JUST because Repertory Philippines (Rep) has been around a long time — it is currently on its 82nd season — that does not mean that it is an old dog that can’t do new tricks. Case in point, its closing show in its current season is its very first original musical adaptation of a Filipino classic — The Quest for the Adarna, produced through Rep’s Theater for Young Audiences (RTYA).

Based on the Filipino epic poem, the musical is set in the Kingdom of Berbania, ruled King Fernando and Queen Valeriana who have three sons: Princes Pedro, Diego, and Juan. Then King Fernando has a nightmare and falls ill, and the only cure is the song of the Ibong Adarna. The three princes then journey one by one to Mount Tabor to try to capture the Adarna.

Directed by Joy Virata, assisted by co-directors Jamie Wilson and Naths Everett, the story is told in English translation with original music by Rony Fortich and book and lyrics by Luna Griño-Inocian.

“The story lends itself to music,” Ms. Griño-Inocian told BusinessWorld in an online interview.

“Music can emphasize these emotions, tone them down, or lighten up a potentially dark theme, reinforce or stress the feelings, show the progression from bad to worse or from full on rant to a calm acceptance,” she added. Ms. Griño-Inocian knows whereof she speaks — after all, she co-wrote the popular musical The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with Jaime del Mundo for Trumpets. (Several years later she followed this up with another, non-musical, adaptation from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, The Horse and His Boy.)

Ms. Griño-Inocian chooses the parts in the story where the songs make the most impact. “I usually put songs in to strengthen character, show character and relationship development, and to push the main theme.”

As for the lyrics, Ms. Griño-Inocian drew inspiration from the story itself and the characters.

“The original story gives a writer a lot of leeway for creating characters and situations; choices to go either stereotypical and/or come up with the totally unexpected; and then, opportunities to embellish them with anachronistic elements drawn from current language, music genres, and nods to popular culture so the younger generations can find something they can relate to,” she explained.

The challenge that Ms. Griño-Inocian had to face when adapting the epic into a musical, which clocks in at 90 to 95 minutes, is catching and keeping the attention of children ages seven to 12.

“I took cues from my grandchildren — the music they like, the TV shows, movies, and role-playing games they are interested in, what makes them laugh and what drives them crazy, and what holds their attention,” Ms. Griño-Inocian wrote.

Actresses Carla Guevara-Laforteza, Shiela Valderrama-Martinez, Andrea Monique Alvarado, and Cara Barredo alternate in the role of the Adarna. They are joined by Arion Sanchez, Jim Andrew Ferrer, Ade Valenzona alternating as Prince Pedro; Andres Borromeo, Vinni Todd, Luis Marcelo, and Sean Nolasco as Prince Diego; and Leo John Guinid, Diego Aranda, and Neo Rivera as Prince Juan. Hans Eckstein, Noel Rayos, and Jay Barrameda alternate as The Hermit; Cara Barredo, Justine Narciso, Jillian Ita-as, and Alex Reyes alternate as Maria Blanca. Eckstein, Arnel Carion, and Raymund Concepcion alternate as King Fernando; while Naths Everett and Ayam Eckstein take on the role of Queen Valeriana.

During the press preview on Sept. 14, co-director Jamie Wilson noted that the musical included Asian theater elements such as shadow play and puppetry.

Aside from entertainment, Mr. Wilson stressed that the musical adaptation focuses on “positive values of the Filipino” which are aimed to educate young audiences on the values of duty and love for family, forgiveness, and redemption.

“Being kind, knowing when to go beyond one’s comfort zone, learning to forgive, keeping one’s word no matter what and having the courage to go on despite being afraid — those will always be relevant,” Ms. Griño-Inocian noted.

The Quest for the Adarna runs until Jan. 26, 2020 at the Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1 in Makati City. Tickets are available at TicketWorld (www.ticketworld.com.ph, 891-9999). For updates and show schedules, visit www.repertoryphilippines.com.ph.Michelle Anne P. Soliman