There’s no stopping ‘Rak’

Introducing the musical’s two new Aileens: Alisah Banaobra (left) and Tanya Manalang

Introducing the musical’s two new Aileens: Alisah Banaobra (left) and Tanya Manalang

New cast introduced to musical despite its rumored last run
Anticipation from fans for the return of Rak of Aegis is high but with the announcement of its upcoming fifth run, so are the rumors that it may be the last staging of the theater blockbuster by the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA).

At the musical’s press conference last week at the PETA center, cast member themselves uttered the possibility—prompting The Manila Times to confirm this with PETA president Cecila Garrucho.

“It looks like it is the last. As a theater company, we have the duty to also present other shows even though they are not blockbusters,” Garrucho said in the exclusive interview.

Written by Lisa Magtoto and directed by Maribel Legarda, Rak of Aegis enjoyed commercial success, a rare feat in Philippine theater, with the help of a witty story featuring the struggling but resilient residents of the flooded Villa Venizia. The very premise of the show is a characteristic Filipinos are known for around the world.

Since its premiere in 2014, the musical has already produced 206 shows in four runs and is set to do 82 more in the new run.

Impending farewell for old cast
Because of Rak’s longevity, many of its cast members have performed in a great number of shows. And so with its possible farewell, they couldn’t feel but sad, “Nakakalungkot kung iisipin naming na last time na ‘to because we’ve been doing this for two years already and sobrang naging personal na siya sa amin because it catapulted most of our careers. The musical has been a blessing to all of us,” Kim Molina who plays the lead role of Aileen admitted to The Manila Times.

The cast of ‘Rak of Aegis’ with director Maribel Legarda and writer Lisa Magtoto PHOTO COURTESY OF JUDE BAUTISTA

The cast of ‘Rak of Aegis’ with director Maribel Legarda and writer Lisa Magtoto PHOTO COURTESY OF JUDE BAUTISTA

For Aicelle Santos, who alternates with Molina in playing the lead role, she said, “On the brighter side, nakakatuwa rin na kahit pang ilang season na namin, tinatangkilik pa rin ng tao ang Rak.”

She further hoped, “Excited for this run but I think this isn’t the last.”

To which Molina agreed, “I think so too. Kasi nagkaroon din ng ganitong tanong last year. Kahit sinasabi nila it’s the last run, I don’t think this will be kasi hahanap-hanapin ng mga tao.”

Garrucho herself said in the earlier interview that they are willing to bring it back if there’s a clamor for it. But for PETA’s 50th anniversary next year, it is a definite that Rak of Aegis will not be included in their lineup.

What to expect from new Aileens
Last run or not, Rak of Aegis is staying true to its promise of introducing new Filipino talents. Thus, it welcomed eight new members to its growing family that has now grown to 42, a huge leap from 14 pioneers in the beginning.

Two of them will join Santos and Molina in playing the lead role of the determined Aileen.

First is Tanya Manalang who made headlines when she bagged the role of Kim in the West End production of Miss Saigon in 2014.

Coming from an international production, was it a challenge for her to take on a Filipino-speaking role?

“Yes it was a challenge. I was born and raised in the Philippines so I can speak the language but not as comfortably and as freely as how the role requires it so I’m working on that,” Manalang revealed in an interview.

She added that the songs also call for great effort. “It’s really different from what I did for the past two years kasi mabirit, eh ako hindi ako mabirit talaga.”

Despite the initial challenges, Manalang is optimistic in taking the role and introducing herself to the local audience through the well-loved character of Aileen.

“Gusto ko lang talagang ma-share kung ano ang meron ako . . . because I’ve been away for so long. I was away for two years and some people would only hear my name as just a name that’s part of Saigon but they never really got to see me. I want to be able to share what I can bring on the Philippine stage and my interpretation of the role as well,” the young stage actress hoped.

Then there is Alisah Banaobra who rose to public consciousness when she finished a runner-up in ABS-CBN’s The Voice, and later, a finalist at Eat Bulaga’s “Just Duet.”

It was in the latter program that Banaobra met Aicelle Santos who encouraged her to audition for the role, after their duet in the segment.

“Niloloko ko lang po siya nun na gusto kong ma-experience ‘yong theater tapos biglang sabi niya mag-audition ka as Aileen,” Banaobra shared during the musical’s press conference.

She was admittedly flabbergasted with Santos’ suggestion but went anyway and got the part.

“Dati po ako po yung nagbebenta ng ticket ng Rak of Aegis. Hindi ko po ine-expect na ngayon ako na po yung nasa ticket,” Banaobra recalled to the delight of the press.

Rak of Aegis opens on June 17and runs until August 28.


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