More than 20 years ago, Gary Valenciano brought his well-known signature energy moves and charismatic stage presence to the titular biblical character in Trumpets’ recurring musical, “Joseph the Dreamer” (JTD).
Now, in its most recent restaging, he plays the hero’s flawed father, Jacob, in a more sober approach that might contrast with the comic but lovable take of the late Freddie Santos who first essayed the role in the late 1980s.
Valenciano maintains that he will play Jacob as “a real father who has 12 sons who are messed up. He tries to keep things together. To keep it light might not deliver the story. I’m trying to bring in the reality of today.”
Helping him and alternate Audie Gemora to keep things grounded are the millennial sensitivities and sensibilities infused into Santos’ original script by directors Paolo Valenciano, his own son, and Nelsito Gomez.
In this version of JTD, which was last performed in 2020 prior to the lockdowns, issues like mental health, the consequences of parenting and family dysfunction were not glossed over. The so-called good guys, not just the “villains,” also took accountability for their actions; for example, Jacob’s overt favoritism of Joseph over the rest of the brood ultimately drove them to sell him to slavery.
Valenciano says that modern parents can sympathize, if not identify, with Jacob’s dilemma. He muses, “Jacob is in a place of regret, his sons are not doing well, his family is not where he wants it to be. Things were not falling into place … There is a moment of realization when Jacob realizes that he had been difficult on the other sons.”
The one important lesson Valenciano himself realized as a parent while raising his now adult three children is that communication is a two-way street. It is something he brings to his performance.
“If you want to sit down with your kids, no matter how difficult the situation, there must be communication, even if their voices rise above the usual decibel levels. That happens once in a while, in any family dynamic. But if you close your door, you stand the risk of your kids seeking counsel and comfort from other sources, like strangers online or going into substances.”
Valenciano has extended his parenting advocacies into sessions with students in universities ranging from the exclusive to the public. Prior to COVID-19, he had visited about 45 schools, each with 150 participants, a number that allows him to “develop a relationship with them so I can go back to them” should they need to talk to him.
Given the chance, what he would tell these kids’ parents is a process that he and his wife Angeli learned to practice on their own: “Listen to them. Maybe they need someone at the point of their need without telling them that they need to do certain things.”
Valenciano the performer does listen to the musical’s directors, including his son. Although father and son have been working together in concerts for 10 years, pushing the older man into a more emotional country made this experience a bit different.
Paolo describes the new offstage-to-onstage dynamic that went into play: “We’re trying to emulate stories and truths [about parent-child relationships] and see those moments between Jacob and the other sons. What we’re going for is something real. We want to resonate with families, not just fathers, but even with mothers.
“As his son, I can tell when [the scene] is not real. But when it is, the reactions [of the stage sons around Jacob] are priceless. The audience will see another side of Gary Valenciano that no one has ever seen before.” —CONTRIBUTED INQ
“Joseph the Dreamer” 2022 will run from July 15 to July 31 at Maybank Performing Arts Theater, Bonifacio Global City; Ticketworld, tel. 88919999; visit bit.ly/JTD2022