Arts and Culture

THEATER | ‘Katy’: Isay rocks, Dulce wows, and everyone wants a piece of Pip and Epy

The cast of Katy! receives a standing ovation on Friday night, January 18, at the Little Theater of CCP. At the foreground is lead actress Isay Alvarez, who plays Katy dela Cruz. Photo by Francine M. Marquez,

It was standing ovation for the cast of Katy at the Anak TV-sponsored show on Friday, January 18, the second night of the stage play at the CCP Little Theater.

Unlike the previous opening night consisting of celebrities and high-profile theater patrons, the second night consisted of a more laid-back set of regular theater goers. A bunch of parents and their kids, teachers, students, and a few members of the press filled up the theater seats to view the musical.

On what moved Anak TV to sponsor the evening’s show, Secretary General Mag Cruz Hatol replied, “We’ve always believed in supporting Philippine theater and encouraging more people to appreciate it.”

The organization, which is known to give the yearly Anak TV awards for TV role models that kids can look up to, advocates TV literacy especially when it comes to discerning between the good values and dangerous messages TV shows could bring across, especially among children.

With a thumbs up approval by Anak TV, Friday night’s show brought in parents and children alike to watch Spotlight Artists Centre’s production of Katy, a musical about the life and times of iconic ‘bodabil’ star Katy dela Cruz. During her time in the 1920′s, when she was only 18 years old, Katy was already the highest paid entertainer in the Philippines. Later in her career, she was the first Filipino to be topbilled at the famous Forbidden City nightclub in San Francisco, USA. Even before Global Filipino was coined, Katy dela Cruz was already traveling abroad, even having her own show in Las Vegas in 1961, and being appreciated by an international audience for her powerful voice.

Katy was first performed in 1988 at the Rizal Theater, with Mitch Valdes playing the lead role. It was originally produced by Actors Studio East Production Inc. headed by multi-awarded singer Celeste Legaspi and talent manager and producer Girlie Rodis. At the time it was first performed, Katy was highly acclaimed by critics and was considered one of the best musical theater productions the country has produced. Besides its stellar producers and cast members, praises were also extended to its director Nestor Torre, scriptwriter and lyricist Joey Reyes, and composer Ryan Cayabyab.

At Friday night’s performance, an appreciative audience kept applauding after each scene, even whistling, as the lead actors—from the very young and pint-sized Yedda Lambujon who plays Katy as a child to divine Dulce and her expected striking vocal cords—delivered their performance-level best.

As a young Katy, Yedda Lambujon (center) impressed the crowd with her strong vocal cords and acting. In photo, joining her are actors Allen Immanuel and Leana Tabunar who also alternates with Yedda as a young Katy. Photo by Francine M. Marquez,

Also turning in noteworthy performances were multi-awarded actor and singer Tirso Cruz III and Epy Quizon. Rendering perfect timing in his repartees with Isay and other actors like Gian Magdangal, Tirso (also known as Pip to his fans) gave an endearing performance as Katy’s overprotective but nurturing father. Epy, on the other hand, was an enigmatic presence when he first showed up on stage as Dolphy, his late dad who was a colleague of Katy dela Cruz during the vaudeville days. Katy even appeared in Dolphy’s films. Epy’s resemblance to Dolphy, even the way he portrayed his father, was uncanny and struck wistful moments among some theater goers.

Isay Alvarez plays the strong-willed and intense Bodabil Queen Katy dela Cruz. Photo courtesy of Artists Spotlight Centre.

But of course, Isay Alvarez delivers a deliciously spunky portrayal of the uncompromising yet passionate artist Katy. It was palpable that Isay’s singing and acting was beyond technique but that she could feel for the Bodabil Queen herself, an iconic figure in Philippine theater. Like Katy and her peers at the time, even up to this day, local theater still has its creative and financial challenges that continue to affect the theater scene. Not to mention, the demands of being an artist can also take its toll on one’s personal life.

Not that Isay is going through what Katy went through as an artist during her time—the threat of a theater house closing down due to the public’s waning interest and a philandering husband on the side. No, far from that. But as woman—daughter, wife, mother, and peer—Isay delivered the complexities, even desolation at a certain point, of Katy’s multi-faceted life.

It’s also important to note that Isay is one of the executive producers of the show, along with husband and theater actor Robert Seña, Tricia Amper Jimenez, and Carl Balita.

After the show, which ended a few minutes before midnight, the audience were treated to a ‘meet-and-greet’ session as actors mingled with them at the theater lobby. While people eagerly congratulated each cast member who graciously gave in to requests for snapshots with the theater goers, actors Tirso Cruz III and Epy Quizon, in particular, were among those whom the crowd wanted to have photos with. (The star of the evening, Ms. Alvarez, was still backstage during that time).

After the Katy! show, theater goers milled around actor Tirso Cruz III for a photo taken with him. Photo by Francine Marquez,

People gathering around Epy Quizon to congratulate him were also mentioning how he reminded them of his father, the late Comedy King Dolphy Quizon. I mentioned to him that he really brought his father’s spirit to the stage as he sang well and even danced and performed comedic stances like his well-loved dad onstage.

Epy let out a gentle smile and showed me a tattoo on one of his hands. He shared, “That’s why I kept my tattoo, to honor him.”

Epy Quizon, who plays the role of his late father Dolphy, was one of the actors who was cheered by the audience during the January 18, Friday, performance of the musucal Katy! held at the Little Theater of CCP. Photo by Francine Marquez,

The rest of the talented cast includes Aicelle Santos as a teen Katy; Gian Magdangal as Peping, Katy’s husband; Dulce as Olivia, the ageing vaudeville star; Lou Veloso as Director; Tricia Jimenez as Hanna San; Celine Fabie as Patsy Patchochay; CJ Mangahis as Mary Walter.

Nestor Torre directs this musical production once again. Music director Mel Villena and members of the Asosasyon ng Pilipinong Musikero (AMP) perform the original compositions of Cayabyab.

Katy is on a limited run—10 days to be exact—from January 17 to January 27, 2013. Get your tickets at the CCP at 832-1125 or Ticketworld at 891-9999. And don’t forget to have your Facebook or Twitter moment with Isay, Dulce, Pip, Epy, and the rest of the cast after the show.