very limited five-day run, months later in September at The Doreen Black Box, Areté, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City. 

"I was sad last year for not having seen it, but now I’m kinda grateful dahil at least sure ako na my performance won’t be a derivative of my predecessor. Kaka-pressure lalo ‘yon. Galing-galing ni Nicco e," Severo said, referring to Nicco Manalo. 

Manalo is now assistant director for "Dekada 70" but last year he played Willy, the hippie best friend of activist Jules, the eldest of the Bartolome children. It helped that Severo in real life is a good guitar player and singer who plays in bars. If we think about it, he is the older Willy in better times. 

It was Manalo and stage manager John Mark Yap who tipped off Severo of the auditions. 

"Nicco Manalo, who played Willy in the first run, and John Mark Yap, who’s a stage manager, told me they’re holding auditions and I immediately decided to audition. So yeah, I did audition. Prepped a monologue, sang the song, umupo sa sahig at naghintay, waited for a callback, the entire thing," recalled Severo. 

"Even before I came in, the part of Willy na talaga ‘yung goal ko kaya ‘yung kanta niya rin ‘yung kinanta ko' (during the audition)," Severo added.

Severo will alternate with Paw Castillo, whose most recent, acclaimed role was Pepe, the aide de camp of Apolinario Mabini in Tanghalang Pilipino's Gawad Buhay-winning musical "Mabining Mandirigma."

"The role of Willy, previously done by Nicco Manalo, provides that pivotal turn – shifting the mood from child's play to truth. For Willy, we needed someone who can burn the stage. Paw Castillo and Juan Miguel Severo showed (during auditions) that they can lead the revolution," Valera told ABS-CBN News. 

"They won't be Nicco - which is good. They'll be their own flame," added Valera.

BOO GABUNADA

By pure coincidence, Boo Gabunada played Emman, the 'probinsyano' college student in the hit musical "Ang Huling El Bimbo." 

Boo Gabunada joins Dekada 70 the musical as Emmanuel Bartolome, the writer. Photo courtesty of Pat Valera

Now Gabunada is taking the role of Em in "Dekada 70," the third to the eldest Bartolome after Jules and Gani. He's the pensive, analytic and academic Bartolome. 

"I actually 'wrote' the role of Em, the writer, the middle child, the misunderstood, with Boo in mind," Valera revealed, adding that Gabunada wanted to be part of "Dekada 70" since last year's staging. 

"He really wanted to do it but then had eventual schedule conflicts. We did find a gem with Esteban Fulay, though. Now, Boo joins the cast to alternate with Esteban -- not to claim his role, but to speak his truth as well," Valera said. 

The other new member of the cast is Justine Peña, who played Gabbi in "Sa Wakas" the groundbreaking rock musical featuring the songs of Sugarfree and Ebe Dancel. 

For "Dekada 70" she will play Evelyn, the girlfriend and eventually, wife, to Gani Bartolome. 

"Justine aced her auditions. She was present, prepared, and determined – as many were. But when I asked her why she wanted to do this play, almost in tears, she said, 'Because these are also the stories I need to tell'. And I believed her. I really do," Valera said. 

The times indeed call for the re-staging of "Dekada 70," now set for a limited three-weekend run from February 21, 2020, to March 8, 2020. The young had to be "woke" and reminded of the past that seems to be on the verge of being repeated. 

The musical's first weekend run will coincide with the 34th anniversary of the People Power revolution, which is being celebrated from February 22 to 25. The historic peaceful protests led to the downfall of the 20-year regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos and forced him and his family to exile in Hawaii. 

The period from January to March next year also coincides with the 50th anniversary of the First Quarter Storm, a series of protests by student activists that began in 1970 at UP Diliman. FQS led to the declaration of Martial Law. Valera said there's a part in the play that tackles "FQS". 

But Valera has other surprises. In a latest Facebook post, he said, "The ensemble also has more than a handful of newcomers, such as Ransom Collective band member Jermaine Choa Peck."

Produced by Black Box Productions, the same group behind the mega-hit musical "Mula Sa Buwan," it was announced that tickets for "Dekada 70's" opening and second weekend of performances have been made available via Ticket2me at discounted rates since Wednesday, November 13. 

Valera said tickets for the closing week, which is from March 6 to 8, will be made available only in January 2020.