Prison Dancer

The Musical

2023-11-23 19:30 2023-12-02 22:30 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: Prison Dancer

https://nac-cna.ca/en/event/33675

In-person event

An NAC English Theatre Revival of the Citadel Theatre Production

How did the redemptive journey of Filipino prisoners create a global phenomenon? In 2007, a video of 1,500 inmates in a Filipino prison dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller was posted to YouTube, and quickly became one of the first viral videos on the internet. The “Dancing Inmates of Cebu” are the unlikely inspiration behind an ambitious, perspective- altering and joyous musical by...

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Babs Asper Theatre,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
Nov 23 - Dec 2, 2023

≈ 100 minutes · No intermission

Our programs have gone digital.

Scan the QR code at the venue's entrance to read the program notes before the show begins.

Last updated: November 28, 2023

CREATOR’S NOTES

When we embarked on this Prison Dancer journey as creators, our intent was to uplift this uniquely Filipino real-life story and highlight not only the creativity, resilience and spirit of our kababayan in our ancestral homeland, but to also showcase the abundance of high-caliber Filipino talent in our community.

Over the past 13 years, this story has evolved into a heartfelt inquiry into how even the deepest pain and addictions can be, and must be, held in community, in order to heal. Prison Dancer explores how we can find our humanity in times of hardship and limited choices. Through embodiment and dance - we can tease open the aperture of hope in our hearts, and intentionally cultivate and expand our capacity to experience joy - to balance the immensity and gravity of grief. 

If you’ve never heard of the Filipino Dancing Inmates on YouTube - here’s the quick internet history lesson: in 2007, a security consultant/de facto Warden in a Philippine detention centre introduced an exercise program involving dance as a rehabilitation method. He filmed and posted these routines to the then nascent YouTube, eventually uploading the dancing inmates’ version of Michael Jackson's “Thriller“- which became one of the first videos to ever “go viral" on the internet.

Inspired by this phenomenon, the Prison Dancer: The Musical story does not glorify nor excuse the crimes or addictions of the inmates, but instead explores the humanity of the people living in this overcrowded detention centre, where inmates wait years in uncertainty before even having a hearing or a trial. These inmates are mostly victims of circumstance and poverty, often forgotten by a broken system. While the heart and spirit of the Prison Dancer story is Filipino - there is a universality to our message of the redemptive power of music, movement and community. 

Prison Dancer is an award-winning transmedia experience that has been mounted in multiple media forms over the last decade: the stage musical, a YouTube web series, and a live performative cinema concert. Our commitment to evolving this story has included research with queer Filipino academics and queer community in Cebu, in-person interviews with inmates at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, where the viral phenomenon began; and multiple workshops and iterations with talented creative co-conspirators who helped shape our understanding of the emergent story you now experience today. We also honor the Black soul singers and dance artists of the 90’s and OPM artists (Original Philippine Music) who have inspired the creation of over fifty songs written over the last decade to arrive at the musical landscape of this production.

Our deep thanks to our previous creative teams, performers, producers and allies who have been part of the journey of this work, especially The Citadel Theatre and the National Arts Centre. Gratitude to our loved ones, including those who have passed, for their continuous support. And we are grateful to you, the audience, for joining us in what we hope will be a viral sensation for years to come.

An NAC English Theatre Revival of the Citadel Theatre Production. Developed with support from the National Arts Centre’s Nation Creation Fund

In 2007, a video featuring 1,500 inmates in a Filipino prison dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller was uploaded to YouTube, quickly becoming one of the internet’s first viral videos. The “Dancing Inmates of Cebu” became the inspiration for an ambitious and joyous musical titled Prison Dancer. Created by Filipino Canadian creators Romeo Candido and Carmen De Jesus, this production is now set to entertain audiences at the NAC from November 23 to December 2, 2023.

The musical is a landmark production in Canada - marking the first Filipino musical ever produced in the country. Under the direction of NAC English Theatre Artistic Director Nina Lee Aquino, the all-Filipino cast premiered Prison Dancer to critical acclaim at the Citadel Theatre this past May, winning five Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards, including Outstanding Musical Production.

Paying tribute to pop, house, and R&B while unabashedly revelling in its deep love for sentimental ballads and drag, Prison Dancer reimagines the origin story of a viral sensation. This tale of resilience and hope chronicles the journey of Lola, a prisoner who instills purpose and joy in her fellow inmates. Under Lola's leadership, a community forms within the prison walls, uniting as a pangkat (a Filipino term for group) to support and look out for each other.

Glossary of Terms

All words below are Tagalog, except for Bayut* which is Bisaya in origin, our nod to the original prison in Cebu. 

