Arts & Culture

Former '90s Band Frontman Is An Outsider in Atlantis Theatrical's Side Show

Wency Cornejo of AfterImage is cast in his first theatrical role.

Sa singing palang, these people are in a different league,” Wency Cornejo says of his castmates in Side Show. “If I weren’t Wency Cornejo, I’d probably be kicked out of there.”

The self-effacing Cornejo is most popularly known as the former frontman of AfterImage, a band that shot to fame in the '90s OPM scene on the back of hits like “Forevermore” and “Habang May Buhay.” Cast in his first theatrical role as Sir, the exploitative keeper of real-life conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton (Kayla Rivera and Gab Pangilinan, respectively), he joins a cast of young, but seasoned theater veterans—many of whom were barely even teenagers during AfterImage’s peak.

As both the elder statesman of the cast and the new blood, Cornejo finds himself in the curious position of an outsider in a play about outsiders. Cornejo has been tasked to play a domineering presence to the actors, to be the leader of a group of freaks, and yet he is the only one unaccustomed to the rigors of theater. He says that during rehearsals, he was constantly second-guessing himself, while in deep awe of the cast’s talents.

“They can all read music! I’m the only one who can’t read!” he says, adding a few embarrassed laughs.

Onstage, however, he is on fire.

For all the humility he displays in interviews, Cornejo performs Sir with malevolent relish, owning the stage the moment he invites the audience to “come look at the freaks.”


For all the self-deprecation he exudes behind the scenes, on stage he displays remarkable comfort with the rest of the cast, feeding off of them as well as they do him.

It is, in large part, due to the chemistry that Rivera, Pangilinan, and the rest of the veterans have with each other, and the tremendous support they’ve given to castmates new and old.

Rivera and Pangilinan are as joined at the hip offstage as they are during the play, and when their voices harmonize, it’s as though they’d grown up singing together. They play off of their love interests Markki Stroem (as Terry Connor) and David Ezra (as Buddy) as though they were old friends.

Arman Ferrer, who plays Jake the Cannibal King, feels every bit the kuya of the cast, which translates beautifully into his role as the Hiltons’ sympathetic friend. Even smaller roles are played expertly by the likes of Jill Peña, Timmy Pavino, Ring Antonio, Christine Flores, Chesko Rodriguez, Alex Reyes, Vien King, and Luis Marcelo.

It’s clear in every scene that the cast has a wealth of experience behind them, giving Side Show tremendous polish as a production—which is why it was easy for Cornejo to feel like an outsider during his first days. But not for long. He said he never expected his inexperience to be such a welcome addition to the cast.


Ferrer relates how Cornejo was a breath of fresh air during otherwise militaristic rehearsals: “Because this is his first time [in a theatrical production], yung mga questions niya, they’re really innocent. It really breaks the ice in rehearsals.”

Hearing this, Cornejo blushes a little. He tries to pass it off as the cast being far too kind, but Ferrer is quick to reassure him with a hand on his shoulder. It’s a simple gesture that reminds Cornejo that he belongs; that he’s family.

Side Show, for all the pain and drama it presents onstage, is, in essence, a musical about two outsiders trying to find acceptance—through love, through fame, through belonging with freaks and Average Joes alike, and through each other. That the theme of acceptance rings true for the cast behind the scenes makes its Manila run that much more powerful.

Side Show runs until September 23, 2018, at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in RCBC Plaza. Tickets are available now on Ticketworld.

About The Author
Marco Sumayao
Contributing Writer
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