Arnell Ignacio has joined the cast of Viva Atlantis Theatricals’ inaugural production “The Full Monty.” Ignacio will play Harold Nichols, one of six jobless men who set out to stage a strip show where they plan to go “the full monty”—or strip all the way.
Adapted for the stage by Terrence McNally with music by David Yazbek, the musical is an Americanized version of the 1997 British comedy-drama of the same title.
Viva Atlantis Theatricals is the newest theater-producing outfit in town, formed via a partnership between theater group Atlantis Productions, headed by artistic director Bobby Garcia, and music, concert, film, home video and television (and now including theater) conglomerate Viva Entertainment, headed by Vic del Rosario.
Headlining the production is singer Mark Bautista as Jerry Lukowski. Bautista made his stage debut two years ago as Crisostomo Ibarra in Tanghalang Pilipino’s “Noli Me Tangere.”
Chari Arespacochaga directs, with musical direction by Ceejay Javier, set design by Denis Lagdameo, costume design by Twinkle Zamora and lighting design by Jonjon Villareal.
Ignacio had been hosting a TV game show and a radio talk show up until early this year, but has been de-loading himself of broadcast assignments in favor of what seems to be a return to acting projects.
Last year, he was cast in Gantimpala Theater’s “Sayaw ng mga SENIORita.” Prior to that, he’d taken an intensive advanced acting workshop with visiting teachers from the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, organized by Philippine Educational Theater Association.
“I do whatever I want, when I want,” he says. “It’s gotten me into trouble but it’s also given me a lot of joy.”
It’s his freewheeling approach to life that got him started in theater work in the ’80s. At the time, he’d already started his career doing stand-up comedy/hosting in clubs like The Library. He’d accompanied a friend to the rehearsals of Repertory Philippines’ “La Cage aux Folles,” picked up one of the production’s sheet music, sight read it (a skill he acquired as a music major from the University of the Philippines College of Music and as a member of the university’s Philippine Madrigal Singers), and started singing.
“Founder and (then) artistic director Bibot Amador was staring at me. I didn’t know who she was so I stopped singing and moved away. But she followed me and asked why I was singing. I told her it was because I was bored. She asked me who I was, so I asked her who she was!” Ignacio laughs.
He was cast in the show and went on to act in several Rep productions.
Familiar yet new
Returning to the stage is akin to “starting from scratch,” says. “It feels wonderful! I am experiencing renewed energy. It’s exciting.”
He was also surprised at how rehearsal methods have changed over the years.
“The technique before used to be anchored on creating tension for the actors, so that you could use that tension in your acting. As such, there was usually a lot of screaming from the director,” he laughs. “Now it’s so relaxed!”
But he still feels a bit of pressure. “I think I’m the oldest person in the whole cast. My co-actor Jamie [Wilson] and director Chari were both only teenagers when I was with Rep! I don’t want to be lagging behind. I want to make sure I’m always prepared. When an opportunity comes, you want to be ready.”
Freewheeling approach nonetheless, once he commits to a project, Ignacio says he commits all the way. For this production, he has already learned the music and is now augmenting rehearsals with his own research.
“I have multiple copies of the script so I can always study it wherever I am. I go on Youtube to study the accents of people from Buffalo, New York (where the musical is set). I have been experimenting with my character’s appearance, like with his hair.”
He notes that while the musical is about Americans, the story of their struggles is “Pinoy na Pinoy.” He says, “The emotions that the characters feel, how they deal with their pride and their families, how they find ways to solve their problems, how friends help each other—it’s a universal story that Filipino audiences will surely relate to.”
“The Full Monty” runs April 19-May 5 at Carlos Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza Bldg., Makati. Contact
tel. 8927078 or [email protected]. Tickets also available from Ticketworld (tel. 8919999).