September 30, 2016
This is the first time I saw "Changing Partners" was last July 8,2016 when it was featured as a staged reading during the Virgin Lab Fest. The book, music and lyrics are written by Vincent de Jesus of PETA. The director is Rem Zamora currently of Red Turnip Theater. That staged reading already felt like the full show, only betrayed by the actors performing with mic stands and scripts in hand, and the stage directions were narrated off-stage. My review of that scintillating staged reading is posted HERE.
Barely two months after that auspicious sneak preview, "Changing Partners" is now a full show of its own,as the maiden production of Vincent de Jesus' very own Munkeymusic in cooperation with the PETA Theater Center. Rem Zamora is still the director here. Only one of the four original actors in the staged reading remain, so interpretations of the roles are expected to vary from the reading. Instead of the bare stage, there will now be a set and actual props with lights (by Ian Torqueza) and sound design to further flesh out the situations dramatized onstage.
"Changing Partners" tells us about the love relationship of Alex and Cris, two individuals 15 years apart in age who decide to live together. It tells us about how their love story began and how it eventually evolved six years later. The twist of this ingenious script is that the roles of Alex and Cris can interchangeably be played by male and female actors such that the dynamics of the relationship also change significantly. Then again, it also shows that the outcome of such relationships may not really be that different after all, whatever the genders of the people involved.
Agot Isidro and Jojit Lorenzo portrayed the older and more domineering Alex. Anna Luna and Sandino Martin (the only actor left from the staged reading cast) portrayed the younger and more callow Cris. This was a very cohesive cast with excellent rapport with each other. All of them sang very well, both tonally and emotionally. Here, perfection in tune only played second fiddle to the rawness of the words and the genuineness of the feelings, thus the word "torch" in the subtitle. Isidro was intense. Lorenzo was passionate. Luna was enigmatic. Martin was vulnerable. The explosive climactic confrontation scene with all four actors on the stage at the same time switching roles so fluidly was a triumph in stage direction. Having the composer de Jesus himself up there playing the piano was precious.
If you are watching this show (and you really should), come early so you can pick the best seats in your section. A big factor against enjoying this show fully is to having to sit in a chair where parts of the stage were obscured by the people sitting in front of you. This show is being staged in the Studios on the third floor of the PETA Center, not the main theater. The monobloc chairs are not well-arranged to assure that audiences in the non-elevated area will enjoy an unobstructed view. Where I was sitting, I could hardly see the actors when they are seated on the couch. I was so thankful when they were standing or sitting around the dining table instead, where I can see them clearly.
Above everything though, the biggest reason for the enduring quality of this show is the remarkable script and lyrics with their biting humor and even more biting realism. The idea of making the couple a May-December affair expands the audience appeal from Gen X to Millennials, as will the tackling of both heterosexual and homosexual issues.
Vincent de Jesus revealed that unlike his other musicals when he needed to do solid background research, the emotions of "Changing Partners" are known to him very well because he had personally lived through these feelings. Only a genius could have developed an entire musical play out of a seemingly mundane circumstance of a lesbian stage manager filling in for the absent male lead during a rehearsal. After PETA classics like "Juan Tamad", "Batang Rizal" (MY REVIEW), Himala" (MY REVIEW) and "Care Divas" (MY REVIEW), the talented Mr. de Jesus strikes gold once again!
"Changing Partners" will have its limited run at the PETA Theater Center Studios (located on the third floor) on September 30, October 1, 2, 21, 22 & 23, 2016 (7PM) with additional 3pm matinees on October 22 and 23. Ticket prices are 800 (Regular) and 1000 (VIP). Tickets can be bought via Ticketworld or you may also call (725) 6244 or (0927) 3917379 for further inquiries and reservations.