Home Arts & Leisure Philippine theater icon Baby Barredo, 80

Philippine theater icon Baby Barredo, 80


REPERTORY PHILIPPINES co-founder Carmen “Baby” Johnson Barredo passed away on Sunday evening, May 23, at the age of 80 from multi organ failure brought about by sepsis, her daughter Charlie Barredo, announced on social media.

“I was by her side and her family and theater children were with her in spirit and song. We will announce additional details in due course. Thank you for all your loving words and prayers. Rest in peace Mama,” she wrote on Facebook.

Fondly called “Tita Baby” by family, friends, and theater colleagues, Ms. Barredo co-founded Repertory Philippines (Rep) with Zeneida “Bibot” Amador in 1967.

According to Repertory Philippines’ official website, Ms. Barredo studied voice under Fides Cuyugan-Asencio, Ines Zialcita, and Lucretia Kasilag, while Daisy Avellana was her mentor in Drama. She studied voice in the University of Indiana, and then completed Drama in the American Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in New York.

Ms. Barredo appeared in numerous productions, playing iconic roles such Maria in The Sound of Music, Anna in The King & I, Guenevere in Camelot, Maria Callas in Master Class, and Evita Peron in Evita. Her last role, which she undertook at the age of 72, was that of Violet Weston in the family drama August: Osage County in 2014.

Ms. Barredo did more than act. Over the years she was the director, musical director, and costume designer for several Rep shows. She was a theater mentor to generations of Rep artists.

“The Repertory actors and actresses are my children,” she said in a 2014 interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “I am proud of them. Tears fell from my eyes when I saw Miss Saigon in London.” The original production of Miss Saigon featured many Rep alumni including Lea Salonga, Monique Wilson, Michael Williams, and Junix Inocian, — the producers famously held auditions in Manila when they had difficulty filling the roles in England.

The theater company she founded paid tribute to her in a Facebook post: “Tita Baby was a consummate artist — a compleat actress, sublime singer, brilliant director, and theatrical creative genius. Known for her unrelenting passion and discipline, artistic excellence, boldness, and abounding love, Tita Baby’s legacy lives on in every REP artist and audience member whose love and passion for theater she has powerfully and indelibly set alight.”

Tributes, recollections, and outpourings of grief spilled over social media at her passing.   

Actor, director, Philstage President, Audie Gemora said that “Philippine theater has lost its First Lady. Thank you for everything Tita Baby. I love you.”

Mr. Gemora’s fellow Rep alumni, actress and Resorts Word Artistic Director, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo wrote, “I will always be grateful for all you have taught me and how you were always there for me. I will love you forever. And I find comfort knowing you are now my guiding star in the heavens. Sing with the angels Tita Baby. I love you so much.”

Cultural Center of the Philippines Vice-President and Artistic Director Chris Millado, who crossed what has often seemed like a wide chasm between the local English and Filipino theater world to work with Ms. Barredo on August: Osage County, wrote: “Thank you, Tita Baby. You truly are God’s gift to Philippine Theater. Together with Zeneida ’Bibot’ Amador, who went before you, your gifts continue to be emblazoned in the work of Repertory actors and creatives whom you both nurtured with potent amounts of coaxing, coaching and cariño brutal.”

Actress Carla Guevara Laforteza wrote: “I love you. You and tita Bibot were my first teachers. I am the performer that I am now because of you! And how truly PROUD I am to have been one of your REP Babies. What a GREAT LIFE you had! Rest now, our dearest QUEEN. Thank you for everything.”

Theater and recording artist Reb Atadero (Ang Huling El Bimbo, Guadalupe the Musical) recalled what working with the theater legend was like.

“I will never forget the last time I got to see her. We had a reading of Guadalupe the Musical in her house when it was still being developed. She gave me the warmest hug since we haven’t seen each other in so long. She was known to be a strict, intimidating, and no-nonsense disciplinarian,” Mr. Atadero wrote on Facebook. “She doesn’t shy away from harsh words and giving it to you straight if she thinks you’re not doing your job. But after work, it’s completely the opposite. She is sweet, kind, and always asking how you’re doing. She was one of my mentors. She was my very first ‘theater grandma’.”

Actor and dancer Jef Flores recalled running lines with Ms. Barredo. “The show that changed everything for me was 4000 Miles. Me and this woman would run lines before the show up until the last line. She refused to do the last line. She said, ‘We stop here, you never say the last line of the show. Save that for the audience,’” Mr. Flores wrote. “The last line of the show was: ‘God, she was like a magician. That woman could make anything grow.’ Rest In Peace, Baby Barredo.”

Ms. Barredo was born on April 28, 1941. — MAPS