Tony Award-Winning Play “M. Butterfly” Set to Return to Local Stages This 2018

Words by: Michaela Acero / Photos by: Neil John Vildad

Are you a theater fan? Well, guess what? The iconic play, M. Butterfly, is returning to the local stage after 28 years! If you haven’t heard of M. Butterfly yet, though, here is why this production is something you can’t miss.


M. Butterfly is a play that’s loosely based on real life events and the opera “Madame Butterfly.” You may also be familiar with the film of the same name. It’s a tale of forbidden love between French diplomat René Gallimard and Chinese opera singer Song Liling.

Unbeknownst to Gallimard (or not…), Song Liling is actually a man. Long story short, they have a 20-year relationship and Song Liling turns out to be a spy who gathers information from the French for the Chinese government.

This thought-provoking and sensual drama opens viewers eyes to the themes of what love can make people do, how far people might go to achieve personal gain, and the illusions people create.

M. Butterfly first hit the Philippine stage in 1990 through Dulaang UP. The role of Song Liling was iconically portrayed by RS Francisco, who was only 18 years old at the time! In this upcoming production by Frontrow Entertainment and Jhett Tolentino (a Grammy AND 3 time Tony award-winning Filipino producer), RS Francisco will once again reprise his role as the multi-faceted Song Liling. Filipino filmmaker, Kanakan Balintagos, will be directing this endeavor.

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RS Francisco talking about his return to the role of Song Liling after 28 years

The multi-national cast includes French actor Olivier Borten, who will be playing René Gallimard. Fun fact: this will be one of the first times that Gallimard will actually be portrayed by a Frenchman (he has previously been depicted by British, Filipino, and American actors)! Well-known Filipino theater actress Pinky Amador will be portraying Helga, Gallimard’s wife, and Scottish actor Norm McLeod will play French ambassador Manuel Toulon.

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(L-R) Norm McLeod, Rebecca Chuaunsu (who produced “Binondo: A Tsinoy Musical”), and Lee O’Brian (Pokwang’s husband!) talking about his role in M. Butterfly

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Cast and crew of M. Butterfly

The best thing about this production, though, is that it’s 100% non-profit. It’s a passion project for its well-decorated cast who simply want to give back. Members of the production have chosen beneficiaries like their high schools, theater organizations, environmental organizations, and others, who will be receiving portions of the ticket sales. Isn’t that great? By watching the show, you won’t only get to support local theater, but local organizations that need our support, as well.

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(L-R) Director Kanakan Balintagos, producer Jhett Tolentino, RS Francisco, and the head of one of the play’s beneficiaries

M. Butterfly will be staged on September 13-30, 2018 at the Maybank Performing Arts Theater, BGC Arts Center, Bonifacio Global City. Tickets are now available on