Sab Jose: From backstage to centerstage

Sab Jose in character as Michelle in the acclaimed jukebox musical, Eto Na! Musikal nAPO!

Sab Jose was already a seasoned stage actress when she decided to put acting on hold to focus on backstage production work.

“That was about five years ago, I wanted to experience theater in its entirety and apply my degree in advertising and public relations so I did marketing and PR work for The Sandbox Collective,” she recalled.

Things started to take a different turn in 2016 when Sab decided to go to drama school in London. Upon her return last year, she resumed her work behind the scenes but at the same time, her renewed zest for acting gave her enough confidence to start auditioning for shows or in her own words, “put myself out there.”

It didn’t take long for the lovely actress to get cast in what she calls her “comeback show and re-entry into local theater.” In Eto na! Musikal nAPO!, 9 Works Theatrical and Globe Live’s celebrated jukebox musical based on the music of the Apo Hiking Society, Sab was raring to prove her worth in the pivotal role of Michelle, the campus sweetheart and the object of affection of happy-go-lucky student Butch, played by Jobim Javier, son of Apo founding member Danny Javier.

“I was hungry for work but also anxious because there were a lot of firsts in the musical. It was my first original production, my first Filipino musical, my first intimate scene, my first love team,” Sab recalled.

While it was Jobim who stood out and got the lion’s share of the kudos in the musical’s initial staging, Sab also had her share of the warm reception and not a few male members of the audience were wondering, “Who’s that girl?”

“Luckily, all the hard work paid off. I am so grateful for the feedback and the success of my tandem with Jobim. It was so heartwarming and encouraging, it makes me want to do this forever,” she further quipped.

With Jobim Javier in a scene from Eto Na! Musikal nAPO!
With Jobim Javier in a scene from Eto Na! Musikal nAPO!

Sab’s eventful year was far from over as she would also end up tying the knot by October. But not before she again made waves in another production. See, even before Eto na! Musikal nAPO!, she was already reading the script for Lungs written by playwright Duncan Macmillan.

“It was offered to me shortly after I had returned from London. It was a no-brainer for me. I said yes as soon as I read the script. It was so beautiful, I couldn’t put it down,” she further shared.

Staged by 9 Works Theatrical and The Sandbox Collective, Lungs was a two-person, one-act straight play that also served as the theater debut of film and television star Jake Cuenca.

“Jake was a breath of fresh air. I didn’t think I would meet someone so unaware, so humble and so hardworking. To be honest, I was a bit wary we wouldn’t get along as we come from different worlds. But Jake was such a professional. He motivated me to do better each time because he gives and gives.”

As for her role as W, who she described as “an accomplished, intelligent, somewhat neurotic, complex, loving and strong-willed woman,” Sab said that as much as she was very challenged in portraying someone that “hits close to home,” she felt privileged to essay such a complex character.

While Eto na! Musikal nAPO! gave Sab a taste of the spotlight after a lengthy hiatus, it was Lungs that turned her as an actress to reckon with. Her unlikely tandem with Jake has so far produced a pair of acting nominations from the BroadwayWorld Philippines awards and most recently from Philstage’s Gawad Buhay awards.

Eto na! Musikal nAPO! which is now on its second successful run with Sab reprising her role as Michelle, is also nominated for 11 Gawad Buhay honors.

Her involvement in these acclaimed productions has only inspired Sab to pursue acting further and if she can help it, it won’t be limited to just straight plays and musicals. One thing is certain, we won’t be seeing her behind the scenes again anytime soon.

“My fingers are crossed. I am looking forward to getting more work in local theater. If my schedule permits, I may have another straight play in the works. I would love to play Fanny in Funny Girl and Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie if given the chance. And yes, I would love to do film and television one day. I just want to keep doing this for the rest of my life,” she declared.

Catch Sab Jose as Michelle in the final weekend of Eto na! Musikal nAPO! happening at Maybank Performing Arts Theater, Bonifacio Global City until April 7.