‘Emma the Musical’ debuts in Edmonton
EDMONTON, Alberta — A musical based on a real Filipino elementary school teacher’s struggles during World War II will be performed at the Myer Horowitz Theatre on July 7.
“Emma the Musical” was only supposed to be a mini-presentation for composer Erica Cawagas’ great grandmother Emma Floresca’s 95th birthday. Unfortunately, Floresca passed away in 2015, before her birthday.
To honor their matriarch, Cawagas and her aunt, the musical’s playwright Chie Floresca, pushed the presentation further and developed it into a full-length production.
Set in a rural town near Baguio City during the Japanese occupation, the musical follows Emma’s difficult choice of going into hiding or risking her safety to protect her community members; of struggling between the love of her devoted husband and the protective advances of a Japanese official.
The musical will be presented by the Filipino-Canadian Saranay Association of Alberta.
An Edmonton native, Cawagas was raised in a musically inclined family—her mother is a piano and rondalla teacher.
After graduating from Grant MacEwan University where she took up music composition, Cawagas briefly worked in Manila with organizations such as UNICEF and Knowledge Channel Foundation.
Chie Floresca is a writer for television station ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Credits include drama program “Ipaglaban Mo” “Pasion de Amor,” “A Beautiful Affair” and “Engkwentro.” In 2004, she wrote and directed the musical “Dula at Kwerdas” staged at the Citadel in Edmonton.
Shepherding the production along, Cawagas was able to win a Cultural Diversity in the Arts project grant from the Edmonton Arts Council last year to fund the logistics for the show.
While Cawagas will handle music direction for the show, she has approached Ida Beltran to direct and her spouse Jojo Lucila to choreograph.
Beltran was a Ballet Philippines principal dancer and associate artistic director of Philippine Ballet Theater (PBT) while Lucila has choreographed for PBT and Hong Kong Ballet.
In Manila, both were cofounders of the Chameleon Dance Company and Teatro Silencio, a dance company of hearing impaired dancers.
After they moved to Canada in 2005, they created Chameleon Dance Edmonton, a dance group, and both currently head The Lucila Project, their performing arts organization.
Beltran also founded and is the executive director of the Philippine Arts Council, which handles the Edmonton Filipino Fiesta, among other programs.
Earlier this year, she was one of the ten recipients of the Edmonton Arts Council’s 2017 Edmonton Artists Trust Fund.
“While the lyrics and dialogue are in English, the musical features music and conversation reflecting Filipino values and influences,” says Beltran. “The creators also emphasize the universality of the themes of complex human and social relationships even to present times and in other places.”
“The cast is a mixture of seasoned performers, emerging artists and newbies. They were all very open, hard workers, and mature. In the end, it was such a joy to work with all of them.”
Danielle Yu plays Emma. The rest of the cast includes Hannah Adamson, Jo-Ann Aguilar, Cassandra Baltazar, Simonette Brigola, Jimmy Buena, Marjorie Galido, Veronica Knodel, Mark Laraya, Catherine Lelis, Lauren Lizada, Micah Macatangay, Jeanine Naboye, Gerald Penaco, Raphael Tolentino, Riana Torrejon, Julius Ylagan and Joshua Zoleta.
“Emma the Musical” runs on July 7 at Myer Horowitz Theatre, 8900 114 St. NW, Edmonton. Visit Fb.com/mimayemma.