Catherine Ricafort embodies heart, resilience as lone woman in ‘Prison Dancer’

As Cherish, the girlfriend of an inmate

Five years after the “Dancing Inmates of Cebu” became a YouTube sensation, the story behind the Filipino dancers moonwalking to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is now an off-Broadway musical.

Prison Dancer,” which started as a 12-episode web series, features the fictional stories of six maximum-security prisoners, and how their participation in the Cebu Penitentiary rehabilitation program has changed their lives. The production is staged July 20 to 28 at St. Clement’s on West 46th Street.

“Prison Dancer” weaves the personal, poignant, hilarious and universal stories of inmates Ruperto Poblador aka Lola, who (along with his gay minions Oo Oo and Nana) choreographs the first prison dance routines; Hookaps, the prison hustler; Shakespeare, the resident poet; and Christian Bagets, the newest inmate, into one hopeful musical narrative.

Jose Llana (“Rent,” “Flower Drum Song”) plays Christian, and Catherine Ricafort (“Mamma Mia”) his girlfriend, Cherish, the lone woman in the cast.

“My boyfriend Christian has been thrown into jail for defending me against the advances of a rogue cop while I was dancing in the girly bar,” Catherine explained her powerful role to The FilAm.

As the only woman in the show, Catherine said her role became an opportunity to represent the feminine strengths of patience, determination, resilience, and heart, amid the grit and toughness of prison life. She is portrayed as a dancer whose beauty, heart, and courage have allowed her to survive without giving up on her dreams of love.

“Despite the hardship we face as a couple, I encourage Christian to hold on to our love,” she said of her star-crossed romance. “I am the only character who lives a life outside of the prison and yet is tied so rigidly to it at the same time, and my capacity to dream for a new beginning is what makes me stand strong even in the face of hardship.”

The performers also include standout Broadway talents Jeigh Madjus as Lola, Marc DeLaCruz as Hookaps, Moses Villarama as Shakespeare, Cosmo Clemens as Oo Oo, and Enrico Rodriguez as Nana.

“Prison Dancer” is directed by choreographer Jenn Rapp with music supervision by Alexander Rovang. For tickets, call 212-352-3101 or visit

Inmates in one of the dance numbers

Mug shots of cast and production staff

One Comment

  1. The real choreographer of the Cebu inmates stabbed his boyfriend because of jealousy 🙂 he is now serving a longer sentence in the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa. He could have made it in less than 3 years in Cebu 🙂

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