Exclusive: Part Two - In Conversation with MISS SAIGON's Rachelle Ann Go
BWW Philippines Special Report
In the conclusion of BroadwayWorld.com's one-one-one chat with Rachelle Ann Go, Gigi in Miss Saigon's 25th anniversary production, she reflects on how she has blossomed into her defiant bargirl role and what playing the character means to her; paints a vivid image of the fantastic frontiers that Miss Saigon has opened up for her; and reveals the current status of her love life - and as a bonus, gives "expert"advice to the lovelorn.
Looking back on Rachelle Ann's challenge-laden singing career, which ultimately landed her on the stunning stage of West End's Miss Saigon, no one would dare accuse her of not paying her dues--it practically took her a 10-year-long journey to complete the transaction.
Rachelle Ann's arrival in London last March has her riding high on wave after wave of astounding opportunities--her sky-rocketing trajectory showing no signs of slowing down.
As a follow-up to her well-lauded "And There It Is" surprise performance in Scott Alan's concert at Hippodrome Casino-London last May, British pop vocal group Blake have upped the ante even further with their new collaboration with the singer-actress: They recently recorded their cover of "Falling Slowly" from the hit musical "Once"; the collaboration process documented in a web series unsurprisingly titled "The Rachelle Ann Go and Blake Video Diary," the first of which was released via Blake's Facebook page on July 2.
"Natuto ako sa lahat ng bagay. I enjoy meeting new friends [including Scott Alan and Blake]. Eto ang bagong industriya na pinasukan ko and excited ako sa mga darating pang opportunities," she adds, smiling, recapping the myriad ways of how working in Miss Saigon and living independently in London have broadened her self-perceptions and visions for the future.
(I learn so many things. I enjoy meeting new friends [including Scott Alan and Blake]. This is a new industry for me and I'm excited for other opportunities it will open up for me.)
"Iba 'yung feeling na makasama ako sa isang malaking production na katulad nito [MISS SAIGON]. We're recording a cast album--a live recording. Iba, ibang klase talaga. Hopefully sana may movie din! I pray for it! Nakakatuwa! I'm counting my blessings," she shares.
(The feeling I get from being a part of a musical [MISS SAIGON] of such a grand scale is just incomparable to any other! We're recording a cast album--a live recording. It's just so indescribable, and I hope there might be a movie adaptation soon, too! I pray for it! I'm counting my blessings!)
And who knows? With Miss Saigon's all-encompassing and ageless theme of star-crossed love bearing fruit to selfless sacrifice, the show is definitely tailored to the lucrative Hollywood machinery.
Fierce Songstress Versus Sex Toy from Hanoi
Taking on the role of Gigi, the "sex toy from Hanoi," demands of her a complete 360-degree transition from being the Philippines' "Fierce Songstress"--her official pop star alias.
"'Yung first two days ng rehearsals namin, nanuod kami ng film, 'yung video documentary about the Vietnam war. Kumbaga mas naintindihan ko na 'yung ibig sabihin talaga ng story ng Miss Saigon. Talagang inaral namin," she shares, looking back on the company's first week of rehearsals.
(During our first two days of rehearsals, we watched a video documentary on the Vietnam war. I understood Miss Saigon's story even better. We studied it.)
"Kaya hindi madaling maging Gigi at maging ganu'n 'yung role kase sobrang lalim ng pinaghuhugutan gabi-gabi, ang sakit kasi naawa ako sa character ko," she continues in utterly sympathetic tones, with a hint of uncried tears in her voice.
(It's not easy to be someone like Gigi, and for me to take on the role. It's hard because it's just too deep. The place where I have to draw my feelings from when I do the role night after night is just so dark. I feel so bad for the character I play.)
With the sharp schism between the "Fierce Songstress" and the "Sex Toy from Hanoi," starkly distinguishing one persona apart from the other--with opposing sets of values--how then would Rachelle Ann reach out to the disparaged Gigi to counsel her on love and choice of men?
"Love advice? Don't trust men! Hahahaha!" she says in an unexpected blast of candour, going bolt upright from her comfortable seating position straight into a rousing laughter before her expression quickly turned into a deadpan concern.
"Nah, just kidding! Love advice? I don't know. Pero kasi si Gigi sobrang dami nang napagdaanan din. Ang pareho sa amin kasi she's very tough--'yung sa labas ang tough niyang tingnan 'di ba? But deep inside, vulnerable s'ya, ganun," she adds.
(Nah, just kidding! Love advice? I don't know, but then Gigi has been through a lot as well. What's similar between us is that we're both very tough--tough from the outside--but deep inside, she's vulnerable.)
But then again, there is an old adage that some jests are half-meant. The proverb is quickly dismissed however, as with a steely gleam in her eyes, she adds with a knowing smile, "'Yun 'yung common factor namin, 'palaban!'"
(That's the common factor between us, we're both fighters!)
"Skype" is a Family Affair
Despite the usual grind of rehearsals and performances filling her schedule almost to the brim--sometimes without a sliver of daylight in between--Rachelle Ann, mercifully, is still able to squeeze in much needed quality time through Skype-conferencing with her friends and family, in a bid to combat daily bouts of homesickness.
"I miss them, sobra. 'Pag break namin, ka-Skype ko ang family ko..." she confesses, with an almost pained shade of longing in her clear brown eyes.
(I miss them so much! During our breaks, I Skype with my family...)
"My family is coming this year, medyo matatagalan nga lang, siguro October pa. I can't wait to see them!" she says.
(My family is coming this year, although it'll take longer for them to get here, around October. I can't wait to see them!)
