Back in college, I had a friend and colleague who was my editor in the school paper. She was bright, ambitious, and was consistently at the top of her class. I fondly remember her as someone who will soon be as successful as her mentors – daring and passionate.
That was until she fell in love and got pregnant.
The boyfriend soon vanished. His parents sent him to Singapore to continue his studies, and she never heard from him again. My friend’s parents almost banished her. Most her former confidants slowly disappeared, too. The only ones left were a handful of friends ready to listen and stay with her through those rough times.
Because she had to hide her pregnancy from her home town, she stayed in a dormitory in Manila with her cousin until the baby was born.
But the worst was yet to come. As soon as the school found that she was expecting, she was asked to take a leave of absence for the next two semesters. Understand that this was during the time when institutions were more unyielding and conservative. Her scholarship was eventually revoked, taking away the most precious thing that will lead her to her dreams.
I remember visiting her, at least twice a month. As her belly swelled, she turned more bitter and withdrawn. She would say she’d give away her child the moment it sees light. Sometimes, she’d skip her doctor’s appointments “Not that it matters,” she’d say. “This isn’t part of my plans, after all.”
That was when a counselor reached out to her. Thanks for the kindness of one of our professor back in the university. She recommended that she talks to her baby whenever she feels like telling him/her something. “It’s a common therapy,” she said. “It also starts a bond between the mother and her child.”
Despite her lack of sentiments towards the baby in her womb, she soon found herself talking to her belly. She eventually found it a considerable way to kill time, and express what she felt during those solitary moments in the dark.
This reminds me of Adrienne Shelly’s award-winning film WAITRESS (2007), which was turned into a musical with music and lyrics by Sarah Bareilles, and book by Jessie Nelson. It tells the story of a young woman, Jenna Hunterson, trapped in a society of men and a system that oppresses them even further. Despite these, she find comfort and reckoning in the simple magic of baking. When Jenna finds out that she is pregnant, she finds other ways on how to make it each day with the help of her two closest friends, Dawn and Becky. As the months go by, she dreams of way out from a loveless marriage and musters the courage to start anew with a soon-to-be-born-baby at hand.
Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group is set to premiere this Tony-nominated musical in Manila in November this year. The show, which continues to run on Broadway and will open in London’s West End next year, features music and lyrics from 6-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles, and will open on November 9 at the Carols P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza.
Leading the show as Jenna is award winning international musical theatre star Joanna Ampil. She has performed in the West End in musicals such as MISS SAIGON, LES MISERABLES, AVENUE Q and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, to name a few. Her performance as Candida in the recent film ANG LARAWAN (2017) has won her numerous Best Actress Awards locally. Jenna will be her first role back in the local theatre scene after her stint as Grizabella in the international tour of CATS.
Set to play the sassy waitress and loveable friend, Becky, is none other than Bituin Escalante. An influential figure in OPM, Bituin has also made rounds in the theatre scene since 1999. Bituin has starred in numerous Tony-winning shows in roles such as Joanne in RENT, Effie White in DREAMGIRLS, and Asaka in ONCE ON THIS ISLAND. Her recent performance as Aling Saling in HIMALA: ISANG MUSIKAL has earned her critical acclaim.
To complete the trio, Maronne Cruz will be playing the neurotic and eccentric Dawn. Maronne is no stranger to musical theatre. She has appeared in numerous productions including Jeannie in HAIR, Gabbi in SA WAKAS, Josephine in AKO SI JOSEPHINE, Stepsister Joy in CINDERELLA.
WAITRESS is directed by Bobby Garcia, with choreography by Cecile Martinez, set design by Tony Award winner David Gallo, lighting design by Aaron Porter, musical direction by Farley Asuncion, costume design by Raven Ong, sound Design by Josh Millican, hair and make up design by Johann dela Fuente and vocal coaching by Manman Angsico.
This musical echoes, so deeply, my friend’s journey to finding her true self. The unexpected feeling that came at the right time at the climax of her ordeal, washed away her past guilt and self-pity. Like Jenna, she too, learned that there is more magic in what lies ahed.