"Theater is very humbling," sabi ni Ciara Sotto sa panayam ng PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal), kaugnay ng kanyang latest onstage appearance, sa musical na Sweet Charity ng 9 Works Theatrical, ongoing at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza in Makati City.
Dito’y ginagampanan ni Ciara ang papel ni Helene, isang Greek bar dancer/hostess, na second lead sa bidang character na si Charity Hope Valentine, played by singer-actress, Nikki Gil.
But Ciara doesn’t mind playing second lead, kahit ang huli niyang appearance sa stage musical last March 2011, ay bilang ang bidang character na si Mimi, sa restaging ng Rent (also by 9 Works Theatrical).
"You cannot put on a ’Diva’ mode," aniya. "You cannot be prima donna. All of you are the same, no matter how many lines you say [in the musical].
"Kung dalawa lang [ang lines ng co-actor mo], at ikaw, e, sampu... [it] doesn’t make you a bigger actor [or] a bigger persona.
"In theater, everyone is equal. At iba yung commitment and dedication," makahulugang banggit pa ni Ciara.
PRAISES. Doing Helene in Sweet Charity is Ciara’s third appearance in a musical, matapos ang kanyang matagumpay na stage/theater debut, in December 2010, sa Magsimula Ka, at the Teatrino, Greenhills.
Nagbida uli ang singer-actress sa Rent, at lalong hinangaan, hindi lang sa ipinamalas na talent sa pag-awit at pag-arte, kundi sa pagsasayaw (pole dancing), wearing revealing outfits.
May pagka-sexy ang naging papel ni Ciara sa ikalawa niyang paglabas sa entablado.
This not very different from her role in Sweet Charity, bilang night club hostess in the 1960s. Naka-body-hugging costume siya, bilang pang-akit sa mga kalalakihan, at sumasayaw nang maharot.
Walang nagiging problema si Ciara sa punto ng pagtanggap sa kanya ng manonood at kaukulang suporta mula sa kanyang pamilya at mga kaibigan.
In all her undertakings ay laging naroon ang kanyang mga magulang, Senator Tito Sotto and Helen Gamboa. Tanggap nila ang pagpapaseksi ni Ciara sa entablado, dahil makasining ang palabas.
On working with seasoned actor-performers, Ciara said, "It’s an honor. I know we still have a lot to learn, but with the help [of our director, Robbie Guevarra], we’ve been able to work with brilliant and talented people.
May mga nagsasabi na katulad na rin si Ciara ng mga vetaran stage actors, base sa naipamalas niyang husay sa pagganap, na may kasamang pag-awit.
"Hindi po! Halata naman po na hindi po talaga, kasi marami pang kailangang matutunan," pagtanggi niya.
"And, minsan, nakaka-pressure kasi ang gagaling ng mga kasama mo, like, Caisa Borromeo and Shiela Valderrama [both portraying second lead parts in SC]. Parang mahihiya ka sa kanila."
ENCOURAGING. PEP also asked Ciara why she chose to work in theater.
"Yeah, kasi maganda yung attitude ng mga tao," she said.
"Wala pang ano... no competition, no anything.
"The work atmosphere is encouraging. Especially the cast of Sweet Charity, they’re very helpful! Ang dami mong mapupulot sa kanila."
Aside from Nikki Gil (female lead) and Ciara, Shiela, and Caisa, Sweet Charity’s cast includes: Sheree, Miguel Faustmann, OJ Mariano, Topper Fabregas, Job Bautista, Francis Matheu, Anthony Tarrosa Ong, Peter Alcedo, Chai Relucio, Chinie Nepomuceno, Vinia Pamplona and Carmelle Ros.
Ciara singled out co-star Caisa Borromeo, who, like herself, has played lead in a musical, and then played a minor/second lead part in her next play.
Ciara said Caisa doesn’t complain.
"She’s really good! And she’s my friend."
Needless to say, Ciara has always been proud of Caisa’s achievement, having won Best Actress in a Musical (for Rep’s Little Women) at the 3rd Philstage Gawad Buhay Awards.
"Caisa is a very generous performer. Hindi siya intimidating. Yung magagaling, sila yung gustong mag-share palagi," she added.
May balak ba siyang lumabas uli sa TV, do teleseryes, perhaps?
"Actually, if I do a teleserye, merong danger diyan na mamamaos ka, gano’n. So, parang sayang naman," sabi ni Ciara.
"Before, when I was younger, mga Viva days pa ’yan, e... T.G.I.S., Di Ba’t Ikaw, with Ate Jessa Zaragoza. Yung last ko was [on] Channel 2, Saan Ka Man Naroroon, [with] Claudine [Barretto].
Sa movies, manaka-naka’y napapanood din si Ciara, in remarkable roles, in films like Mano Po 6 (A Mother’s Love), with her cousin, Sharon Cuneta. More recently, she appeared in the indie Cinemalaya entry, Patikul, as a young Muslim mother. Both films were directed by Joel Lamangan.
GOING SEXY ONSTAGE. She also played the usual teenybopper roles on television. Onstage, it’s different.
Pero hindi naging mahirap para kay Ciara Sotto ang magpa-sexy sa entablado. In Rent, she did pole dancing and gyrated like a burlesque dancer.
Ciara never had second thoughts doing those scenes.
"Nu’ng una, nailang ako du’n, pero siyempre I [also] got the hang of it... and I really have to do it kasi. I wanna do it naman talaga," she said.
Never did Ciara think of those scenes as "bastos."
"Yeah, kasi art, e. Iba na yung ilaw... art form siya talaga," she said.
Ciara is not worried that her sexy roles onstage would affect her married life.
"I’m very happily married!" she said.
Her husband is Jojo Oconer, a Filipino. They married in January 2010, at the Manila Polo Club, about a year before she ventured into musical theater.
"I met him in the States, pero we got married in Manila," she said.
Any plans to have a baby?
"None yet... [but] we’re getting there," she said.
BAR GIRL. Ciara observed that she was more daring as Mimi in Rent. In Sweet Charity, the singing-dancing scenes are sexy but not too "vulgar."
"[As] bar girls, taxi dancers... para kaming D.I. (dance instructress); hindi naman prostitute," she said.
"Meron pong isang version, na prostitute [yung mga bar girls], pero [our play is] based on the 2005 version [which starred Shirley MacLaine], so parang taxi dancers lang talaga.
She recounted how her director, Robbie Guevarra, sort of introduced Ciara to her character.
"Robbie just said, ’You’re Greek!’ So, I researched about Greek [actresses and] listened to people speaking Greek."
And sing she did with a Greek accent; the audience was impressed.
The 9 Works Theatrical production of Sweet Charity is based on the 1969 film, Sweet Charity: The Adventures of A Girl Who Wanted To Be Loved, which was choreographed and directed by the legendary Bob Fosse. Fosse also directed All That Jazz (1979) which won the Cannes Filmfest Palme d’Or in 1980.
In its Broadway adaptation, Sweet Charity, the musical, was based on Federico Fellini’s screenplay for Nights of Cabiria, an Italian film, which depicted the female lead character as a prostitute. The music was composed by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields, and book by Neil Simon.
Robbie Guevarra, who directed the 9 Works Theatrical production, is also behind the success of musical adaptations, such as Fiddler On The Roof, Rent, and The Wedding Singer.
Sweet Charity runs until August 27 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Ayala Corner Sen. Gil Puyat Avenues in Makati City.