Araw / Day 
Gabi / Night 
Barkada / Group of friends 
Bayut / Queer/Gay. Alternative form of bakla. In the Philippines, this term applies to all LGBTQ+ people. 
Dalaw / Visit 
Pawis / Sweat 
Sabong / Cockfight 
Kababayan / Countrymen 
Kalokohan / Foolishness, antics 
Coño/Konyo / A person who belongs to wealthy Spanish- or English-speaking families 
Mahal / Love (also, expensive) 
Mayor/Mayora / Same definition as English mayor or female mayor 
Shabu/Shabs / Crystal methamphetamine 
Baon / Packaged food/meal 
Katawan / Body 
Sarap / Delicious 
Sariwa / Fresh 
Tigas ulo / Hard-headed, stubborn 

Song List

DAY TO DAY
Full Company

ON THE INSIDE
Lola, Hookaps, Full Company

CHRISTMAS MORNING
Full Company

EVERMORE
Cherish, Christian, Full Company

LOSE YOUR WAY
Lola, Full Company

HOOK OR BY CROOK
Warden, Full Company

THE WORLD IS WATCHING
Full Company

IS IT LOVE?
Lola, Milky, Juicy

POINT OF VIEW
Lola

LOCK AND KEY
Lola, Full Company

EVERMORE REPRISE
Christian, Cherish

FINALLY FREE
Lola

POINT OF VIEW FINALE
Full Company

Prison Dancer Inc.

Follow Prison Dancer: The Musical online!
Instagram: @prisondancermusical
YouTube Series: www.youtube.com/prisondancer
Website: https://prisondancermusical.com

Workshop Participants

Thank you to all the artists who participated in the development workshops of this script: Norm Alconcel, Nina Lee Aquino, Colin Asuncion, Pierre Angelo Bayuga, Rick Boynton, Dominique Brillantes, Josh Capulong, Kai Yueh Chen, Ins Choi, Ma-Anne Dionisio, Daren Dyhengco, Byron Flores, Julio Fuentes, Nicco Garcia, Ryan G. Hinds, Jeigh Madjus, Anthony Malarky, Alexander Punzalan, Kierscey Rand Regozo, Mark Selby, Adriano Sobretodo Jr. 

Thank You To

Rachel Peake, Jeannie Snell, Chris Dearlove, Sarah Garton Stanley, Sarah Conn, Emily Calongcagong, Heather Moore, Jean-Paul Courtemanche, Anicée Lejeune, David Abel, Monika Seiler, Andy Lunney, Sean Fitzpatrick, Mike D'Amato, and Spike Lyne 

Our families: Caroline Mangosing, Rizal Mangosing-Candido, Mark Rako Fabionar and Phoenix De Jesus-Kenefick, Priam Givord, Néo Givord-Serrano, Phil Toledano, Loulou Serrano Toledano

Tita and Tito Founding Circle of co-producers: Gail Asper, Vicenta Gaspar-Yoo, Jennifer Ouano and Jonathan Reinis

Marketing and Communication Partners: Pekoe Group and Publicis Media Canada

Artists

  • Music and Lyrics/Book by Romeo Candido
  • Book by Carmen Leilani De Jesus
  • nina-web
    Directed by Nina Lee Aquino
  • Produced by Ana Serrano
  • Produced by Carla Serrano

Cast

  • norm-alconcel-hs
    Jimmy Santos aka Hookaps (Understudy Shakespeare) Norm Alconcel
  • Mayumi Salvador aka Milky (Understudy Lola) Pierre Angelo Bayuga
  • dominique-brilliantes-headshot
    Jonard Cervantes aka Shakespeare (Understudy The Warden) Dominique Brillantes
  • Eduardo Chavez aka Tondo (Understudy Hookaps) Josh Capulong
  • diana-del-rosario-hs
    Cherish Concepcion Diana Del Rosario
  • renell-d-hs-2
    Jejomar Lapitan aka Juicy (Understudy Milky) Renell Doneza
  • Christian Serrano Daren Dyhengco
  • Ensemble (Understudy Cherish Concepcion) Chariz Faulmino
  • Ensemble (Understudy Juicy) Byron Flores
  • Ruperto Poblador aka Lola Julio Fuentes
  • jovanni-sy-hs
    Ignacio Dimontiverde aka The Warden Jovanni Sy 施崇梵
  • Ensemble (Understudy Christian Serrano, Tondo) Stephen Thakkar

Music

  • kierscey-rand-regozo-hs
    Keyboards Kierscey Rand Regozo
  • jeremie-guitierrez-hs
    Bass Jeremie Gutierrez
  • jose-monchito-hernandez-garcia-hs
    Drums José García
  • Keyboards Leighton Rodney

