Piolo Pascual—after nearly three decades of starring mostly in romance movies as the affable, charming “Papa P”—is expanding his showbiz résumé by headlining a musical based on Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere.
Pascual, 46, just signed up for Tanghalang Una Obra’s Ibarra, portraying the idealist-turned-revolutionary titular character Crisostomo Ibarra.
Ibarra is a re-working of playwright and librettist Jomar Fleras’s award-winning Kanser, the longest-running play in the country dating back to the ‘80s. Ibarra serves as the 40th staging of Kanser.
During the musical’s contract signing event attended by PhilSTAR L!fe, choreographer Paul Morales said Ibarra will focus on Ibarra’s psyche, trying to cater to the younger generation.
“We're bringing a fresh approach, something that will make people go back to theater,” Morales said, “and make people love Rizal and his works further.”
Musical director and composer Jed Balsamo, meanwhile, said the songs take inspiration from the pure (wagas) and immaculate (busilak) traits of Filipinos.
With Noli and El Filibusterismo among his favorite books, Pascual said portraying Ibarra is so important for him not just as an actor but also as a Filipino.
"It’s something I’ve always wanted," Pascual said, taking note of his theater background in high school.
As a matter of fact, he already portrayed the character in the 2016 historical fantasy Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis by Lav Diaz. He also had a musical stint already through another Diaz offering, the 2018 martial law film Ang Panahon ng Halimaw.
In any case, portraying Ibarra anew—and starring in another musical—is something that Pascual acknowledges as exciting yet challenging. Aside from his ongoing commitments to several projects recently, he also has to ensure that his singing chops are on point.
“I have a vocal coach. I'm preparing a lot for this,” he said, noting the musical will have no lip-sync or playback.
The musical is slated for staging on June 8 to 18 at the GSIS Theater in Pasay. The debut show also serves as Pascual’s love letter to his mother Amelia as it coincides with her birthday.
Further details about Ibarra are still under wraps. The brains behind the upcoming musical said cast members are yet to be completed. Soprano Myramae Meneses, who has a master's degree from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, will star as Maria Clara alongside Pascual.
Set designer Mio Infante, who worked with National Artists Ryan Cayabyab and Bienvenido Lumbera in the '90s, assured audiences that there will be a powerhouse cast comprising actors on-screen and on-stage.
Above all, director Franniel Zamora said Ibarra nails two important things.
First, it marks the 125th year of the Philippines’s independence from Spain after 333 years. Second, proceeds of the show will go to the various feeding program of Rise Against Hunger Philippines, benefiting about 5,000 malnourished children.
“Doing this (Ibarra) is a milestone. I don't how I'm gonna do it,” Pascual said. “But when it came along, I said, 'This is it.’”