(To be ‘gay’ is a Matter of Choice?!)
Talking about tragic love stories, the modern-day author that befits the identity is Nicholas Sparks since most of his novels especially ‘The Notebook’, ‘A Walk to Remember.’ and ‘Message in a Bottle’ are classic examples of such theme. But, what I’ve observed, most of the gay-themed flicks or anything that has to do with gayness, there is really a tinge of sorrow or grief and mostly tragic in its conclusion. It’s ironic that the gay people are supposed to be ‘gay’ by nature, but their lives are not really ‘gay’ all the time. Well, life is pretty much unfair even to those ‘straight’ and so-called ‘normal’ people. In the musical I just witnessed—I could daresay, being gay of any gay’s life is not all gay or should I say to be ‘gay’ is always a matter of choice?
After its initial sold-out three-week run in 2009, Ateneo blueREPERTORY of Loyola Schools Performing Arts Cluster brings back the Off-Broadway musical titled ‘Bare: A Pop Opera’, which opened on Wednesday, February 29, 8pm at T.E.A.T.R.I.N.O., The Promenade in Greenhills, San Juan. Despite its theme, back in the campus of the Catholic-run University, this production was dubbed as the most successful staged by the said theater group. Ana Abad Santos returns as the director and promises a more daring and a more challenging task to fulfill, now that it is brought outside of Ateneo and has a new venue to bring in theater enthusiasts to watch the perhaps ‘controversial’ production ever. I still personally love Repertory Philippines’ ‘Next Fall’ (maybe because I can identify more to the characters’ struggles as opposed to Bare’s).
I congratulate the entire team of ‘Bare’ for successfully mounting the production and for bravely presenting an issue that probably has been lurking around in Catholic-run schools. Do not get me wrong, I also came from a Catholic private school back in Cebu and in fact, there was a time that more and more alarming stories have reached the administration regarding the great rise of gay students in the campus. By the time, they had to do some ‘gay check’ I was already out of the campus and was already in Manila and was enrolled in a different school. I only learned about such story when I finally met a good friend of mine who was with the guidance center and recounted everything to me.
Bare’s story is real. It tackles about the young generation’s struggles—the peer pressure, wanting for acceptance and making a ‘difference’ as well. It is set in a Catholic boarding school. In a group of high school seniors, they face issues of sexuality and personal identity. It revolves around the altar boy named Peter (Bibo Reyes) and his secret affair with the golden boy Jason (Jaime Barcelon); Matt (Franco Chan), another altar boy; Ivy (Maronne Cruz), Peter and Jason’s friend, whom Matt is in love with; and Nadia (Cassie Manalastas), Jason’s overweight, sharp-tongued twin sister. The beauty of the musical is that, the characters were dressed in a Korean-like Pop stars. It makes it more appealing for the younger audience once they get to watch it because it’s not too far out to identify themselves with the characters.
In terms of performance, I could only single out, four outstanding ones. Of course, one wouldn’t set aside the more experienced actors like Rem Zamora and Jenny Jamora. Whenever Zamora assumes a particular role (mind you he took on three characters here—an African-American nun Sr. Chantelle, the priest and headmaster, and Diana Ross in Peter’s dream), he steals the scene or one would say—he really is an actor, a performer. Jamora as Claire, Peter’s mom makes her scenes real and could indeed touch the hearts of women who struggles having a gay son. Her portrayal is sincere that you would love her rather than hate her. Manalastas as Jason’s twin sister has her moments that will make you understand what it is to be left out, always the last option, the person who has problems with confidence. She sings her songs from the heart and she would make you shed tears as well. Lastly, Reyes as the altar boy who is in love with Jason—he most of the times, outshadows Jason in their scenes. He would standout in singing, in emoting and in conveying the message to his audience. He really has the ‘depth’ as an actor; he has a lot of promise. I have yet to watch Reb Atadero doing Peter, but based on the last time I’ve seen him, in the ‘Rizal X’ production—he sure can sing and act—so there’s no doubt that he can pull it off or equal what Reyes has done to the character.
This production is classified as a rock musical and the book is written by Jon Hartmere, Jr. and Damon Intrabartolo, lyrics by Hartmere and music by Intrabartolo. It was indeed successful in presenting how sad the plight of the young people, particularly those who are hiding in their closets for fear of being ostracized by the society they live in—a society that is hypocritical and discriminating at the same time. The presentation is a cry for love, a better understanding and acceptance of gay people as humans and as children of God, too—worthy to be loved and nurtured.
‘Bare’ debuted at the Hudson Theatre in Los Angeles, California, that had its run from October 2000 till February 25 of 2001. Its New York production was at the American Theatre of Actors off-Broadway, from April 19 till May 27, 2004; while the Los Angeles production and its New York production were both directed by Kristin Hanggi. On June 6-21, 2008, bare made its Houston debut at The Country Playhouse Black Box Productions and was directed by O’Dell Hutchison with musical direction by Luke Kirkwood. Its Sydney Premiere in September 2010 at the New Theatre, as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival.
Playdates are on March 7-10 with gala shows on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and matinee shows on Saturdays at 3pm. For inquiries and ticket purchases, please contact Chiz Jardin at +639165787618 or via email – firstname.lastname@example.org. To buy shows, call or send SMS to Luis Marcelo at +639175025847.