Ballet Philippines’ Tales of the Manuvu is back at the CCP

AL Abraham as Manama and Ronelson Yadao as First Man in Tales of the Manuvu. Photo by Jojo Mamangun

One of Ballet Philippines’ most celebrated original, distinctly Filipino masterpieces, Tales of the Manuvu, is back at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

The widely successful rock opera ballet that brought together fans of rock, pop, ballet and neo Filipino dance on the stage back in the 70s is being revived to culminate the company’s 49th season.

Most monumental coup

Choreographed by National Artist for Dance and Ballet Philippines’ Artistic Director Alice Reyes in 1977, Tales of the Manuvu tells the creation story of the Manobo tribe from Mindanao. The libretto, written by National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, was based off an article published in Philippine Heritage by E. Arsenio Manuel.

This unique adaptation of the creation story was the most monumental coup of Ballet Philippines in the 70s. Not only did it bring together rock, opera, pop and ballet on the stage, it also brought audiences from all walks of life to one main theater in a collective celebration of Philippine culture. Alice Reyes recalls, “We opened to a packed house and we never looked back. People sat on both aisled of the theater night after night with long lines outside.”

AL Abraham as Manama and EJ Arisola as Ogassi. Photo by Jojo Mamangun

Dero Pedero created the score, working alongside rock band The Afterbirth to compose a musical that would redefine dance and Filipino artistry. Beloved late Philippine couturier Ernest Santiago also joined this most formidable group of artists in bringing flair to costumes for Tales of the Manuvu. Lighting and set designs were imagined by CCP Veteran, Monino Duque.

New sets and musical arrangements

Broadway theater designer and multi awarded filmmaker Loy Arcenas is lending his genius this season to the creation of the mystical Manobo realm. Known for his ground-breaking film Ang Larawan, Arcenas has also reaped praise for the sets he created in Broadway’s Once On This Island. Arcenas’ sets will be lit by Katsch Catoy, whose light design mastery continues to add magic to the stage.

Original music and score, which makes Tales of the Manuvu a masterpiece that mirrors the country’s rich pool of talent, will likewise refreshed with new arrangements by Francis de Veyra.

And because Tales of the Manuvu is a show that will have audiences rocking out to a ballet,  Pinoy rock band, Radioactive Sago will also take centerstage.

A powerhouse cast, then and now

When Tales of the Manuvu premiered, celebrated singers like Celeste Legaspi, Hadji Alejandro, Anthony Castelo and Boy Camara were cast. Leah Navarro also made her debut performance during Tales of the Manuvu. Joining them were Rey Paguio and the UP Concert Chorus.

This year, Celeste reunited with Ballet Philippines, lending her powerful vocals to the musical. Also returning to stage for this year’s revival are Boy Camara and Ding Mercado. Joining these musical legends are multi-awarded performers Shiela Valderama, Lorenz Martinez, Nar Cabico, Reuben Laurente, Poppert Bernadas and Lara Maigue. Straight from her Miss Saigon tour in Irelend, Aicelle Santos is will also be joining in this grand revival of Tales of the Manuvu by Ballet Philippines.

Tales of the Manuvu runs from March 22 – 31, 2019, at the CCP Main Theater. Show dates and schedules are as follows: March 23, 2019, 2:00 PM & 7:00 PM; March 24, 2019, 2:00 PM & 7:00 PM, March 30, 2019, 7:00 PM; and March 31, 2019, 2:00 PM.