Moving Jhett Tolentino-helmed ‘M. Butterfly’ dazzles Ilonggos

TODAY is the last day for Ilonggos to marvel at the beauty and sheer magnitude of an award-winning production of “M. Butterfly” at SM City Iloilo, as the internationally-awarded play bows for its last two curtain calls here this Sunday.

“M. Butterfly” is a homecoming of sorts for both its gala star RS Francisco and its presenter, Tony and Grammy award winning Ilonggo producer Jhett Tolentino – Francisco as he steps back into the shoes of the multifaceted Song Liling, the role he made his own nearly three decades ago, and Tolentino as he brings this multi-awarded production to his hometown of Iloilo.

Set in 1960s communist China, “M. Butterfly” tells the story of French diplomat René Gallimard (Olivier Borten) as he unwittingly falls in love with Peking opera performer, Song Liling (RS Francisco / Aira Igarta), the former unaware that all female roles in traditional Beijing opera are played by males, as females were banned from the stage. Their relationship is complicated by the fact that Gallimard is a married man, and Song Liling is an agent of the People’s Republic of China.

“M. Butterfly” draws parallels with the classical Giacomo Pucci opera, “Madama Butterfly” – tackling themes of imperialism, sexism, and toxic masculinity, all the while paying homage to the rich visual history of China. The David Henry Hwang piece premiered on Broadway in 1988 and won the 1988 Tony Award for Best Play.

This re-staging, helmed by Tolentino and Frontrow Entertainment, won major awards Best Non-Musical Production, Best Actor (RS Francisco), and Best Director (Kanakan-Balintagos)  at the 2018 Aliw Awards.

“The dream for this national tour started way before we opened the Manila run in September last year,” shared Tolentino. “New audiences keep the arts alive and since Filipinos are naturally talented from the womb, ‘M. Butterfly’ adds to its advocacies by taking audience development in this country, full on.”

“Moving forward, the rave reviews of the Manila run and our humbling recognition as the 2018 Aliw Awards Best Play inspired us more to seriously consider what would be a monumental task: mounting a first-class Broadway production in 6 cities with 46 performances nationwide,” he added.

Iloilo marks the first leg of the “M. Butterfly” roadshow, it is scheduled to next head to Dumaguete (Feb. 28 to March 3), Cebu (March 14 to 17), Davao (March 28 to 31), before heading back to Manila (May 8 to 19) and concluding in Baguio (May 30 to June 2).

This restaging of “M. Butterfly” also stars Aira Igarta for the role of Song Liling in the matinee shows, Jenine Desiderio of “Miss Saigon” fame in the West End production, Norman McLeod, Lee O’Brien, Maya Encila, Mayen Estañero, and opera singer Jasmin Salvo.

Catch “M. Butterfly” at SM City Iloilo Cinema 6 today 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., tickets are available at all SM Ticket outlets./PN


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