October 12, 2021 • By Christine Pasalo Norland

Larry: A New Musical

“Larry: A New Musical" is about the life and impact of Filipino American activist Larry Itliong, a driving force behind the United Farm Worker labor movement. Based on the research of the late Dr. Dawn Mabalon, and the picture book she wrote with Gayle Romasanta and illustrated by Andre Sibayan, the production's world premiere is planned for October 2023 at San Francisco’s historic Brava Theater.


“To me, it opens the door to see the full community, the full humanity, of our people really coming together and how they weathered it all,” says Romasanta in the promotional reel of “Larry."


Romasanta joins the creative team as the main writer and a co-composer alongside composer Bryan Pangilinan, music director and co-composer Sean Kana, director Billy Bustamante, and producer Melvign Badiola.


Through grants from the San Francisco Arts Commission and Theatre Bay Area, the creative team held and recorded their first developmental workshop on October 2nd at the Brava Theater. Seven songs from "Larry: A New Musical" were performed for an online audience by Filipinx/a/o artists from the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and the East Coast, followed by encore streams on October 13 and October 22.


“We ache and we long for our stories to be told, and this is it,” says Marah Sotelo, who performed in the role of Maria and as part of the ensemble during the live streamed developmental workshop. “This is our chance.”


To complete the script and songbook by next summer, the creative team is turning to the Filipinx/a/o community and its allies. They launched a grassroots fundraising effort via Indiegogo to crowdfund at least $35,000 to cover creative team costs, the hiring of actors and musicians, production costs and staff, and marketing and promotion. Fans can follow and share the production's progress by signing up for the "Larry: A New Musical" newsletter and following @larrythemusical on Instagram.


“Telling this story now is so important,” says Bustamante. “It’s necessary, it’s integral, it’s vital. It’s everything.”


This story has been updated with additional information.


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