Resorts World Manila’s Newport Performing Arts Theater.
“Different Ronnie ang makikita dito,” he says, alluding to more than the obvious – the longish hair, leather vest, straight-cut maong and cowboy boots.
Aside from the blocking and the script, the music theater virgin had to learn voice projection, among other things.
“Since March, nag re rehearse na kami kasi ang gusto ni Direk Freddie, masanay na ang brain neurons namin dahil walang Take 2 dito,” he relates, ”’Pag natutulog ako napapanaginipan na namin ang lines namin. At ngayon ’pag pumasok na ako sa
Resorts World, para na akong nag tra transform. ‘Yung pagsasalita ko, parang sumisigaw – ‘Hello! How are you, my friend?’ At saka ‘pag nag uusap nagagamit na namin ‘yung ‘80s expressions like ‘nantutsa’.”
(Photo from left CrisVillonco, Mark Bautista, Monica Cuenco & Ronnie Liang casts/actors at Bituing Walang Ningning musical)
It’s a whole new world for the singing heartthrob. He considers it a big thrill to be directed by Freddie Santos, who also wrote the musical, and be among experienced actors Cris Villonco and Mark Bautista, who played Ferdinand Marcos in the play “Here Lies Love,” which ran in London from September 2014 to January of this year, and newcomer Monica Cuenca, who got the part after a nationwide search for the new Dorina Pineda, the ingénue who rises to rival her music idol, Laviñia Arguelles (Villonco).
He first saw the movie in elementary and knew that Garry Diaz, originally played by Joel Torre in the 1980s megahit, is a music producer who carries a torch for the young Dorina. In the stage re-telling, he relates, the role is given more prominence, and the love triangle of Garry, Dorina and Nico Escobar, played by Mark, becomes highlighted.
“In-enhance ‘yung role at dinagdagan ang participation,” he says. “Sa movie, hindi naman kumakanta si Joel Torre, pero dito kumakanta si Garry David. ‘Yung solo ko is ‘Paikot ikot’ ni Randy Santiago, then Garry has a duet with Dorina, ‘Init sa Magdamag,’ and a trio with Mark and Monica, ‘Sana’y Maghintay ang Walang Hanggan,’ mga Willy Cruz originals.”
His first foray into stage acting has not only helped improve his acting and voice projection, but also exposed him to the work ethic of theater people. “Natuto ako sa acting, kahit malaki ang movements, dapat natural pa rin. Nag workshop kasi ako with Direk Beverly Vergel, Direk Leo Martinez and sa Star Magic with Direk Rahyan Carlos, ‘yung acting dun hindi the way sa theater. ‘Dun gusto sa mata lang, less movement ‘yung face tsaka ‘yung galaw. Dito kailangan lahat ng muscle mo gagalaw, pero kailangan natural pa ring tingnan. And purpose naman para kita kahit sa malayo,” he says. “Tapos, sa time, ‘pag sinabing 6 o’ clock, dapat 6, dahil ‘pag 6:01 ka dumating – you’re dead ang sasabihin ni Direk Freddie. ’Pag kailangang umabsent, basta magpapaalam ka.”
If he will have his way, “Bituing Walang Ningning, The Musical” will only be the first of his musicals.
“I like the experience. I enjoy doing it. May mga surprises, iba siya sa movie, ibang larangan naman sa pag-arte,” he says.