Victor Laurel and Vilma Santos

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Artistic Evolution – “…Cocoy starred in several theater productions of Repertory Philippines whom he credits for his basic theater training. “In 1968, Zeneida Amador cast me in two plays, Plaza Suite and Doña Rosita La Soltera,” Cocoy declares. Among his memorable performances were in Fiddler on the Roof, Guys and Dolls, Evita, The Elephant Man, The Fantasticks, to name a few. With his enormous exposure and experience in the arts, it is not surprising that Cocoy was selected for a major role in Cameron Mackintosh’s Australian production of Miss Saigon where he played the male lead role of The Engineer, the Vietnamese pimp. And even before playing the Engineer, Cocoy was already winning crowds with his portrayal of the Vietnamese Commissar in the West End production. Cocoy received rave reviews including a letter from Cameron Mackintosh to his parents congratulating them for Cocoy’s excellent portrayal in the musical. “What made Miss Saigon special was that we were involved in the making of it. We saw the artistic evolution and became part of its shows. It was my first experience to be in an international stage and having performed 450 performances,” says Cocoy. Upon returning to Manila, Cocoy resumed theatrical work starring in the productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Camelot and Les Miserables. He also played both The Engineer and Jean Valjean in the much-acclaimed The Music of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg in Concert …” – Sol Jose Vanzi (READ MORE)

The Artist – “…Unlike many of his fellow teen-agers, Cocoy appears cleancut (although he sports sideburns and long hair) and, what’s more, he’s soft-spoken. He’s the third among eight children of Senator and Mrs. Laurel, the first boy in the family. He was born on March 2, 1953 at the Lourdes Hospital. “Cocoy has always been the quiet and reserved type,” Celia says. “It is surprising how he can hide his emotions, even to those who are close to him.” He finished high school at the De La Salle College where he excelled both academically and in extra curricular activities. “I had always been fond of acting on stage,” Cocoy himself says. He has played varied roles in many plays: as John in “If Men Played Cards as Women Do,” as the priest in “Man of La Mancha,” as Fyedle in “Fidler on the Roof,” as bell boy and bridegroom in “Plaza Suite,” and as a young man in “Dona Rosita La Soltera.” His forte is Shakespearian roles (as Mark Anthony in “Julius Caesar,” as Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet”) and he has appeared in a passion play as Judas. In 1969, he was chosen Romeo of the Philippines to Lotis Key’s Juliet in a contest that was held to drum up interest in the showing of Zeferelli’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Because of his good looks, fine voice and excellent stage presence, he is often invited as a special guest on TV programs (Elvira Manahan’s “Two for the Road,” “Your Evening With Pilita,” “Stop Look and Listen,” “The Young Image,” “This Girl Pilar”). He appeared twice in “Seeing Stars.” Victor will soon go back to Spain for his studies. He’s currently enrolled at the Escuella de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid. In addition to his acting and singing talents, Cocoy can also paint. Cocoy acknowledges the sources of his talents: “I think I’ve inherited the fine voice of my father” – Senator Doy Laurel is a good singer; even Dovie Beams admired his singing – “and part of the acting ability of my mother” – Celia is regarded as one of the best stage actress of Repertory Philippines…” – Jose A. Quirino (READ MORE)

This Travolta – “…I’d rather be known as Victor Laurel. But really, this Travolta is a sensation. I met him in Studio 54 and how the crowd loves him. He’s a wonderful actor, singer, and dancer.” Cocoy, too is a seasoned dancer even before the Travolta fever. He has a catlike grace that gives the impression of strenght and his dancing ability has helped tremendously in his career. “The Travolta dance is typical of hero worship even in San Francisco, Los Angeles and other big cities. Mondays, everyone who has caught the fever, even 30 year olds shop and prepare for the disco on Fridays and Saturday and stay up till the wee hours of the morning…We were about to ask another question about Vi, his leading lady in Lea’s Disco Fever but Ate Josie came in to remind Cocoy that the Sampaguita people were waiting with sketches of his costume for Dyesebel, the movie he was going to make for the Gilmore Studio. But didn’t. As a parting shot, Cocoy revealed that he’d soon put a disco. The Third Kind or something in Makati…” – Nena Z. Villanueva, Expressweek, November 16, 1978 (READ MORE)

