Page Maker: Zedrick Señeres
THE much awaited and internationally awarded play M. BUTTERFLY National Tour 2019 will finally unfurl in Our City of Love, Iloilo with a grand premier night on Feb 14, 2019, 7 p.m., at SM City Iloilo’s Cinema 6.
The play is presented by Tony and Grammy award winning Ilonggo producer Jhett Tolentino and FRONTROW Entertainment (producer of highly-acclaimed independent films Bhoy Intsik and Bwaya).
The producers decided to bring the M. BUTTERFLY National Tour 2019 to Iloilo for those who did not have the opportunity to catch its 2018 Manila run. After all, location should not limit one’s exposure to the arts.
This revival production of David Henry Hwang’s M. BUTTERFLY is the winner of the 2018 ALIW AWARDS for Best Play, Best Actor and Best Director. It was also nominated for two Best Featured Actresses in a Play and Best Ensemble.
M. BUTTERFLY originally premiered on Broadway in 1998 and won three Tony Awards for Best Play, Best Featured Actor and Best Director.
René Gallimard is a member of the French embassy in China. René is mild mannered and considers himself to be poor with women. He meets and falls in love with Chinese opera star Song Liling, a woman whom he considers to be the embodiment of the perfect woman, Madame Butterfly. But when West meets East, everything is not what it seems.
Targeting audiences between ages 18 and beyond, the producers are hoping that this classic drama, inspired by Giaccomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly’, will likewise resonate to theater audiences from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao that “love, power and deception holds no boundaries – whether this be in a rural or urban setting.”
RS FRANCISCO, the 2018 Aliw Award Best Actor for M. Butterfly shall reprise his iconic portrayal of Song Liling, the Chinese opera singer who is Gallimard’s object of affection and seduces him through his biases of the East then exploits their intimacy to collect classified information for agents of the Chinese Communist Party.
RS first essayed this role in May 1990 for Dulaang UP, opposite veteran actor, writer and critic Behn Cervantes. On its debut, M. Butterfly immediately rose to critical acclaim with packed houses and box office success in over 100 performances throughout the Philippines.
In the many years thereafter, RS Francisco’s theater credits in numerous productions and variety of roles continued to hone his craft as a complete artist. In films, his most recent awards include the SINAG MAYNILA Best Actor, the STAR AWARDS Movie Actor of the Year and the SUBIC BAY INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Best Actor.
When M. BUTTERFLY was revived recently on Broadway, RS had thought of bringing it to life once again to the new theater audiences of today. After all, this is the only ‘one’ role that continues to remain closest to his heart.
To add a diverse twist to the M. Butterfly National Tour 2019, young actor AIRA IGARTA will step into the role of Song Liling as alternate in certain performances. As an original member of the Kurogo ensemble of the play’s 2018 Manila run, Aira is a stage and film actor from the Theatre Arts Program of UP Diliman where he took part in several Dulaang UP and Dulaang Labortoryo productions. Trained by the likes of Tony Fabella and Luther Perez, Aira was originally a dance and voice scholar at Quezon City Performing Arts Foundation (QCPADFI).
French actor OLIVIER BORTEN shall essay the role of Rene Gallimard, a former French diplomat, who relates the story of his passionate, disastrous affair with Song Liling from his cell in a Paris prison, where he is serving a long sentence for treason.
Philippine theater royalty JENINE DESIDERIO, who among many other theater, film, television and recording credits, assumed the lead role as Kim in the West End’s original Miss Saigon, will portray Gallimard’s wife – Helga. The pair married as a matter of convenience; Helga’s father had diplomatic connections that helped Gallimard ascend in his career.
After 25 years of stage acting experience in the United Kingdom, Scottish NORM MCLEOD has stepped in the Philippine stage as Manuel Toulon, the French Ambassador to China who also happens to be the dominant and strong-willed superior of Gallimard at the embassy in Beijing. Toulon promotes Gallimard to vice-consul and charges him with collecting information to aid the American war in Vietnam.
Trilingual American actor LEE O’BRIAN will once more personify Marc, the sexually unapologetic best friend of Gallimard. He encourages Gallimard to take sexual advantage of the women around him without regard for their feelings or even their consent. Although M. Butterfly was Lee’s first theatrical endeavor, his acting skills have already been tried and tested in international films Edsa Woolworth and Forgive Me Father. O’Brian also portrays Sharpless in M. Butterfly for a brief while.
Portraying the different roles of Suzuki, Comrade Chin and Shu Fang is powerful and well-rounded artist MAYEN ESTAÑERO. Her impressive performance in the 2018 run of M. Butterfly landed her an Aliw Awards nomination for Best Featured Actress. Mayen’s previous theater credits include Dalanghita Production’s Corazon Negro, An Operetta as Maestra, Virgin Labfest’s Mula sa Kulimliman as Leila and Sugid Production’s Buwan at Baril as Asawa. Comrade Chin is a member of the Red Guards, a paramilitary arm of the Communist Party of China. Song communicates with Comrade Chin often, to pass on the classified information he gathers from Gallimard.
Twice a finalist as Best Actress for the Aliw Awards, MAYA ENCILA receives her third nomination as Best Featured Actress for her unique characterization of Renee and Pin-Up Girl in M. Butterfly. The stunning Arizona native plays a young, sexually liberated Danish woman with whom Gallimard has an affair. Renee’s boldness presents a stark contrast to Song’s modesty, which Gallimard finds both exciting and obnoxious. A true expert in performing arts, Maya has taken the stage countless times as Mary Lennox for The Secret Garden, as Belle for Repertory Philippines’ Beauty and the Beast musical and as Lara for Philippine Stagers’ KATIPS, to name a few.
Rising soprano star JASMIN SALVO will be the new Opera Singer for the national tour.
The members of the ensemble playing the role of Kurogo are as follows: PHEITH IENA BALLUG, ULLYSES BASA, SASA CABALQUINTO, FRANCO FERRER and JOHN PAUL ORTENERO.
The artistic team of M. Butterfly are as follows: Jhett Tolentino and RS Francisco (Producers), Ohm David (Set), Eric Pineda (Costume), John Batalla (Lighting), Jethro Joaquin (Sound), Joed Balsamo (Music) and Carissa Adea (Choreography).
The M. BUTTERFLY NATIONAL TOUR 2019 will benefit 10 charitable institutions namely: Iloilo Prima Galaw, Philippine National Red Cross Iloilo Chapter, The Children of Cebu Foundation, Silliman University Culture and Arts Council, the Arts Council of Cebu Foundation, Love the Children Foundation, House of Hope Foundation, Halfway Home for the Boys and St. Louis University Culture and Arts Center.
So watch this once in a lifetime theater experience of M Butterfly on its play dates starting tomorrow, Feb 14 at 7 p.m., Feb. 15 2 p.m. / 7 p.m., Feb. 16, 2 p.m. / 7 p.m.,Feb. 17, 2 p.m. / 7 p.m.
Tickets are available at SM Cinema 6. So see you there dahlings!