Friday, June 14, 2024

Teatro Pinas : The Sandbox Collective’s 2024 Season Begins with Star Magic Partnership and Exciting Production – The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee!

Teatro Pinas : The Sandbox Collective’s 2024 Season Begins with Star Magic Partnership and Exciting Production – The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee!

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Celebrating its first decade in the industry, The Sandbox Collective kicks off its 2024 season with a partnership with Star Magic, the talent management arm of ABS-CBN. With Star Magic boasting three decades of discovering, nurturing and transforming artists into the country’s brightest stars, this partnership is sure to inject a fresh dose of talent into Manila’s theater scene and lead a new generation of audience members to the theater doors. 

Toff De Venecia, The Sandbox Collective’s Managing Artistic Director, shares his excitement: “To kick off Sandbox’s 10th Anniversary, we’re very excited to partner with ABS-CBN, Star Magic, and Teatro Kapamilya—home to the country’s brightest and biggest stars—for our production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. This partnership is sure to excite, inspire and propel our creative industries forward as stars of stage and screen converge to bring one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals to life.” 

In February, the pandemonium begins with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, an award-winning interactive musical about six mid-pubescents who vie for the spelling championship of a lifetime. Much like Sandbox’s most recent productions, Every Brilliant Thing and Bawat Bonggang Bagay, the musical is an interactive production, with each show featuring four guest spellers from the audience and relying heavily on the cast’s improvisational skills. Featuring a fast-paced, wildly funny and touching book by Rachel Sheinkin and a truly fresh and vibrant score by William Finn, this bee is sure to become one unforgettable experience. (Music Theater International/MTI). 

Winner of the Tony and the Drama Desk Awards for Best Book, the musical will be directed by renowned actress, educator and director Missy Maramara. A proud member of SPIT Manila, faculty member of Third World Improv, and current President of Philippine Theater Actors Guild, Inc., Missy has previously directed Zsazsa Zaturnnah The Musical…Yun Lang!, Next to Normal, Spring Awakening, Real Life Fairytales, Fame, Urinetown, and Squaddies Shrew 2.0. Theater 

1 actor and SPIT Manila founding member Dingdong Rosales will serve as the musical’s assistant director. An actor, stage and production manager, and director for over 20 years, Dingdong also served as the assistant director of the hit OPM musical, Eto na: MusikalnAPO! TOYM awardee Rony Fortich, the founding musical director of Hong Kong Disneyland, will serve as the show’s musical director. Rony has served as musical director for shows such as Company, Footloose, Godspell, Honk, Once on This Island, and The Last 5 Years. The composer of the Gawad Buhay award-winning The Bluebird of Happiness and Aliw Award winner The Quest for the Adarna, Rony also received a Walt Disney Legacy Award in 2013 for his contribution to Hong Kong Disneyland. 

Giving a quick glimpse into her approach to the material, Maramara shares, “Spelling Bee is about gifted children under the immense pressure of high level competition, precision, and scrutiny. I think this is a great lens to question the effect of social media on the younger generations, especially their mental health.” 

The cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee hails from diverse performing backgrounds, from Star Magic talents making their professional theatrical debuts to young theater professionals making their Sandbox Collective debuts, to theater veterans making their long-awaited return to the stage. When it came to casting, Maramara shares, “We looked for powerful singers who are malleable actors with great chemistry, and who will be able to delve into such questions with openness, courage and skill to navigate the themes sustainably with fun, discipline, and passion.” 

Making their professional theatrical debuts in the role of Marcy Park are dynamic Star Magic talents AC Bonifacio and Shanaia Gomez. A dancer, singer and actress who has brought her passion around the world, AC has worked with artists like Ariana Grande, and appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show, Riverdale, Almost Paradise and the iWant TFC series Lyric and Beat. An Idol Philippines alum and multiplatform artist, Shanaia has made appearances in shows like Can’t Buy Me Love and was a regular on the breakout hit He’s Into Her. She’s also appeared in music videos such as Sam Concepcion’s “Diwata” and regularly hosts iWant ASAP, among other online shows. 

