Chances are that few people who will watch the Atlantis theatrical production of the Broadway hit Waitress experienced waiting tables ever in their lives. But it’s sure a story the broader market in the country can easily identify with.
That’s how topnotch theater production vocal coach Manman Angsico sees it as the stage musical “celebrating the lives of ordinary people” runs from Nov. 9 to Dec. at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in RCBC Plaza, Makati.
“Sarah Bareilles music and words are ‘storyful,’ wordy, and always having the emotional arc,” described the well-versed, music conservatory graduate of the Grammy nominee’s work on the production based on the beloved film by Adrienne Shelly and book by Jessie Nelson.
Waitress tells the tale of a pie maker named Jenna who finds solace in baking and, with a little help from her friends Dawn and Becky, pursues a path off her bleak marriage and into a life filled with fun.
For the Manila run which interestingly comes ahead of its London West End debut (in 2019), playing Jenna is award-winner West End talent herself Joanna Ampil, with songstress Bituin Escalante (that voice who popularized “Kung Ako Na Lang Sana”) and rising name Maronne Cruz (of the recent hit play Ang Huling El Bimbo) portraying Becky and Dawn, respectively.
Angsico related, “Joanna is amazing in the sense that she goes the extra mile to a place where she emotionally gives truth to the story of her character.”
She added, “I’m really excited for Bituin’s return to Atlantis as her role is perfect for her.”
He then described Maronne as “ridiculously amazing who puts so much on the table.”
Having started his own career as vocal coach in the mid-1990s, Angsico deservingly earned the nod of Atlantis as its acknowledged resident vocal coach, and having collaborated numerous times with Waitress director Bobby Garcia.
“Theater people here in Manila are mostly not musically trained and don’t read music, so often I have to teach note for note,” he shared. “There is a very particular kind of vocal technique employed in theater and that makes it always challenging. It’s how you tell the story through singing and appreciate what is human.”
For Waitress, coach Manman stressed the team has to respect the material by adhering to the parameters and style of the production. “That’s part of having the royalty granted to us here in Manila.”
Joining Ampil as men of the show are Bibo Reyes (as Dr. Pomatter), Nino Alejandro, George Schulze, Dean Rosen, and Steven Conde.
The production also features Luigi Quesada, Gerhard Krysstopher, Luis Marcelo, Emeline Celis Guinid, Teetin Villanueva, Sarah Facuri, and Jillian Ita-as.
Other behind-the-scene significants are choreographer Cecile Martinez, set designer David Gallo, lighting artist Aaron Porter, musical director Farley Ascuncion, costume specialist Raven Ong, sound expert Josh Millican, and hair and makeup stylist Johann dela Fuente.
“What’s happening in Philippine theater is amazing,” he closed out on a high note. “The buffet is longer for the Filipino audience.”