Victor “Cocoy” Laurel was first discovered when he won the title of Romeo in the Paramount Pictures nationwide search for the Romeo and Juliet of the Philippines in 1970. In 1971 he made his first film with Filipino superstar Nora Aunor, entitled Lollipops and Roses filmed in the United States with the co-star Don Johnson of Miami Vice. This film was an overnight box office hit and marked the beginning of successive films. In 1972 he joined Repertory Philippines in Fiddler On The Roof and later in The Fantasticks. After his second film, Till Death Us Do Part, he auditioned in New York at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts where he studied for two years, receiving his Diploma from Helen Hayes. He returned to Manila in 1973 to perform in further films and plays such as Pippin, Tony in West Side Story, Anthony in Sweeney Todd, Charlie in You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, Che Guevarra in Evita and John Merrick in The Elephant Man. He worked in Philippine Theatre and Film until he joined the original cast of Miss Saigon in London, where he played the Assistant Commissar. Upon returning to Manila he resumed his theatrical works starring in productions as Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, King Arthur in Camelot and Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. In March this year he played both the Engineer and Jean Valjean in the much acclaimed The Music of Alain Boubill & Claude-Michel Schonberg Concert in Manila . – Adam Wilson (READ MORE)

Victor Laurel and Vilma Santos

Pinay American Style (1979) – “…The film was so forgettable that the critics didn’t even bother to write any reviews. The lack of enthusiasm on the part of the critics was compensated with the box office success of the film. Vilma fits the role as the illegal alien, PX. Her attempt to speak fluent English and pretend that she’s rich when she met the boyish looking Christopher was funny and poignant. She was given enough scenes to shine. One was when she was harassed by her landlady, she promised her the rent money the next day and when she’s gone, she opened her refrigerator and found a staled piece of bread. She took bottled water and ate the staled bread, went to the bedroom and found her mom’s letter. Lying down in bed, she started to break down. A quiet scene without dialogue. A contrast from the earlier scenes where she was talkative as she tried to impress Christopher and telling him she’s rich and from a well-known family. It was obvious in 1979, Elwood Perez wasn’t the kind of director you will expect to produce a serious output. He wasn’t a Bernal or Brocka. He’s a commercial director. It was a better effort though, compared to a much more convoluted Magkaribal or their past successful projects like Nakawin natin ang bawat sandali and masakit masarap ang umibig. In Pinay, Toto Belano’s script wasn’t efficient in ironing out the “love quadrangle” plot twists and establishing the characters of four actors. So the blame can’t be put to solely to Perez’ shoulder. There was a scene were Vilma Santos and Christopher were watching a concert which was obviously not part of the script…” – RV (READ MORE)

Disco Fever (1978) – “…I’d rather be known as Victor Laurel. But really, this Travolta is a sensation. I met him in Studio 54 and how the crowd loves him. He’s a wonderful actor, singer, and dancer.” Cocoy, too is a seasoned dancer even before the Travolta fever. He has a catlike grace that gives the impression of strenght and his dancing ability has helped tremendously in his career. “The Travolta dance is typical of hero worship even in San Francisco, Los Angeles and other big cities. Mondays, everyone who has caught the fever, even 30 year olds shop and prepare for the disco on Fridays and Saturday and stay up till the wee hours of the morning…We were about to ask another question about Vi, his leading lady in Lea’s Disco Fever but Ate Josie came in to remind Cocoy that the Sampaguita people were waiting with sketches of his costume for Dyesebel, the movie he was going to make for the Gilmore Studio. But didn’t. As a parting shot, Cocoy revealed that he’d soon put a disco. The Third Kind or something in Makati…” – Nena Z. Villanueva, Expressweek, November 16, 1978 (READ MORE)

Ophelia & Paris (1973) – “…Mars Ravelo’s Ophelia at Paris: Prinsipe Paris Walang Kaparis (December 10, 1973) ay handog ng VL Productions na tinampukan nina Vi, Victor Laurel, Marissa Delgado, German Moreno, Rodolfo Boy Garcia, Mary Walter, Subas Herrero, Joonee Gamboa, Celia Diaz Laurel at Ronald Remy sa direksiyon ni Celia Diaz Laurel…” – Alfonso Valencia (READ MORE)

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