Changing Partners: The Stage Musical is down to its last two shows today, May 20, at the PETA Theater Center in Quezon City, and a sequel is already in the works.
Agot Isidro, Jojit Lorenzo, Sandino Martin, and Anna Luna top-bill Changing Partners: The Stage Musical.
It is about Alex and Cris, whose six-year relationship as domestic partners breaks down basically because of the 15 years that separate them in physical age and generational perspectives.
Alex and Cris’s story is told through four genders: male, female, gay, and lesbian—simultaneously with Agot and Jojit playing Alex, while Sandino and Anna both giving life to Cris.
The creative genius behind the stage play, Vincent “Vince” De Jesus, told PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) in an interview during the press junket that he has begun penning the script of the sequel.
“Meron na akong sequence breakdown,” he said. “Play pa din. Para siyang part two after the fallout.
“But I’m trying to experiment with… Ang hirap kasi i-breach ’yong concept ng one couple in four genders.
“Somehow I’ve found a—I don’t know if it’s successful—device na gano’n pa din ang effect pero may iba.
So, I told the cast—si Agot, si Jojt, si Sandino, si Anna—ganyan… Now they’re more involved.”
Aside from the script, Vince also wrote the songs in the Changing Partners musical that was first performed as a stage reading, with Rem Zamora as director, at the 2016 Virgin Labfest, an annual festival of new plays by new and veteran playwrights held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
That was in July 2016. Two months later, Vince and Rem produced the full production of Vince’s play, and they called it Changing Partners: A Torch Musical.
The venue was the 115-seater PETA Theater Center’s Studios, found at the attic of the three-story building.
In November 2017, Changing Partners was adapted to film with Dan Villegas serving as the director.
It was an entry to the 2017 edition of Cinema One Originals film festival of independently produced movies.
It won eight awards: Best Director for Dan Villegas, Best Actress for Agot Isidro, Best Actor for Jojit Lorenzo, Best Acting Ensemble for the four actors, Best Editing for Mary Ignacio, Best Music for Vincent De Jesus, Audience Choice Award, and Champion Bughaw for Best Film.
Changing Partners: The Movie was released by Star Cinema for wide distribution in January 2018.
The original stage play returned as Changing Partners: The Stage Musical this month of May at PETA Theater Center’s main hall, which has a seating capacity of 400.
There are a few differences between the theater and film productions, but those are what Vince calls mere adjustments to the medium.
“It’s just a matter of blocking, changing, or reinterpretation,” he said. “It’s not a compromise. You really have to adjust.”
Direk Rem, who joined Vince in the interview at the press junket, explained: “It’s what you can digest as an audience. Baka masyadong matagal. For theater, you can afford to suspend longer.”
In a separate interview, also at the press junket, Agot and Jojit shared their experiences in performing onstage and in the film.
“Well, natuto kaming mag-adjust,” Agot said.
“Yes,” Jojit agreed. “At mag-discover ng mga bagong context and nuances para sa characters, which is mas maganda.
“As an actor, nadi-discover namin na hindi lang hanggang do’n ang character. Meron pa palang makikita pa kung ide-develop namin.”
Agot noted that the challenge in acting in film is the non-linear way that the scenes were shot.
“So do’n ka medyo kailangan nag-a-adjust kung saang stage ka na, especially with this one kasi talagang pabagsak itong relationship,” she explained.
“So ika-calculate mo kung saan na ’yong eksena.”
Onstage, on the other hand, the challenge is how to make her portrayal fresh to the audience, especially to those watching the play for the second time.
“Of course, you don’t want them to serve the same adobo or for them to taste the same dish,” she quipped.
Agot, who started out in showbiz as a pop singer in the 1990s and, over the years, developed into a fine character actress, admitted she found it difficult to play a lesbian because it doesn’t come natural to her.
But that bold move rewarded her with accolades, including from movie and TV producers.
“Before they wouldn’t think of offering me a lesbian role,” said the ABS-CBN actress, who currently appears in the daytime soap Asintado.
“Now, ‘Ah, okay, she’s in the phase na parang experiment on different roles.’ Which is good because, di ba, at a certain age, a certain moment in your career, you want to parang to break the ceiling kumbaga.”
Jojit hopes people to learn from Changing Partners that nobody has a monopoly on heartbreak.
“Hindi ka nag-iisa,” he pointed out. “Marami tayong nagkaka-experience nito.”
Agot nodded in agreement: “Well, it happens to everyone. Kaya parang ’yon na nga, it’s an experience na people cry kasi parang ‘Na-experience ko ’yan.’
“Or they know someone that has experience that, so the could relate to it. So, it’s very relatable. I don’t want to say that it’s really hugot…
“I don’t know if Vince meant it that way, but when we were doing it, parang hindi naman siya.
“Kasi talagang I would say it, ’yong gano’n. During a fight, I would say it.”
Speaking of fighting, the cause of disagreement between the characters of Alex and Cris is somebody named Angel.
When asked if Angel would be in the play’s sequel that he’s writing, Vince flashed a knowing smile and declared: “Secret!”
He then went on to relate an anecdote that involves actress Angel Aquino.
“Si Angel, a good friend of ours, saw the play,” he said. “Nanood siya ng play, kasama niya ’yong daughter niya.
“Minumura si Angel sa play. Later she told us, ‘Kung alam ko lang na mumurahin n’yo ’ko nang buong play, hindi na sana ako nanood.’”
So will Angel Aquino play the role of Angel in the play?
“Well, nag-usap kami,” Vince replied, grinning. “Let’s see… It’s nice to work with Angel.”