Neri: Passion projects: ‘HOOK UP’ the musical

COMPANY CALL. The staged reading features an all-Cebuano cast, with Jan Echavarria (Gugmang Giatay, Scharon Mani) as TimidTim and Ralph Mallapre (Scharon Mani, West Side Story) as IAmAnonymous. The ensemble also includes Gabriel Gomez, Joana Modesto, Shim Dagatan, Jaggy Gomez, Fritz Pepino, Joer Gallur, Les Paul Pineda and Cyril Cabahug.
COMPANY CALL. The staged reading features an all-Cebuano cast, with Jan Echavarria (Gugmang Giatay, Scharon Mani) as TimidTim and Ralph Mallapre (Scharon Mani, West Side Story) as IAmAnonymous. The ensemble also includes Gabriel Gomez, Joana Modesto, Shim Dagatan, Jaggy Gomez, Fritz Pepino, Joer Gallur, Les Paul Pineda and Cyril Cabahug.
MIND BEHIND THE MUSICAL. Although Jude Gitamondoc is best known for his work on Vispop (i.e. Visayan contemporary pop music), he has also contributed significantly to Cebuano theater through the years. He is the co-creator, songwriter, book writer and musical director of acclaimed productions. “HOOK UP” will be the first original he has done that delves into the stories of his community.
MIND BEHIND THE MUSICAL. Although Jude Gitamondoc is best known for his work on Vispop (i.e. Visayan contemporary pop music), he has also contributed significantly to Cebuano theater through the years. He is the co-creator, songwriter, book writer and musical director of acclaimed productions. “HOOK UP” will be the first original he has done that delves into the stories of his community.
KOMUNIDAD. The three theater panelists at the “Komunidad” event of AyalaMalls Central Bloc (from left), co-founder of the OurHouse theater organization Josh Eballe, marketing manager and stage actress of Vaudeville Theatre Company Tiffany Neri and award-winning Cebuano professional songwriter Jude Gitamondoc.
KOMUNIDAD. The three theater panelists at the “Komunidad” event of AyalaMalls Central Bloc (from left), co-founder of the OurHouse theater organization Josh Eballe, marketing manager and stage actress of Vaudeville Theatre Company Tiffany Neri and award-winning Cebuano professional songwriter Jude Gitamondoc.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of reconnecting with people you once worked closely with in projects that still remain close to your heart. In that regard, it can be even more exhilarating to discuss concepts and ideas with those who have similar interests but different experiences than yourself.

It was about last month when I attended the “Komunidad” event of AyalaMalls Central Bloc as a panelist for a fireside chat among other colleagues of mine in the local theater world. One of the other two panelists was Josh Eballe, the co-founder of the OurHouse theater organization, while the other was the award-winning Cebuano professional songwriter, record producer and director Jude Gitamondoc. The latter was someone I had worked with in productions staged by the company I had represented that day, Vaudeville Theatre Company.

In a conversation Jude and I had prior to taking the stage for the talk show, we had ruminated on the local theater scene and the staging of certain productions. It was then that he said something striking that I still think about to this day.

“When you put up a production, you have to think about what makes the story relevant. Ask yourself why this story needs to be told,” are the words Jude said that still echo in my mind. Following those words, he started to share about this passion project he was working on -- a musical he had written and directed -- that pushed the boundaries of certain topics that society may consider taboo, a musical comedy entitled “HOOK UP.”

The musical tells the story of Tim, aka TimidTim, a young man searching for love on the gay dating app Hooked. He meets a mysterious character named IAmAnonymous, who turns out to be a person living with HIV. Tim’s journey is interwoven with vignettes and monologues about the diverse personalities on Hooked.

Tackling issues about dating in the digital era, the practice of responsible and safe physical intimacy, the discrimination experienced by people living with HIV and the unique challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community in society, the musical explores topics that need to be opened up for conversation.

“Musical theater has always been part of my life,” said Gitamondoc, who explained that this was the first time he had set out to write something very personal. The vulnerability he felt for himself and his community while doing this project is what fueled his determination to do the staged reading. “I know what I’ve written is a work in progress, and I want to involve the LGBTQ+ community and its allies in the process. I look forward to getting their valuable feedback and learning from this experience.”

Event details

The performances will be held this June 28, 2024 (Friday) at Hillary 1 & 2 of Quest Hotel and Conference Center Cebu, with doors opening at 1 and 3:30 p.m. and shows starting at 1:30 and 4 p.m., respectively. The performances will run approximately one hour and 45 minutes without intermission. Due to mature language, content and themes, the play is recommended for audiences aged 16 and above. This event is by invitation only. Interested parties may request an invitation by messaging m.me/hookupmusical.

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