She adds, "I'm so proud of my brother Oz! Even before I went to London, I told him to make a gown for me for our press night's after party. Every concert ko sa Philippines, siya ang gumagawa ng gowns ko..." Rachelle Ann proudly shares his brother's accomplishments as a fashion designer, describing her exquisite red gown, which had to be flown in from Manila by her friends who watched the show in London.
(I'm so proud of my brother Oz! Even before I went to London, I told him to make a gown for me for our press night's after party. Every concert I would have in the Philippines, he would always make my gowns.)
I'm An Actor Who Sings?
"I'm an actor who sings." Barbra Streisand, one of the world's best-selling female recording and concert artists of all time, describes herself in such a way.
With Rachelle Ann's rich background in pop music, a flipped version of the Streisand allusion might be thrown at her, especially with her West End debut being touted by critics as "a sensual and spine-tingling performance."
So would she describe herself the way Babs did?
"Hmm...ang hirap sagutin n'yan ha!" she halts for a fleeting, reverential moment, trading in her cheery disposition for a sombre, even uncharacteristically grave expression of brow-creased thoughtfulness.
(Oh wow, that's a pretty tough question to answer!)
"But right now, I do enjoy this, I enjoy acting in theatre--live--at nakikita ko at natatanggap ko din 'yung kakaibang response ng tao gabi-gabi, magical 'yung feeling!" she shares, gushing about her intensely growing passion for musical theatre, much like a giggling schoolgirl would about a new high school crush.
(But right now, I enjoy doing this, I enjoy acting in theater--live--seeing and receiving the one-of-a-kind response from the audiences night after night. The feeling is just so magical!)
And what of crushes or even a prospective love life?
"Love? Naku parang 'di ko naiisip pa 'yan! But thanks for asking!" she laughs, almost to the point of distraction.
(Love? Oh my, I haven't even thought about that! But thanks for asking!)
"Nooo! I'm so busy right now with everyday work; ang off-day lang namin is Sunday--just that one day--but then I go to church. Ayun 'pag Sunday, I do the groceries, you know, the independent life!" she muses beaming, more than satisfied with filling that niche in her life--that romance would normally occupy--with a newfound love for herself and independent life.
(Nooo! I'm so busy right now with everyday work, our only off-day is Sunday--just that one day--but then I go to church. So on Sundays, I do the groceries, you know, the independent life!)
One of the most magical aspects of a show like Miss Saigon is that its words and music can actually afford to change and adapt to current time and fashion.
The first big musical number in the show--"The Movie In My Mind," performed by Rachelle Ann's Gigi and Eva Noblezada's Kim, as with the other songs in the show's repertoire, cannot have escaped changes to its words and music.
"Nu'ng nasa Philippines ako, I didn't know na may mga pagbabago. Si Ms. Lea Salonga lang ang nagsabi sa akin, 'Oh, bago na ang lahat. Don't try to memorize everything kase pagdating n'yo sa London may mga changes nga.' So pagdating ko dito I saw the lyrics. First part is the same, 'yung second part is medyo iba," she shares on how the lyrics changed in "The Movie In My Mind."
(When I was in the Philippines, I didn't know there would be any changes. It was Ms. Lea Salonga who told me, 'Hey, everything's new. Don't try to memorize anything just yet because when you arrive in London, there will be changes.' So when I got here, I saw the lyrics. First part is still the same, the second part is slightly different.)
"Pero masaya kasi mas gusto ko itong bagong lyrics, mas tagos sa puso," she continues.
(But I'm glad about the new lyrics, I like them better because they're more heartbreaking.)
In between fits of cheery, boisterous laughter gabbing about Rachelle Ann's favorite food and shopping places in London, the topic of her now notoriously long legs also came up.
"During our first preview, I was wearing Gigi's costume for the wedding scene [during the curtain call]; then the next day, he [Cameron Mackintosh] saw me and he was like, 'Oh, you have a new costume for your curtain call,' I said, 'What is it?' And he said, 'I'll surprise you, but I want to see more legs!'" she shares in an embarrased, girlish grin.
"More legs?" she adds, laughing.
However, her initial uneasiness at portraying a ravishingly sexy role on stage swiftly dissipated, ultimately replaced by an immeasurable joy almost too immense for words to describe.
"I can't explain my happiness, umaapaw ang kaligayan ko ngayon, kasi nandito ako sa ibang bansa... It can be tiring actually, pero ang sarap pa rin ng feeling kasi lahat ng kasama ko dito very passionate about what they're doing," she says.
(I can't explain my happiness, my joy. The happiness I'm feeling now is just so overwhelming because I'm here in another country...but the feeling is still just amazing because all the people here are so passionate about what they're doing.)
"Wahaha! I don't know! I don't know YET!" she says, laughing, carefully placing a heavy emphasis on the word YET.
"But siyempre gusto ko! Nu'ng napanuod ko din 'yung 'Les Mis,' naisip ko, 'bakit hindi? Hmm...'Let's see!" she gleefully exclaims with a teasing, even hinting intonation to her voice.
(Of course I'd love to do it! When I watched 'Les Mis,' I thought 'why not? Hmm...'Let's see!)
Asked wherever else she might be drawing her boundless zest for London life and the 'Saigon' stage from, this was what she had to say, "I read their [family, friends, and fans'--the Shinatics] comments and messages on Twitter and Instagram, nakakatuwa kasi kahit nasa London ako I still feel their support and love. I'm very thankful."
(I read their [family, friends, and fans'--the Shinatics] comments and messages on Twitter and Instagram, and it's just so heartwarming because even though I'm here in London I can still feel their support and love. I'm very thankful."
Special thanks to Bambi Verzo of Concertus Manila
Photos/Videos: Tim Yap, MISS SAIGON, Rocky Christopher Fajardo