On the Spot: Gian Magdangal and Frencheska Farr from Grease, the musical

Meet the fresh pair who will flesh out Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski starting November 9.


(SPOT.ph) The hot-rodding T-Birds and the bubblegum-popping Pink Ladies of Rydell High are back with 9 Works Theatrical's staging of Grease. Set in 1959 when leather jackets and pedal pushers were all the rage, this Broadway musical is slightly different from the ’70s movie version starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, but fans can expect familiar hit tracks such as "Hopelessly Devoted To You" and "You're The One That I Want."


A lot of actors showed great potential according to director Robbie Guevera but the role of Danny Zuko was eventually given to musical veteran Gian Magdangal, who captured our hearts inThe Wedding Singer, RENT, and West Side Story. After months of auditions and deliberation, the role of Sandy Dumbrowski was given to theater newbie Frencheska Farr, the winner of GMA’s Are You the Next Big Star? in 2009.

SPOT.ph chatted with Gian and Frencheska at the press conference of Grease to talk about the tweet-less era of the ’50s and what it's like working with a powerhouse cast.


There are a lot of sitcoms, movies, and musicals that focus on high school now. What makes Grease different from your usual High School Musical and Glee-like shows?

Gian: Obviously high school these days is a little [more] commercialized. When Grease [was first screened], [high school] was liberating. There were no cell phones and there were fewer distractions. My dad grew up in this era. He told me, "Before, you know, we used to have a conversation with someone upfront. You didn't have Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. You really had to find out for yourself if this person was really sincere or not." The whole fun of that-the sincerity or simplicity of learning a song, listening to live music, and the excitement of that era-is what we want to impart to everyone, especially the kids, when they watch Grease.


Frencheska: When you watch Grease, all fun talaga siya, pero sa likod nun, makikita niyo yung story ng ibat-ibang characters na dumadaan sa high school life at kung papaano iikot yung buhay nila and kung papaano sila mag-gro-grow.


The ’50s was known for guys sporting the greaser look. How much grease are you guys really going to put on your hair for the play?

Gian: Oh, we're going to be very generous [laughs].Yung nasa lata-pomada! And luckily my hair is curly, for the role. I'm still growing it for the show, actually.


Gian, your role Danny is the youngest character you've played so far. How did you channel your inner teen for this play?

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Gian: I'd like to think I'm still young [laughs]. And it's the cast; they're really infectious and fun to be with. That's where I'm [getting] all the energy from. I'm not fresh out of high school anymore, but I'm still in the calendar [laughs].


What's it like working with new stage talents like Frencheska Farr and Rafa Siguion-Reyna?

Gian: It's very encouraging because they're very eager and they make me remember the plays I did a decade ago. Oh, I used to remember when I didn't complain that much [laughs]. You [can see that] they're really hungry for it and you [want to] remind them that hey, I'm still hungry too!



The cast of GreaseGian Magdangal as Danny Zuko, Frencheska Farr as Sandy Dumbrowski, Iya Villania and Jennifer Blair-Bianco as Betty Rizzo, Rafa Siguion-Reyna as Kenickie, Carla Dunareanu as Marty, Reb Atadero as Roger, Mark Tayag as Sonny Latierri, Vince Lim as Doody, Peachy Atilano as Frenchie, Sara Facuri as Jan, Carlos Canlas as Johnny Casino, James Stacey as DJ Vince Fontaine, Harold Cruz as Eugence Florcyzk, Sab Jose as Patty Simcox, Angela Padilla as Miss Lynch, and Carmelle Ros as Cha-cha Digregorio.


Frencheska, have you done musicals in the past?

Frencheska: This is the first time actually, so I'm very excited and also very pressured kase yung Grease ginawa more than 10 years ago and [Sandy] was played by Ms. Lea Salonga. Ang daming pressure on my part kase ang daming ine-expect from me. Ayoko nang isipin kung anong iisipin sa akin ng mga tao. Katulad ng sabi ni Iya [Villania, who's playing Betty Rizzo], maraming magsasabing good and bad pero mas maraming magsasabi ng bad [laughs]. I'm just praying na ma-surpass ko yung expectations and magawa ko talaga ng maayos yung role.


But you did a Tagalog movie musical before, right?

Frencheska: Yes, Emir. Three years ago yun. It's about this OFW. It was directed by Chito Roño and that was my very first experience sa acting. Singer lang ako nung pumasok sa GMA.


What's the difference between singing for TV and singing onstage for a play?

Frencheska:Pag nasa TV ka, kakanta ka, hindi masyadong OA sa movements mo or mawawala ka sa frame. Unlike sa theater, kailangan i-give mo yung all out talaga. Kung kailangan mong lakihan, lakihan mo para makita ka [ng audience sa pinaka likod].



What have you learned from training with 9 Works Theatrical?

Frencheska: The number one thing na natutunan ko talaga is the discipline. Hindi ko naman sinasabi na wala yun sa TV. It's just that grabe, sobrang strict talaga sila sa theater. Makikita mo talaga yung passion and fire sa bawat isa. Sa rehearsal pa lang, talagang they give their very best. It inspires me to give everything I have [too]. Ang dami kong natututunan sa cast and ang dami kong na-discover about myself.


Do you plan to do more plays after Grease?

Frencheska: Right now I'm busy with GMA's Sunday All Stars and Grease. That's it. Wala pa naman next. Tingnan muna natin.


Grease will run from November 9 to December 1, 2013 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati. Tickets are available via Ticket World and 9 Works Theatrical. Visit  9 Works Theatrical’s official website and Facebook page for more info.


Photos by Zai Boongaling. Additional photos courtesy of 9 Works Theatrical.

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