For esteemed stage couple Robert and Isay Alvarez-Seña, Magsimula Ka! was the catalyst that sparked the beginning of their prolific artistic careers.
First staged at the CCP Bulwagang Gantimpala (now Tanghalang Huseng Batute) almost three decades ago, the musical could be called an OPM "tour de force" since it combined the talents of director Nestor Torre, composer/lyricist Gines Tan, arranger Ryan Cayabyab, a powerhouse cast comprised of a virtual who’s who of established artists in Manila’s bustling ’80s music scene, and a handful of young, then-unknown but talented thespians all eager to prove their mettle.
From opening night until its very last curtain call, the entire ensemble dazzled audiences with their tight, seamless and powerful renditions.
Just how good were they? Well, when auditions for the original London production of Miss Saigon came to Manila, the bulk of successful auditionees came from only two musical theater boot camps: Repertory Philippines and Magsimula Ka!
And the rest is history. Having immortalized their legacies via Miss Saigon, and a host of globally-acclaimed international stage productions, Isay and Robert kept up their artistic evolution to become mainstream TV/movie actors, concert performers, recording artists, and educators. Of course, somewhere along the way, amidst the beautiful music sprung romance and a blessed, lifelong union strengthened by three lovely children.
Recently, Robert was part of the now defunct ABS-CBN musical drama series iDOL. He was recently recognized as the Best Actor (Musical) for PETA’s Juan Tamad at Limang Milyong Boto at the 23rd Aliw Awards.
Isay has just finished Tanging Yaman, Momay, the Star Cinema flick I Do, and is preparing for another ABS-CBN teleserye, Juanita Banana which premieres October 25.
Although busy with their respective TV stints, both still find time to teach the finer points of stage acting and musical theater at their performing arts school, Spotlight Artists Centre.
The idea for restaging Magsimula Ka! was actually their unanimous decision as the school’s very first major production. "Aside from what it meant to us, we felt that the music and the message is still relevant, and should be shared with today’s youth," Isay muses.
Indeed, how could today’s kids even imagine what life was like without Facebook, Twitter, or even a cellphone?; when music teemed with brilliant prose and poetry, and when real talent--not scandal or notoriety--was the ticket to stardom.
Patience, humility, hard work are but some of the values Robert and Isay imbibed during their Magsimula Ka stint: values they hope their successors will pass on long after they’ve gone.
But even serious actors have their fun moments too. "I once entered the stage wearing the wrong costume," Robert confesses, while Isay recounts coming out with her clothes half-done. "But the show must go on!" she recounts in jest.
With the blessings of the musical’s creators, and the creative inputs of co-producers Carl Balita and Tricia Amper-Jimenez, the couple promise to remain faithful to the original script, with a few minor tweaks to make it more relevant for the times.
Feeling proud about their new bumper crop of ’triple threat’ artists, including lead stars Ciara Sotto, DJ Myke Salomon, Poppert Bernadas and Fred Lo, Robert and Isay ponder their "new life" behind the scenes. Can an artist be just as effective in such a new light?
"Only an artist can understand another artist," Robert succinctly replies.
Magsimula Ka! Music Museum playdates are November 17, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26, 27, and December 2, 3 and 4, 8:00 p.m., with matinees on November 20, 27 and December 4.
For more details, call Ticketworld (Tel. No. 891-9999), Mabuhay Phils. (416-6445) or visit www.spotlightartistscentre.com