Believe it or not, Cris Villonco, an award-winning theater actress, was only paid P150 for every night she performed in her first musical sometime in the ’90s.
“I really wanted to do it (theater),” she explained. “It gives me immense satisfaction. Doing theater is food for the soul.”
She likes doing theater so much that Cris started her own theater company, Red Turnip, in 2013. She co-founded it with fellow stage actors Rem Zamora, Jenny Jamora, Ana Abad Santos and Topper Fabregas.
If there’s anything she hopes for the local theater scene, it is better appreciation from the Filipino audience.
“I really understand that a theater ticket ay mas mahal talaga kaysa sa isang movie ticket. But I hope, the audience will realize that theater is also very important (to our culture),” she shared. “I believe we’re doing it (theater) very well here and I do hope na ma-appreciate nila kung ano ’yung meron tayo dito.”
Side by side
Bulletin Entertainment interviewed Cris at the press conference of her latest theater play, the Philippine adaptation of internationally-acclaimed musical “Matilda.”
The musical tells the story of Matilda and her friends – a group of children who are determined to fight against the injustices of childhood, and are inspired to start a revolution that will change their destinies forever. Cris plays Miss Honey.
The actress said “Matilda” is the first time she will be working in a theater play with as many kids.
“Natakot ako. Ang dami nila eh!” she said, laughing. “I haven’t worked in a musical na ganon kadami ang mga bata. But they’re all amazing talents so I’m excited, too.”
Playing the title role, Matilda, are three of theater’s miracles: Telesa Marie “Esang” De Torres, whose most notable works include ABS-CBN’s “The Voice,” and the “Les Misérables” Asian tour; Uma Naomi Martin, who has made her theater debut in “A Little Princess;” and Felicity Kyle Napuli, who has been recognized as Outstanding Child Performer at the Gawad Musika Awards.
Cris finds them to be “very talented kids.”
“Nakakatuwa kasi alam nila lahat ng gagawin nila. Lahat ng lines, memoryado nila. With Esang, nu’ng nag-start kami ng rehearsals sabi niya medyo natatakot siya but seeing her perform, she’s quite a wonder,” she related. “It’s very magical to see those kids on stage, ’yung kahit kami nagtatanong kung kaya ba nilang gawin but nagagawa talaga nila ng maayos at maganda.”
The theater actress said the children have been taking lessons on the British accent.
“They are learning little by little. The accent coaches are helping them and I’m confident na they’ll go through it with flying colors talaga,” she enthused.
In a separate interview, Esang, Uma and Kyle shared Matilda is a dream role for them.
“When I first heard the audition for ‘Matilda’ I said to myself ‘Oh my God! I need to audition or else.’ Then we made it. I was really happy. I actually read the ‘Matilda’ book and I really fell in love with its story,” Kyle said.
What are their preparations for the role?
“Ako po tinuturuan po ako ni Ms. Lea Salonga pagdating du’n sa British accent po,” Esang disclosed.
The three shared the lessons they’ve learned in doing the show.
“Never give up on whatever you are doing. Always give your 100 percent, and just have fun and do your best,” Uma said.
Kyle shared, “For me, if you really want something, you can do it. As long as you think it’s right, just continue doing it and don’t give up.”
Esang, on her part, quoted the lyrics from one of their songs.
“Even if you’re little, you can do a lot, you mustn’t let a little thing like, ‘little’ stop you… If you sit around and let them get on top.”
Directed by Bobby Garcia, “Matilda” runs from Nov. 10 to Dec. 10 at the Meralco Theater.
Back to TV
Though theater has always been her comfort zone, Cris wants to return to doing TV series next year.
“It’s (doing teleserye) good for the pocket,” she admitted, laughing.
The thespian was last seen on “Ang Lihim Ni Annasandra” way back 2013.
“TV kasi is a different medium, kailangan din ng different way of acting. Ako naman I always wanted to do something else,” she said. “So let’s see next year. I-clear ko muna ’yung theater works ko then sana makakuha ako ng teleserye.”
She also hopes to do an indie film by then. Her most recent one was some time ago, the Cinemalaya entry “Hari Ng Tondo.”
Cris is thankful to have a “very understanding and very kind” husband Paolo Valderrama whom she married last year.
They’re not in a rush to have a baby, she maintained.
“I’m thankful that my husband really understands my job kasi he has his own business to look after din. We have to work together pero medyo wala pa sa plano ’yung baby,” she explained. “Hindi naman kami nagmamadali… actually ang mga lola ang nagmamadali kasi he is the only boy in the family. Pero honestly, kami hindi pa namin alam kasi we want to spend time together muna. So we’ll see.”
Tags: A Little Princess, Bulletin Entertainment, CRIS VILLONCO, Cris Villonco’s passion for theater wanes not, elicity Kyle Napuli, Esang De Torres, Manila Bulletin, Manila Bulletin Entertainment, Matilda, mb.com.ph, The musical, Topper Fabregas, Uma Naomi Martin