MANILA -- To say that Shiela Valderrama-Martinez is the busiest theater performer of late has now even become an understatement. With theater productions opening one after another and rehearsal schedules of one production running into the performance dates of another all within the same week, Valderrama is undeniably on a roll.
Since the start of the year, Valderrama’s calendar has been loaded. Does she still sleep? One might dare to ask when you see her workload.
Yet, Valderrama does everything professionally. “I keep everything on Excel file,” she explained. “That’s how I keep up with all my schedules. Every day, I just open the Excel file and check what I need to do, where I need to go. Yes, I have to sleep. I do get a good sleep most of the time.”
At the start of the year, Valderrama only had one item on her calendar. However, she herself was surprised when the projects and assignments came one after another.
Valderrama had just wrapped up two musicals – “Binondo: A Tsinoy Musical,” directed by Joel Lamangan; and “Dani Girl,” megged by Toff De Venecia.
Early this year, she lent her voice to the prestigious Ballet Philippines’ rock opera, "Tales of the Manuvu," as the First Woman under the direction of National Artist for Dance Alice Reyes.
Last May, Valderrama was blessed to have participated in the National Artist tribute at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, doing a stage reading in Hiligaynon dialect of “Margo sa Tubig," by National Artist for Literature Ramon Larupay Muzones.
Even when she’s not essaying any character onstage, Valderrama regularly displays her vocal prowess with the vibrant music of the '70s in “Disco Glam,” a glitzy show at the Grand Bar of Resorts World Manila.
SHOW AS WORKOUT
Upbeat tunes, dance ditties and show-stoppers are relived in glittering, colorful outfits, as well as the groovy steps in the well-choreographed numbers.
“The performance is a breather for me,” Valderrama attested. “It’s my workout, though it’s a bit tiring.”
“Disco Glam” runs a Wednesday, Friday and Sunday schedule, alternating with “Motown Funk,” which focuses on '60s music.
Since she started doing “Disco Glam” last April, Valderrama said the show is no longer hard to do after five months. “We learned everything in five days,” she said of the choreography. “We don’t change anything (anymore). In the beginning, when we were still trying to get the formula, we added a few songs. We were given a month to experiment.”
"Binondo" composer Von de Guzman works as the musical director for “Disco Glam.” He also tapped the arrangers for the show and did the line-up of songs, as well as initially coached the performers for the voicing.
In regular performances, Valderrama is joined onstage by Jon Joven, James Uy and Floyd Tena, with female performers Jasmine Fitzgerald and Cris Pastor. Radha Cuadrado alternates with Valderrama on days when the latter does not perform.
“We do a set show every night,” Valderrama offered. “I will give them the days when I can perform. We do the same show every time.”
Reliving the disco era, Valderrama sauntered onstage and gyrated to chart-topers like “Dancing Queen,” followed by “I Love the Night Life” and “Shake Your Groove Thing.” She carried out more dance tunes like “I Will Survive,” “Staying Alive” and “I’m in the Mood for Dancing.”
For every number, Valderrama was joined by male and female back-up dancers in colorful outfits, who highlighted the best of disco moves. They fully utilized the hydraulic stage of the casino’s Grand Bar, so the show, directed by Dan Cabrera, was very vibrant and fast-paced.
The venue was packed on the Friday night we caught Valderrama’s performance. According to her, Resorts World Manila, apart from their usual scheduled shows, does special performances for their VIP clients. “They are extending this (‘Disco Glam’) till next year,” Valderrama annonced.
She even rendered familiar Tagalog ditties like “Tayo’y Magsayawan,” “Sumayaw, Sumunod” and “Rock, Baby, Rock” that brought the house down and the guests grooving.
Up next for Valderrama is Stephen Sondheim’s “Passion,” mounted by the Philippine Opera Company, which opens on Saturday.
She will also make her Repertory Philippines comeback in the title role of “Adarna” in Repertory Children’s Theater’s first original musical, megged by Joy Virata. The show opens on Saturday and will run until January 2020 at Onstage Theater in Greenbelt, Makati.
Also on deck is “Guadalupe,” which will have special shows this December with most of the performances scheduled for early next year.
Thankfully, Valderrama does not get confused with the roles she plays onstage. “When we were in Rep (Repertory Philippines), we were lovingly called Repertory robots,” she recalled. “We were trained to do all that. It was not a bad thing.
“We would do a matinee, a straight play, a musical and rehearse throughout the day. It was like school. Every show was a subject to study in rehearsals. Exams were the shows. All my roles were different.”
The hard part is staying healthy and taking care of her voice. In some shows, she is not even given an alternate.
Valderrama’s most hectic months were July and August. “Those were my tightest,” she said. “I was doing ‘Disco Glam,’ rehearsing for ‘Binondo,’ ‘Dani Girl’ and ‘Passion.’ Then, in between all those rehearsals, I also went to Hong Kong to sing. I was invited by the International School as their guest speaker.”
Moreover, Valderrama had to attend to the family business as she is the head of exports for Marby Food Ventures.
Her better half, actor Lorenz Martinez, has been her partner in life for 11 years. They were married in 2008, after dating for six years. They are blessed with a daughter, Simone, now nine years old.
“Thankfully for Loi, he works with me in most of my shows,” Valderrama said of her husband. “Simone was on summer vacation at the time I was very busy. Sometimes, I brought her along with me. But now, she is also very busy.
“Simone is training for her gymnastics competition by the end of September. She has ballet and piano lessons. She is also doing Trumpets Playshop for Kids. She did ‘A Christmas Carol’ before. When I’m busy, she understands it’s a job. So, every time she is doing something, she will say, ‘Mom, I have work.’ She is even doing a movie early next year.”
Valderrama, who took up business management at De La Salle University, was initially planning to rest this year “because I was so tired from last year.” But it turned out that she is even busier.
“Everything was unintentional,” Valderrama said. “The restaging of 'Binondo' was confirmed in February. By March, I got a call from Toff, who told me we were doing ‘Dani Girl.’ Everything just fell into place.”
Will 2020 be an even busier year for Valderrama? “I don’t really plan ahead,” she insisted.