Love and heartbreak knows no age, no gender. It can always happen to anyone.
This is what the critically acclaimed Changing Partners wants its viewers to take home with them after they see the much-awaited rerun of the award-winning musical. Following its successful transition into film earlier this year, Changing Partners is returning to the stage starting this May 11 at the PETA Theater Center.
In a span of only two years, Changing Partners has achieved what would normally take about a decade, or more, to reach. Penned by multi-awarded composer and writer Vincent De Jesus and helmed by Rem Zamora, PETA is bringing back Changing Partners to a much bigger audience in the 400-seater PETA-Phinma Theater.
It was first presented in a full-house, one-night only stage reading at the Virgin Labfest, an annual festival of new plays by emerging and established Filipino playwrights, in July 2016 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. After two months, Changing Partners: A Torch Musical was staged in full production at the 115-seater PETA Theater Center Studios in September and October 2016. The Bindlestiff Festival in California, USA also produced and performed the musical as part of its Tagalog Theater Festival and featured Fil-American actors. The ingenious script of De Jesus also won the Best Full-Length Play award at the prestigious Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature and the musical came back to the PETA Theater Center Studios for a rerun on November and December 2016.
“It’s always nice to explore whether you succeed or not. The point is, you tried at least. In our case, we’re very fortunate and very happy—ecstatic actually—that we’re coming back to the theater. It doesn’t usually happen in a span of two years,” says Vincent de Jesus about the journey of Changing Partners during a sit-down interview with INQUIRER.net.
Zamora chimes in and adds that no other play he knows has gone through this process in a such a short period of time. Changing Partners is a “gift that keeps on giving” for the two and the rest of the cast—Agot Isidro, Jojit Lorenzo, Sandino Martin, and Anna Luna—who will be reprising their roles as Alex and Chris.
“Swerte namin dahil kami ang napili pa rin na gampanan itong role nina Chris and Alex. Nagpapasalamt kami dahil nagustuhan ng mga tao ‘yung film,” Luna shared.
The recent film adaptation of the musical was well-received by viewers—particularly the younger ones—who according to Isidro, seem to be more “open-minded” to these films tackling sensitive issues like gender and sexuality. Under the direction of Dan Villegas, Changing Partners starring the same cast from the stage musical, transitioned to a full-length film and was an entry at the 2017 Cinema One Originals Film Festival. The film bagged several awards including: Best Director (Villegas), Best Actress (Isidro), Best Actor (Lorenzo), Best Acting Ensemble (Isidro, Lorenzo, Luna, Martin), Best Editing (Marya Ignacio), Best Music (de Jesus), Audience Choice Award, and Champion Bughaw for Best Film.
When asked about their preparations for the stage comeback of Changing Partners, Isidro and Lorenzo shared that it’s much easier for them now. “When we first did the first staging, marami kaming rehearsals no’n. Iyon ‘yung talagang na-flesh out yung mga characters and pati yung mga conflicts napag-usapan namin. From then on, it’s easier na to go to film, then go back to the play,” says Isidro.
Changing Partners follows the unique story of two couples named Alex and Cris (Isidro as Alex and Martin as Cris; Luna as Cris and Lorenzo as Alex) going through the same ups and downs in a relationship even as they switch partners—thus the title. It tackles the universality of love and the pain that comes with it. It shows that anyone of us can be or have been Alex or Cris.
“It’s the same kahit matanda or bata, or kahit anong gender, masasaktan ka pa rin. If it doesn’t work out, it’s still very painful. Even if you have gone through it many many times, masakit pa rin siya,” said Isidro.
The cast shared that they find the story very relatable and that they draw from their personal experiences to portray their characters. For Isidro, watching Changing Partners can be a release for those who have been through the same experiences as the characters in a relationship. The story of Changing Partners can also be an opportunity for the viewers to see that everyone goes through the same thing and that they are never alone.
“Bawal kayong lumabas ng theater nang hindi nasasaktan!” Luna jokes. She hopes that the viewers, especially those who are going through a rough time in their relationship, will be able to find some answers from the play.
“Whether or not you can relate to the material or the staging, just take away a piece of theater magic and watch theater again and again,” Zamora adds.
Changing Partners runs from May 11-13 and May 19-20 at the PETA-Phinma Theater. Tickets are priced at Php500 to Php1,200 and are available through Ticketworld.