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Mio Infante takes Pride in 9 Works’ production on ‘La Cage Aux Folles’


Two of the notable things the audience would definitely feast upon the local production of ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ are the costumes and the set designs involved as created by the genius of Mio Infante and is mounted in a rather more intimate venue at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, which re-opened on the 15th of August.

The Cagelles of 'La Cage aux Folles'. Photograph courtesy of 9 Works Theatrical.

The Cagelles of ‘La Cage aux Folles’. Photograph courtesy of 9 Works Theatrical.

Mio Infante, the scenographer of this latest 9 Works Theatrical’s production, the winner of Best Scenic Designs at Philstage Gawad Buhay Awards for his works—‘The Bluebird of Happiness (2013) and ‘Rak of Aegis’ (2014); talks about herculean tasks he has to accomplish along with his team in order to bring a show that won’t only be remembered because of its great lead actors—Michael De Mesa and Audie Gemora as Georges and Albin or Zaza, respectively.

Mio Infante, the scenographer of this latest 9 Works Theatrical’s production. Photograph courtesy of 9 Works Theatrical.

Mio Infante, the scenographer of this latest 9 Works Theatrical’s production. Photograph courtesy of 9 Works Theatrical.

Through the ‘Beaded Eyelash’ of Albin.

The colour palette of the show is very Mediterranean and is set in St.-Tropez is a coastal town on the French Riviera, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of southeastern France. The place have been popular because of artists and attracted the international jetsetters in the 60s because of its beaches and the nightlife.

Audie Gemora as Albin or Zaza and Michael De Mesa as Georges. Photograph courtesy of 9 Works Theatrical.

Audie Gemora as Albin or Zaza and Michael De Mesa as Georges. Photograph courtesy of 9 Works Theatrical.

According to Infante, he borrowed inspirations from the golden hues of the skies and azure seas, the terracotta colors did find its way into the nostalgic ‘postcard look’ and ‘feel’ of a bygone era. The touches of teal and lavender echo the flora of the area.

“Fitting a ‘big musical’ scene that changes into a small space as was quite challenging,” Mio confessed.

In fact, his challenge didn’t end there since there it involves a thousand and one (quick) costumes, make-up and wig changes. Despite the fact that the originally show meant for a bigger theatrical venue, the director (Robbie Guevara) and him thought best to focus on the intimacy of the plot, that being about family, love and acceptance.

When one looks at Albin’s beaded lashes, everything’s sparkle dust, bugle beads, ostrich plums as described in one of the songs titled—‘(A Little More) Mascara’ performed by Albin and the Cagelles as the world that he’s looking at is beautiful, too.

“Albin is such a strong character. He is an artiste and can have his share of tantrums, despite the challenges of being accepted by the social norms, he ultimately can laugh about it, and selflessly take sidesteps in lieu of unconditional love for his family. He notes that he does this ‘with one great stroke of mascara’ and everything seems and looks better,” Infante added.

With regard to their sets, Robbie Guevara (the director) and Mio agreed to retain the ‘look-and-feel’ of the 1983 original production, which had more froufrou, have lots of sequins and fabulous-ness as opposed to the Chocolate Menier Factory of the said musical in West End and as it transferred to Broadway.

“I had seen that production in London. It was a more gritty and millennial adaptation.”

He also mentioned that the biggest challenge was the script as it required for multiple scenes that had took them inside the apartment, backstage of the club, on the St.-Tropez promenade and back; and the changes had to be fast and seamless.

“We decided on a generic looking set of arched doors that could double up as interiors and exteriors; with a bit of louvered door add-ons that complemented the other scenic drops that flew down from the battens, and we were able to do that. We also extended scenic elements into the auditorium house, so that the audience became part of the cabaret club ‘La Cage’.”

Designing Albin/Zaza’s costumes: A Dream Come True for Mio.

Audie Gemora dazzles as Zaza in this scene. Photograph courtesy of 9 Works Theatrical.

Audie Gemora dazzles as Zaza in this scene. Photograph courtesy of 9 Works Theatrical.

