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The anti-romcom musical returns to the stage

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Changing Partners: The Stage Musical
Changing Partners tells the love and life stories of two romantic pairs (L-R): Anna Luna, Jojit Lorenzo, Agot Isidro, and Sandino Martin.

By Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman
Reporter

Theater
Changing Partners: The Stage Musical
Presented by PETA Theater and REDMUNKEY
May 11, 12, 13, 19, and 20
PETA Theater Center,
No. 5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City

CHANGING PARTNERS is billed as an “anti-romcom” musical because it negates the typical boy-meets-girl storyline and a happy-ever-after ending.

Ang ganda kasing sabihing ‘anti romcom’ (It’s just so nuce to say ‘anti-romcom’). Yes it’s funny — there are lots of funny moments — but a relationship ending is not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, it’s just one chapter, and then you move on,” Vince de Jesus, the musical’s composer and writer, told BusinessWorld on May 3, a few days before the start of the play’s short two-weekend rerun, on why Changing Partners subverts the usual romantic-comedy storylines.

The award-winning musical, which transitioned from stage in 2016 to film in 2017, and now returns to the PETA Theater stage.

If it is not a romantic-comedy, is it pro-hugot then, which, at essence, makes use of sappy, quotable lines that aim to tug at the heartstrings?

“The context of hugot, in the ’80s and ’90s, is that it is your well of experience, like, ‘Saan ka huhugot ng pain?’ [Where should you draw pain?] Then it has changed to its meaning today, which has become a punch line, like, ‘Buti pa ang kalendaryo, may date, ikaw wala.’ [The calendar is more fortunate because it has dates, you have none]. But in Changing Partners, the lines are drawn from real life experiences. You say the lines because they mean something and not just as a punch line,” said Mr. De Jesus.

“There is something fake and manufactured when you say hugot line eh,” added director Rem Zamora. “This one, there’s no intention about it. We joke about it to market it, but there is no conscious effort to make it a hugot play. It’s just an honest to goodness play,” he said.

Changing Partners tells the love and life stories of two romantic pairs who literally change partners (i.e. boy-girl, gay, and lesbian couples) to illustrate the journey of hetero and homo relationships, and how they are different and, at the same time, alike.

At the core of the story, of course, is love in all its faces, phases, and permutations.

While love is love no matter the gender of the lovers, still, there are nuances in gay/lesbian and straight couples.

“Some differences are subtle, while some are obvious, like their power struggles. The dynamics change. Let’s say it is with an older woman and a straight younger man. Immediately, people would say, ‘Ano ba ’yan humanap ka ng ka-edad mo, ang tanda tanda mo na’ [‘What? Find someone your age’], but it changes when it is an older guy and a much younger female, because people would often say, ‘Uy ang swerte mo naman.’ [‘You are so lucky.’] Again, society looks at relationships differently, depending on the gender and social class. Sometimes, people adjust to what society wants. And in this case, you’ll see the different permutations of love,” said Mr. De Jesus.

Changing Partners started at a one-night-only stage reading at the Virgin Labfest in 2016. Later that year, Mr. De Jesus and Mr. Zamora expanded and produced it as a musical at PETA starring Agot Isidro, Jojit Lorenzo, Anna Luna, and Sandino Martin. In 2017, Changing Partners was made into a full feature film under movie director Dan Villegas, with the same cast. At the Cinema One Originals Film Festival, the musical won eight awards: best director, best actress (Ms. Isidro), best actor (Mr. Lorenzo), best ensemble, best editing, best music, the audience choice award, and best film, which encouraged Star Records to give it a nationwide commercial release last January.

The actors are reprising their roles once more for this limited run. Will there be changes in their approach?

“Emotions-wise, the story is the same, but we’ve discovered the different layers, the nuances of the lines. Malalaro pa namin (we can play with it) to become richer,” said Ms. Isidro.

For Mr. Lorenzo, he said the opportunity to have watched Changing Partners on screen has helped him improve his performance for the live onstage play.

Mr. Zamora said the play’s new set is bigger now thanks to production designer Ben Padero (PETA’s ’Night Mother), and there is also live music during the performances — piano by Mr. De Jesus and cello by Poch Gutierrez.

For tickets, visit Ticketworld (www.ticketworld.com.ph) or message the PETA Theater Center Facebook page.