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Cebuana discovery Monica Cuenco bags lead in 'Bituing Walang Ningning: The Musical'.

Freshfaced Cebuana Monica Cuenco bested over a hundred other young women from around the country to portray Dorina Pineda in the upcoming Resorts World Manila (RWM) theater production "Bituing Walang Ningning: The Musical." The 20yearold singer was presented to the media at RWM's Newport Performing Arts Theater on Wednesday, two weeks after auditions were held for the plum role.

The character, which first appeared in the serialized komiks by Nerissa Cabral, had been popularized by two of the industry's favorite recording artists turned leading ladies: Sharon Cuneta in the 1985 film version directed by Emmanuel Borlaza, and Sarah Geronimo, who starred in the 2006 ABSCBN TV series.

"Bituing Walang Ninging," a musical drama about the entertainment business, becomes the first Filipino classic to cross over to four visual platforms: print, film, TV and stage.

Cuenco also bagged a P1millionworth exclusive movie and recording contract with Viva Communications Inc., which owns the rights to the film, and has become a contract artist for RWM's Full House Theater Company Entertainment and Productions Inc.

The stage musical, which opens in June, was penned and will be directed by theater veteran Freddie Santos. The play, he said, retained the general storyline but, in terms of dialogue, only 12 of the most iconic lines from the movie made it to the script. And unlike in the movie, the production will not use foreign covers. All the songs, except one, are by film scorer and songwriter Willy Cruz.

Freshness

"During the auditions I was really looking for freshness," said Santos. "Wala akong duda tungkol sa boses. Pinay 'yan, for sure she could deliver."

Cuenco easily rendered the opening verses of the play's theme song. Costars Mark Bautista and Cris Villonco, as well as two runnersup of the search for Dorina, joined her onstage for the rest of the performance. (The musical will also feature local theater greats Michael Williams and Menchu LauchengcoYulo.)

Though she admits to having no theater background, Cuenco obviously has the vocal chops for the role. Music is in her blood; this is what she inherited from the maternal side of the family. Her mom played guitar and an aunt, the drums.

Youngest in a brood of eight, Cuenco was orphaned at age 8 when her mother died four years after her father passed away. Cuenco ended up being raised by her mom's sister.

"Maaga akong namulat sa mga problema," Cuenco shared. "Nalipat ako sa auntie ko. Siyempre mahirap 'yun kasi marami rin siyang mga anak."

To help make ends meet, she would peddle puto cheese and siopao, which she herself made, at a nearby supermarket.

Cuenco, a runnerup of the ABSCBN talent show "Star Power," learned about the contest from an employee of Viva in Cebu.

"Siyempre gustunggusto ko [to be in the play] kasi it's a remake ang bigat ng mga bida [in the movie and TV versions], sina Sharon (Cuneta) tapos nasundan pa ni Sarah (Geronimo)," said Cuenco, a huge fan of the Pop Princess who happens to be a talentshow alum like her.

"Malapit sa puso ko ang 'Bituing Walang Ningning' because it is the song of my life," she added.

Timeless

The story remains relevant even if the movie came out 30 years ago, said Santos.

"We're always aspiring [for something]," he said. "Aspiration is not a timely thing, it is a timeless thing.

"Tuwing may competition, makikita mo naman kilometro ang pila because those people are all aspiring to be [something big]. There is no question in my mind that [even the youth] can so relate to what this (production) means."

"Bituing Walang Ningning: The Musical" opens in June at the Newport Performing Arts Theater. It is presented by Resorts World Manila, Viva Communications Inc. and Full House Theater Company Entertainment and Productions Inc.

For updates, visit www.rwmanila.com; tel. 9088833.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Mar 21, 2015
Words:635
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