Infante who was a former Cagelle had Repertory Philippines’ 1988 production of the same musical, and second having designed the play version Gay Birds for Rep also in 2005 was a dream task. He shared that the work came easy for him since he’s already quite familiar.

“As a reference point I looked at cabaret drag personalities of the late 70s to early 80s, zeroed-in on the fabulous gowns with sequins of Danny La Rue and also the Liberace style, with echoes of style icons such as Ann Margaret, Lady Diana Spencer, Telly Savalas, and even Margaret Thatcher (for the other characters’ costumes).”

“We first see Albin ‘in-between scenes’, and ‘at home in the kitchen’, the script called for him in a dressing gown, but I figured her style offstage would still exude the flamboyant thespian style. He would be wearing a bustier and slip that would transform into a costume change in full view of the audience, but move well with the ‘Ginger Rogers-type of choreography’.

“Twinkle Zamora (costume execution) and I found this fabulous printed fabric, which we knew would be perfect in electric-pleated and matched with satin details that would put contrast in texture.”

He also shared: “We had several shopping sprees in Divisoria and had the time of our life sifting through bolts and bolts of fabrics in sequins, of all colors and textures. It was like wanting to have all the candy in the candy store. However, we had to restrain ourselves knowing that, ultimately, we had to pick, select, and simplify!”

“On Zaza’s gowns, we had to consider the male form with the type of silhouette that the ‘show costume’ gowns. By putting more fabric and flounce on the bodice and bust area, while showing off a lot of shoulders, we looked into a sexier form of course and added a bit of the hips.”

Cagelles Dressed Fashionably in Drag.

Since the show is dubbed as ‘cage of mad women’, from cagey crinolines to spider webs, Little Bo Peep and Harem girls, to geishas and cloistered nuns, the Cagelles’ costumes are much fun to design. It was the craziness of the cast—their wackiness on-and-offstage is infectious,

“We were very lucky to have been given permission to rummage through Repertory Philippines’ costume collection and (thank you to Tita Baby Barredo). It was fun and nostalgic to see costumes from shows I had been part of before as designer or as an actor. I remember finding a pair of Leopard hi-heeled boots and finding my name scribbled inside it! It was from the 1988 Rep ‘La Cage’ production.

“This show is our homage not only to the Fashion guru’s of the 80s (the Fashion Designers Association of the Philippines) who generously and enthusiastically designed the Finale bridal gowns.”

Wedding gowns by designers John Abul and Lito Perez are worn by Cagelles Rafa and Mako. Sketches courtesy of the mentioned designers.

Wedding gowns by designers John Abul and Lito Perez are worn by Cagelles Rafa and Mako. Sketches courtesy of the mentioned designers.

Wedding gowns by designers Danilo Franco and Fanny Serrano are worn by Cagelles Randi and Mara. Sketches courtesy of the mentioned designers.

Wedding gowns by designers Danilo Franco and Fanny Serrano are worn by Cagelles Randi and Mara. Sketches courtesy of the mentioned designers.

Wedding gowns by designers Oscar Peralta and Ole Morabe are worn by Cagelles Analin and Chesko. Sketches courtesy of the mentioned designers.

Wedding gowns by designers Oscar Peralta and Ole Morabe are worn by Cagelles Analin and Chesko. Sketches courtesy of the mentioned designers.

Wedding gowns by designers Edgar San Diego and Gener Gozum. Sketches courtesy by the mentioned designers.

Wedding gowns by designers Edgar San Diego and Gener Gozum. Sketches courtesy by the mentioned designers.

Other costume designers like Tita Celia Diaz Laurel, Tita Baby, etc. We borrowed costumes for Jacobs’ quick costume changes.

While on the wig and make-up, Mio collaborated with the talented Myrene Santos. We went through on different wigs that would flatter the male actors’ faces, keeping with period style, and budgets. We also have female actors in the Cagelle line-up, and it added a challenge to make them look like men in drag—costume and make-up wise.

‘La Cage Aux Folles’ will have its last show today, September 6 at 4pm. For tickets and other inquiries, call (632) 586-7105 or +639175545560, or email info@9workstheatrical.com.

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