Alternating for the role of eager beaver boy scout Chip Tolentino are Diego Aranda and Luis Marcelo. Diego made his professional theatrical debut in 2019, starring in The Quest for the Adarna as Prince Juan. He was most recently seen in Twenty Questions by Juan Ekis and Snow White and the Prince, garnering nominations for both roles as Best Performer in a Play and Best Supporting Performer. Last seen in The Quest for the Adarna as Prince Diego, Luis makes his first post-pandemic stage appearance in Spelling Bee. His previous credits include 

2 Crutchie in Disney’s Newsies, Eto Na! Musikal nAPO!, Officer Brophy in Arsenic and Old Lace, Hair, Side Show, and Waitress

Almost a decade after her breakout performance in Annie and fresh from her appearance in Silver Lining, Krystal Brimner returns to theater as bright and humble word lover Olive Ostrovsky. In 2016, she won Best Child Actor at the Metro Manila Film Festival for her role in Honor Thy Father, and has since released her debut single “Let Me Be Me.” Krystal will be alternating with singer and content creator Angela Ken. A Tiktok sensation, Angela first gained recognition for her covers and penning her own songs, and in 2021 released her first hit single “Ako Naman Muna” under Star Music. She also made her acting debut in the iWantTFC series Lyric and Beat. 

A mainstay of the university theater scene, having appeared in shows like Bring It On: The Musical and Zsazsa Zaturnnah: The Musical…’Yun Lang!, Elian Dominguez makes his professional stage debut as the awkward homeschooled student Leaf Coneybear. He will alternate with Shaun Ocrisma. A classically-trained actor, singer, and dancer, Shaun has been working in the Philippine entertainment industry since he was 10 years old, with roles in ZsaZsa Zaturnnah the Musical… ‘Yun Lang!, Dekada ‘70: Isang Musikal, Floy Quintos’ Laro, and Silver Lining the Musical. 

Returning to the Sandbox Collective after her critically-acclaimed role as Dani Lyons in the musical Dani Girl is Becca Coates. She will be playing the precocious and civically-engaged Loggaine SchwartzAndGrubennierre. Having made her theatrical debut in The Sound of the Music, Becca also bagged a Gawad Buhay Award for Best Female Featured Actress in a Play for her performance in Agnes of God. Becca will be alternating with theater actress, host, and content creator Justine Narciso, who was most recently seen in Uncle Jane and musicals like Joseph the Dreamer and The Quest for the Adarna, where she was nominated for a Gawad Buhay for her role as Maria Blanca. 

Taking on the role of William Barfee, the oddball speller with a unique spelling technique, will be theater actors Joshy Ramirez and Ron Balgos. A member of the City of Voices Chamber Singers, Joshy made his theatrical debut in 2002’s Falsettos, and was most recently seen in The Little Prince. Currently a college sophomore, Ron makes his professional theater debut in Spelling Bee. He was most recently seen in Zsazsa Zaturnnah: The Musical…’Yun Lang! 

Spelling Bee also marks the return of theater veteran Liesl Batucan-Del Rosario to the stage. With three decades of professional theater experience under her belt, Liesl is an Aliw Awards Best Actress Hall of Famer and Philstage Gawad Buhay Awardee for her performances in Wait Until Dark, A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, Sweeney Todd, and August: Osage County

3 Multi-awarded theater luminary and current president of Philstage Audie Gemora will take on the role of Vice Principal Douglas Panch. Fondly known as Philippine Theater’s First Gentleman, Audie has appeared in over 40 plays from Broadway/West End productions to original Filipino works, has won Gawad Buhay awards for his performances in Sweeney Todd, The Producers, La Cage Aux Folles, and in 2019 won Best Actor in a Play at the Aliw Awards for his performance in The Dresser

Alternating for the role of Vice Principal Douglas Panch is award-winning director, actor, producer, editor, and writer Robbie Guevara. He serves as 9 Works Theatrical’s artistic director, producer, and librettist. Robbie wrote the book of the smash hit, Eto Na! Musikal nAPO!, for which he won for Outstanding Original Libretto at the Gawad Buhay Awards in 2018. He also took home the Gawad Buhay for Best Director in 2019 for Passion. A veteran of the stage, Robbie was most recently seen in Stage Kiss, Stop, Kiss, and You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. 

Rounding out the cast is the “King of Acoustic Pop” Nyoy Volante playing Mitch Mahoney. A multi-awarded singer-songwriter, Nyoy enjoyed a critically-acclaimed run as Lola in Kinky Boots, and has been hailed for many performances onstage, including Jersey Boys and Shrek. Known for his ballad hits, he is a resident judge in Tawag ng Tanghalan on It’s Showtime, the country’s longest-running singing competition. 

Much like the characters of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Sandbox Collective’s 2024 season is expected to feature a lineup that is all at once exceptional, heartwarming, and galvanizing enough to lead to unexpected discoveries. 

Stay tuned for further announcements on the full creative team and the exciting partnership with Star Magic, ABS-CBN and Teatro Kapamilya! The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will run from February 24 to March 17, 2024 at the Power Mac Center Spotlight Black Box Theater, Circuit Makati. See you at the theater in 2024!