Production

  • Costume Designer Joyce Padua
  • Lighting Designer Michelle Ramsay
  • joanna-yu-web
    Set and Props Designer Joanna Yu
  • kierscey-rand-regozo-hs
    Music Director, Additional Scoring, Piano Arrangements, Keyboards Kierscey Rand Regozo
  • Sound Designer Owen Hutchinson
  • Fight Director Richard Lee
  • Choreographer Julio Fuentes
  • Associate Choreographer Keiran Bohay
  • Assistant Choreographer, Dance Captain, Fight Captain Josh Capulong
  • Dramaturgy Rick Boynton
  • Audio Coordinator Wayne Hawthorne
  • Original Fight Director Morgan Yamada
  • Stage Manager Gina Puntil
  • Assistant Stage Manager Alysse Szatkowski
  • Associate Stage Manager Angela Mae Bago

Credits

Creative Team

Music and Lyrics by
Romeo Candido

Book by
Romeo Candido and Carmen De Jesus

Directed by
Nina Lee Aquino

Produced by
Ana Serrano and Carla Serrano

Jimmy Santos aka Hookaps (Understudy Shakespeare)
Norm Alconcel

Mayumi Salvador aka Milky (Understudy Lola)
Pierre Angelo Bayuga 

Jonard Cervantes aka Shakespeare (Understudy The Warden)
Dominique Brillantes 

Eduardo Chavez aka Tondo (Understudy Hookaps)
Josh Capulong 

Cherish Concepcion 
Diana Del Rosario 

Jejomar Lapitan aka Juicy (Understudy Milky)
Renell Doneza 

Christian Serrano
Daren Dyhengco 

Ensemble (Understudy Cherish Concepcion)
Chariz Faulmino

Ensemble (Understudy Juicy)
Byron Flores

Ruperto Poblador aka Lola 
Julio Fuentes 

Ignacio Dimontiverde aka The Warden
Jovanni Sy 

Ensemble (Understudy Christian Serrano, Tondo)
Stephen Thakkar

Music Director, Additional Scoring, Piano Arrangements
Kierscey Rand Regozo

Musicians
Jeremie Guitierrez (Bass)
José Garcia (Drums)
Kierscey Rand Regozo (Keyboards)
Leighton Rodney (Keyboards)

Costume Designer
Joyce Padua

Lighting Designer
Michelle Ramsay

Set and Props Designer
Joanna Yu

Sound Designer
Owen Hutchinson

Fight Director
Richard Lee

Original Fight Director
Morgan Yamada

Choreographer
Julio Fuentes

Associate Choreographer
Keiran Bohay

Assistant Choreographer, Dance Captain, Fight Captain 
Josh Capulong

Dramaturgy
Rick Boynton

Audio Coordinator
Wayne Hawthorne

Stage Manager
Gina Puntil

Assistant Stage Manager
Alysse Szatkowski

Associate Stage Manager
Angela Mae Bago

The National Arts Centre is a member of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres and engages, under the terms of the Canadian Theatre Agreement, professional artists who are members of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association.

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees

Projectionists, Wardrobe Mistresses, Masters and Attendants are members of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 471. 

NAC Production Team

Head Carpenter 
Charles Martin 

Head Properties 
Michel Sanscartier 

Props 
Bob Lacasse 

Head Electrician  
Eric Tessier  

Assistant Electrician  
Martin Racette 

Head Flyman 
Alex Griffore 

Head Wardrobe 
Jessica Pearson 

Wardrobe Assistant 
Joanna Jones 
Matthew Purcell 
 
Cutter 
Claude Tanguay 

Head Audio 
Doug Millar 

Audio 
Fred Samne 
Ray Budavari 

Hair 
Normand Couvrette 

Makeup 
Faran Shahi 
Jeannie Macrae 

Shops 
Normand Theriault 

Head Properties 
Mike Caluori 

Properties Assistants 
Kellie MacDonald 
Natasha Habib 

Shop Carpenters 
Dave Strober 
Chad Desjardins 

NAC English Theatre Team

Managing Director   
David Abel  

Artistic Director   
Nina Lee Aquino  

Community Outreach Lead   
Rose-Ingrid Benjamin  

Learning Coordinator   
Aimee Bouchard  

ASL Interpreter Consultant   
Carmelle Cachero  

Marketing Strategist   
Bar Clement  

Communications Strategist   
Sean Fitzpatrick  

Senior Producer   
Alexandra Lunney  

Senior Marketing Manager   
Bridget Mooney  

Associate Producer, Artistic Programming and Environmental Projects  
Judi Pearl  

Company Manager   
Samira Rose  

Administrative Coordinator   
Monika Seiler

NAC’S NATIONAL CREATION FUND

The National Creation Fund’s investment of $135,000 allowed the artists to invest in research phases – including a research trip to Cebu City, Philippines -- and additional creation workshops that integrated designers and design concepts. This enhanced development set the stage for the Filipino Canadian-majority Prison Dancer team to collaborate in entirely new way, with space for the risk-taking and innovation necessary to create a brand-new large-scale musical.