Introducing Juan Carlos Galano, Zsazsa Zaturnnah’s Dodong

Aside from Viva Films’ Kim Molina, there’s another movie-TV actor in the cast of Zsazsa Zaturnnah, The Musical… Yun Lang which is now showing on weekends at Ateneo de Manila University’s Arete.

It’s Juan Carlos Galano, a talent of showbiz manager Arnold L. Vegafria, who also manages the suddenly very popular David Licauco (thanks to his invented character as a close friend of Crisostomo Ibarra in the GMA 7 series Maria Clara at Ibarra, a reimagining of Noli Me Tangere).

The hunky Galano alternates with student actors Jude Matthew Sevilla and Elian Dominguez as Dodong, the love interest of Ada, the gay beauty salon owner who turns into the female superhero Zsazsa Zaturnnah every time he swallows a melon-sized space rock.

The musical was originally an illustrated novel (as in Pinoy komiks) created by illustrator and former actor Carlo Vergara in 2002 titled Ang Kagilagilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah. Its first copies were self-published by Vergara in two installments.

In 2003, Visprint, Inc. merged the two installments into one comic book, which eventually won an award from the Manila Critics Circle, whose members included professors at the University of the Philippines.

In 2005, National Book Store announced that Vergara’s graphic novel was the year’s best-selling fiction book. By 2006, the novel had been adapted into a theater production billed as ‘Zsazsa Zaturnnah Ze Musical,’ first staged at the compact laboratory theater of  the Cultural Center of the Philippines called Tanghalang Huseng Batute.

The adaptation was written by Chris Martinez, with music and songs by Vincent de Jesus, who used to be largely identified with the Philippine Educational Theaters Association. With Chris Millado as director, the musical was staged for eight more (non-successive) seasons of Tanghalang Pilipino, the CCP resident theater company. In some runs of the play, showbiz singer-comedian K Brosas became an alternate to movie actor Eula Valdez, who performed the title role in most of the musical’s stagings at the CCP, including the very first one.

Also in 2006, Regal Films turned Zsazsa Zaturnnah into a movie musical starring singer-actor Zsazsa Padilla, from whom Vergara borrowed the name of his superhero. The film was directed by the highly esteemed Joel Lamangan, whose artistic career began as a PETA actor.

While this latest staging of Zsazsa Zaturnah by Ateneo’s Blue Repertory (BlueRep) has only Molina portraying the superhero, the human Ada is alternately played by three actors during its three-weekend run: Phi Ramos, Adrian Lindayag and Shaun Ocrisma. The production has afternoons and evening shows, and there are other roles with alternate actors.

De Jesus is the musical director of the BlueRep production, which is directed by actor and Ateneo faculty member Missy Maramara (who was seen last month topbilling Uncle Jane, an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, along with Topper Fabregas, Justine Peña, Justine Narciso, Audie Gemora, Jay Glorioso and Jaime Del Mundo at Mirror Studios in Pasig). Maramara is a dynamo of a woman.

The BlueRep’s Zsazsa Zaturnnah is Galano’s first professional stage experience. In Saipan (a US territory in the Pacific, just like Guam) where he was born and raised, he appeared in theater production in grade school.

Galano has acted in the TV shows Raya Sirena, Daddy’s Gurl and Regal Studio Presents. He was also in ‘Nelia’ a psycho thriller that was an official entry in the 2021 Metro Manila Film Festival.
His buff body has been prominently displayed in Bench billboards all over the metro and even on social media. He has been a Bench brand ambassador for the past two years, and has some projects line d up.

“I’m waiting for a movie with OctoArts. I recently finished filming with Julia Barretto and Diego Loyzaga under Firestarter Productions and Viva,” he said.

Galano’s remaining playdates are 25 March; 1-2 April (evening); and also the matinee of 2 April.

Actor-graphic novelist
Many may not be aware that Vergara had been an actor himself for years before he became known as graphic novel creator. In 1994, he alternated with veteran actor Bart Guingona in New Voice Company’s production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America.

Vergara never formally studied drawing and illustrating, though he has been doing those since childhood. He created his first solo graphic novel in 2001, ‘One Night In Purgatory’ which he self-published. He has confided in several interviews that he created Zsazsa Zaturnnah to entertain himself while he was going through a period of depression.

Vergara has created a second comic book about Zsazsa Zaturnnah titled Zsazsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila. It is a three-part series, with the first part released in 2012 and the second part in 2016, the year he was accepted to the UP Writers Workshop.

He also wrote Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady, a one-act play staged at the CCP’s Virgin Labfest in 2013. That play became a musical staged at the PETA Theater in 2015, and it had Molina in the cast in a major role. Once again, Martinez and De Jesus were involved -— Martinez as director and De Jesus as composer-lyricist.

The original Zsazsa Zaturnah now has an animated film in 2-D created by Avid Liongoren, who has made several animated films, the most popular one being Saving Sally.

Liongoren’s take on the two-gendered superhero is titled Zsazsa Zaturnnah vs. the Amazonistas of Planet X, primarily produced by his company, Rocketsheep Studio. The film, with a script by Vergara himself, has received various foreign grants and has even gained international co-producers, Paris’ Ghosts City Films and Simon Crowe’s SC Films International. The latter’s website says the film is due out on the first quarter of 2024.

More than a decade after it first came out as a self-published graphic novel, Zsazsa Zaturnnah is going —flying! — places. Vergara must be very gay about it.

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