Last March 4, we went behind the scenes at the rehearsals of Fun Home. Lea Salonga, Laurence Mossman, Katie Bradshaw, Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante, Yanah Laurel, Eric Kunze, Noel Comia Jr., and Teddy Velasco performed ‘Raincoat of Love’, while Andee Achacoso, Daniel Drilon, and Albert Silos performed ‘Come to the Fun Home.’ You can watch the video below!
Right after the performance, we got to talk to Tony-award winner Lea Salonga and lead actress Cris Villonco. Cris Villonco plays the central role of Alison Bechdel while Lea Salonga plays Alison’s distant mother, Helen Bechdel. Both of their characters struggle in their dysfunctional household as Alison and her father Bruce Bechdel come to terms with their sexuality.
TEAM TFM: Was there any apprehension on your end in terms of how the Filipino audience was going to receive the material?
Cris Villonco: There was a little bit of maybe, ‘I wonder how they were going to react’. But it’s not just about coming out. The issues, whatever comes out in families, whatever happens in family dynamics will come out. And it’s not just about a lesbian or it’s not just about this situation. It’s about family dynamics, how you deal with it, what happens, how the children react, what happens when things don’t go the way the children want it to go, things like that.
Lea Salonga: And I think, I don’t know who joked about this, but I think we Filipinos tend to do repression very well. And how people related to the show, I think they related to it in ways they did not expect to because you can actually see in each of these characters a part of yourself. Like there are a lot of women who have been through the wringer as far as their marriages were concerned. They can see themselves in Helen. Or young people who’ve seen their parents fight, they see themselves in how the Bechdels are dealing with it. And then you see the little hills of tissue paper left behind by people who’ve come to see the show.
TEAM TFM: With all the shows that you’ve done, would you say that this has been your most emotionally exhausting role so far?
Lea Salonga: For me, yeah. I think for me it is. I mean there’s so much that she keeps so bottled up for much of the show. And even when she finally has that moment towards the end, when she opens up to her daughter, a lot of it is not big emotion. I mean the one thing that we kind of have to keep in the show, it’s not melodrama and it never ever gets to that point. Everything she just keeps bottled up.
Cris Villonco: I would say yes because of trying to keep everything in until the very last moment. I’m known for just crying (laughs)… in Ghost, in Noli [Me Tangere], … well basically in everything else. (laughs) So this time around, direc Bobby was like, “No weepy-weepy. No weepy-weepy.” So he gave me about two weeks maybe to let go of everything. To cry and cry and cry and cry and cry and then finally one day he said you’re not allowed to do that anymore. You’re only allowed to do that in that one scene and you cannot look down. You have to stay looking up and that’s it. So it’s hard because at the end of the day I have a headache keeping it all in. (laughs)
Lea Salonga: It’s tiring. It’s much easier to let it out. And I think the Filipino audiences have this expectation that if it’s going to be sad, or angry, or whatever, that you kind of expect the melodramatic, very large, teleserye, big tears. But not for this. And I think this hits a lot of people hard because reality is far closer to this than the melodrama that is presented in a lot of cinema or television ‘cause in life really you don’t really see a lot of dramatic breakdowns. They’re small. They’re very contained.