On With the Show | Toto Sicangco


Bacolod born Eduardo Varela Sicangco has blazed a trail - from small island hometown of grand designs to the bright lights of Broadway in the Big Apple, New York City. Recently his costumes were featured in the popular Showstoppers exhibit at NYC’s Times Square.

Showstoppers main window display, NYC’s Times Square

Toto, as he is known to us back home, is a master scenographer and illustrator. His multi-awarded creative work - on stage at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and on Broadway, in ballets and opera, on Disney and Hollywood films - have taken him all over the world. 

Bacolod exhibit poster, 2015

Yet for us, it is his local roots in Bacolod that put the shine on much of his spectacular achievements. Raised in a home surrounded and immersed in culture and art - by his lyric soprano mom and audiophile dad who possessed a vast collection of cast recordings.

Showstoppers' central display of Toto's red showgirls

Very early on he participated avidly in our local school and community theater - while eagerly absorbed and absorbing the musicals and theatrical releases of Hollywood and Broadway. 

“Paradis” finale on display at the Showstoppers exhibit

In high school he joined a local drama guild and started designing sets and costumes - on to college and after. He was part of a pantheon of Adonis youths who quickly mesmerized us all - Peque Gallaga the director, Rene Hinojales the choreographer, and Toto Sicangco for sets, props and costume design.

Eduardo Sicangco

As a student of National Artist Salvador Bernal at the Ateneo de Manila University, he honed his craft into the demanding discipline of scenic design - earning accolades as Bernal’s protégé. Sitting in in his class even after graduation - taken under his wing, hired as an assistant, and mentored until he got his first break - at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, where he designed Le Carnaval for Ballet Philippines

multi-tiered exhibit platform for "Paradis"

Upon completion of an MFA in stage design at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, he received the J.S. Seidman Award for Excellence in Design. He currently shares his gifted talent as a Master Teacher of Design at NYU and an associate professor of design at the University of North Carolina, School of Design and Production. 

Sicangco sketch of Paradis Finale Showgirl

Featured in  Lynn Pecktal books, Costume Design: Techniques of Modern Masters and Drawing and Painting for the Theater. He was also the subject of From Inspiration to Illusion: The Scenographic Works of Eduardo Sicangco, a career retrospective at the Ayala Museum in the Philippines - where he returns regularly to keep giving back to various art communities.

Reversed view of exhibit platform for "Paradis"

To this day, Toto takes great pride in his "old school, tried and tested" techniques - preferring to work hands on and gadget free. To illustrate his designs his favorite tools are few yet quite specific - drafting vellum, tracing paper, B pencils, an eraser, a can of Krylon Workable Fixatif and Winsor & Newton Gouache paint tubes.

Entrance and central display at Showstoppers

Showstoppers is a one-of-a-kind, immersive exhibition conceptualized to raise money for the Costume Industry Coalition Recovery Fund, which continues to support one of the hardest hit sectors of the entertainment industry during these COVID times.

The designer at his studio

Presented in New York City’s vital Theatre District - the former home of Modell’s, world-renowned design firm, Thinc Design. The Times Square space has been transformed into an immersive maze featuring more than 100 of the industry’s most beautiful and iconic costumes. 

The exhibit showcases eight Sicangco showgirls - all in red from the "Paradis" finale - conceptualized as a phoenix rising from the ashes, according to the designer. Seven were arranged in fierce fashion at the center of the main lobby and one is most prominently displayed in the front window. 

Paradis” is a revue staged on the Norwegian Cruise Line - conceived, choreographed and directed by Patti Wilcox. It takes the audience on a journey to Parisian clubs like the Folies Bergère, Lido, Moulin Rouge, and Crazy Horse Saloon. 

Vintage costume making display at Showstoppers

“[Showstoppers] is a group show, and the focus is not on the designers but on the incredible costume makers, artisans and craftspeople responsible for turning a designer’s sketch into reality. I think this spotlight will show the viewers not just what it takes to make a Broadway-level costume but will impress on them the fact that this is haute couture we’re dealing with.”
~ Eduardo V. Sicangco  

Text and photos by: Issa Urra

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