Chinggoy Alonso–back on stage, for a change | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

CHINGGOY Alonso: “Nobody really fully masters the art of theater.” REPERTORY PHILIPPINES
CHINGGOY Alonso: “Nobody really fully masters the art of theater.” REPERTORY PHILIPPINES

The magic wand of theater first beckoned to Ramon Gil (Chinggoy) Alonso when he was a child growing up in Manila during the 1950s, as he watched his parents Ramon and Erlina Alonso perform at the Arena Theater of Severino Montano (later National Artist) at the Philippine Normal College (now a university).


Unfortunately his father died, the family moved to Baguio City, and Chinggoy lost interest in the theater. His mother also retired from the stage.


By the late ’60s, however, graduating from high school at St. Louis University, Alonso once again heard the siren call of the performing arts, specifically theater and music.


The interest became a passion when he continued his studies at the University of the Philippines Diliman. He joined the international group of the UP Concert Chorus, studied voice under the late Aurelio Estanislao, and appeared in many concerts and musicals here and abroad.


First impact


Alonso first made an impact on the Manila stage, if memory serves us right, when he played the Celebrant in Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass,” a theater piece for singers, actors and dancers which inaugurated the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and which was presented twice at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.


It was a succès de scandale. Some Catholics were shocked and considered the work by Bernstein, a Jew, blasphemous because during a climactic moment, the priest hurls the sacred chalice to the floor.


ALONZO as the hapless theater director in Rep’s “Noises Off,” with costars Frances Makil-Ignacio, Shiela Valderrama, Lorenz Martinez, Nico Dans, Gerard Sison and Paul Holme. REPERTORY PHILIPPINES

Singing and emoting, Alonso gave a convincing performance as the Celebrant.


Through the years many other signature roles would follow, notably the phonetics professor Henry Higgins in Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady,” which Alonso has played countless times “in the past 40 years or so,” he says, and usually with luminaries like Baby Barredo and Lea Salonga.


Another plum role was Cyrano in Edmond Rostand’s classic “Cyrano de Bergerac,” that favorite among my high school mentors like dear Mr. Pagsi (Onofre D. Pagsanghan). Alonso cites its “sheer beauty and poetry of language.”


Other roles close to his heart are Capt. von Trapp in “The Sound of Music,” Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha,” the Phantom in “Phantom of the Opera,” Pizarro in “The Royal Hunt of the Sun,” the villainous Thenardier in “Les Miserables,” King Henry II in “The Lion in Winter” and “Beckett,” and  King Arthur in the evergreen musical “Camelot.”


Favorite actor


It hasn’t been all English for this veteran performer, as he has also starred in Filipino productions, usually at the Manila Metropolitan Theater, including a Filipino production of “Kismet” which he translated, directed and starred in.


One of his favorite actors is—surprise—that cowboy and American superpatriot John Wayne: “I liked his swaggering walk, his droning drawl and his cinematic presence of heroic proportions—but that lasted only through my teen years.”


Another hero of his youth was Julie Andrews, whose clean and clear singing filled him with joy. He saw “The Sound of Music” at least 10 times.


Then there are the heavyweights like Peter O’Toole (“his uncanny way of delivering his lines”), Richard Burton (“the resonance of his voice”), Lawrence Olivier (“elegant command of the English language”) and Meryl Streep (“the sheer breadth and magnitude of her remarkable acting range”).




For many years, Alonso appeared only briefly on the stage. He stayed in the United States for seven years, worked at the Lyceum of the Philippines in Manila for four years, helping establish the Lyceum Theater Company; and most of the time was kept busy with film and TV jobs.


“Truth be told, some economic considerations also came into play,” he says wryly.


Now Alonso is back with a vengeance, playing the role of the exasperated director in Repertory Philippines’ “Noises Off,” ongoing at OnStage, Greenbelt 1, Makati City, until this weekend.


“Nobody really fully masters the art of theater,” he says. “It is such a vibrant and ever-changing medium that keeps up with the times, even as it constantly glorifies the past. And practically every moment spent in its confines becomes a learning experience. That’s how it has been with me in relating to my fellow actors, as well as directors. It’s always a source of new discoveries and, thus, endless fascination for me.”


Repertory Philippines’ “Noises Off” has remaining performances Saturday and Sunday at OnStage, Greenbelt 1, Makati City. Call 8433570/5550082 or e-mail [email protected].





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