Why Menchu is the ‘First Lady of Philippine Theater’

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    MENCHU LAU CHENGCO-YULO
    MENCHU LAU CHENGCO-YULO

    SHAINA Magdayao plays her most daring role to date as Tanya in the coming summer Metro Manila Film Festival entry, “Tagpuan,” written by Ricky Lee and directed by MacArthur Alejandre.

    “I’m grateful to be part of a Ricky Lee project,” she says. “My first time din to work with Direk Mac and with Alfred Vargas as leading man and I had a great time with everyone while shooting the movie on location in Hong Kong at the time of their protest rallies and in Brooklyn and Queens, New York.”

    Direk Mac says Shaina had no qualms in doing graphic love scenes with Alfred in “Tagpuan.” “It’s because I like my character, Tanya, someone I’ve never portrayed before in my whole career.

    She’s quirky, a free spirit, half Filipinohalf Chinese living in Hong Kong and doing all sorts of work, from cleaning toilets to being a streetwalker.

    “Big challenge for me to transform myself into Tanya kasi ang bilis-bilis niya magsalita at ang hahaba ng lines. You’d think masaya siya but there’s a void and a certain sadness inside of her,” she continued, “I first met Alfred sa Hong Kong Ferry and I asked him agad, gusto mo ng sex? At first, hindi mo alam kung totoo ba ang sinasabi niya o hindi?

    “I had a one-on-one meeting with Direk Mac and he helped me to get into my character para gawin siyang totoong tao at hindi basta caricature,” she added.

    Alfred has nothing but good words for Shaina. “Her performance is mesmerizing.

    Sa bed scene namin, may linya pa siyang ‘Baka gusto mong itali ako, baka mas magenjoy ka. Huwag kang mag-alala kasi sanay ako sa ganito.’ Talagang ibang-ibang Shaina ang mapapanood nyo rito and I’m thankful she accepted this daring role.”

    “I’m lucky kasi very focused siya, so committed to the role,” says Direk Mac.

    “Her performance is magical kasi walang kakiyeme-kiyeme. Lahat sila, pati si Iza Calzado who also has a bedscene with Alfred.”

    “I did the daring scenes at walang issue sa akin ang sex scenes or bed scenes because it’s not really me naman who’s doing it but my character, si Tanya,” says Shaina. “Although maraming love scenes sa movie, I hope it will not be defined by the sex in it kasi the movie is more than that.”

    “Tagpuan” is one of the eight films that will be released nationwide from April 11 to 21.

    ***

    Alden Richards is thankful for all the blessings that are coming his way lately.

    After winning the Asian Star Prize from Seoul International Drama Awards a couple of months ago, he won the GEMS best drama actor for his soap “The Gift,” then he got the Ani ng Dangal Award from the National Commission for Culture and Arts. Now, the latest honor he’s getting is the Phenomenal Star Award from the Guillermo Mendoza Box Office King and Queen Awards for his movie “Hello, Love, Goodbye” that was last year’s biggest blockbuster hit among local films.

    “Ang dami talagang blessings na dumarating and my heart is full of joy and gratitude kay Lord at sa fans who support me,” he says. “At ngayon, I’m so thankful kasi both of my weekend shows, ‘All Out Sundays’ at lunchtime and ‘Centerstage’ sa gabi, parehong mataas ang ratings kaya marami pong salamat sa lahat ng nanonood sa amin every Sunday.”

    Press people are happy for Alden’s success because he has remained humble and has always been very appreciative of the writers who have helped him through the years. We’ve seen Alden when he was just a struggling actor rejected in “Starstruck” but later was given a chance to act in the afternoon soap, “Alakdana.”

    ***

    GMA-7 has certainly found a gold mine in the tween stars of their blockbuster hit afternoon show, “Prima Donnas.” The show’s young stars Jillian Ward, Sofia Pablo, Althea Ablan, Elijah Alejo, Will Ashley and Julius Miguel now have their own legion of fans who troop to any mall where they perform free shows on weekends just to see them in person. Each of the teen stars in the cast have their own following so we are now wondering if there is no rivalry between them at all.

    “Wala po,” says Jillian.

    “Para talaga kaming magkakapatid lahat dito. Nagtutulungan kami para masiguradong laging maganda ang bawat episode ng aming show.”

    “We’re just really thankful sa nakakaoverwhelm na suportang binibigay sa amin ng aming regular viewers,” adds Sofia.

    Even their senior co-stars in the show are enjoying resurgence in their careers because of the show’s immense popularity, including Katrina Halili as Lilian, Wendell Ramos, Chanda Romero as Lady Prima and Aiko Melendez as the uber villain Kendra.

    With the scare caused by the coronavirus, what precautions do they take when they make personal appearances in public?

    “Nag-iingat po talaga kami,” says Althea.

    “We make sure lagi kaming may alcohol or hand wash all the time. Hindi maiiwasang makipagkamay sa fans but we really have to be careful para maiwasan ang sakit. Wala rin munang hugs at beso beso for extra precaution against the virus.”

    “We’re really praying makahanap na sana ng lunas or vaccine against the virus,” says Elijah, who plays the mean girl in the series. “Kasi pati entertainment industry, naaapektuhan. Layunin lang po naming makapagpasaya ng mga tao.”

    “Prima Donnas” continue to rule every afternoon from Monday to Saturday, with the forth-coming episodes promising to be more exciting.

    ***

    Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo is generally considered as the “First Lady of Philippine Theater” because of her wide experience and impressive credentials as a singer-actress in various musicals for four decades now. She has given unforgettable performances in the local staging of “Evita,” “Next to Normal,” “Sweeney Todd” and has done other great musicals since she started in 1978 when she was only 16 years old. We really consider her as one of the pillars of local theater.

    She now plays another demanding role as Dina in Atlantis Theatrical’s staging of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, “The Band’s Visit.” “Dina is the female lead, the owner of a small cafe in a small town in Israel, Bet Hatikva. She had her dream and ambitions as a dancer when she was young, but she chose love over career, thinking marriage will fulfill her and make her happy, but it didn’t work out for her. She loves Arabian movies and she likes the actor Omar Sharif. So one of her solo songs is about Omar Sharif.

    Then she meets the leader of an Egyptian police band that mistakenly strays into their town, Tewfiq, played by Rody Vera, and she becomes infatuated with him being a conductor and working with music. ‘The Band’s Visit’ is about how music brings people together, no matter what your race is or even if you have different beliefs, since music is a universal language.”

    Preparing for “The Band’s Visit” is a real challenge for the cast. “We’ve been preparing for about a year now. We have language coaches to train us in special classes for our Arab and Jewish or Yiddish accents. We have to practice singing with no vibratos, the lyrics almost spoken like Arabs do. May training din for roller skating for some characters, also on how to play some musical instruments like clarinet, trumpet and violin. We have to really prepare as members of the Arab and Jewish community here will watch us daw and we want to do it right. Some of them have already come to our rehearsals to watch us perform.

    “The play runs for one hour and a half, no intermission. This is also different as it is full of many silences, unlike before na dapat, no dead air. It’s so affecting that I’m often on the verge of tears while playing, especially towards the finale.”

    Tickets are now available online at TicketWorld starting at P 2,000. For updates, contact Atlantis at 02-650-5144/0917-838-1534 or visit their official Facebook page.