BWW Interview: Rachelle Ann Go, Fantine in LES MISERABLES London and Asian Tour
Co-written by Jared Echevarria
"I'm very excited that we're bringing the new production of LES MISERABLES (LES MIS) to Manila. I hope to see you there!" - Rachelle Ann Go, Fantine replacement, LES MIS Original London Production
The acclaimed new production of one of the world's most important, most enduring musicals, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil's LES MISERABLES (LES MIS), produced by Cameron Mackintosh and Michael Cassel in Australia, which mostly features the original talents behind the new Australian production that recently toured Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, and Brisbane, will kick off the first leg of its first Asian tour in Manila at the Theatre at Solaire, Solaire Resort and Casino, from Friday, March 11, until Sunday, April 17. Tickets can be purchased at TicketWorld.com.ph.
LES MIS is that kind of a musical that fits any generation. Its story is timeless and its musical numbers, e.g. "On My Own," "I Dreamed A Dream," and "One Day More," are very familiar. For three decades now, it has been winning the hearts of more than 70 million audiences in London's West End, on Broadway, and around the world.
With less than two months to go until the Asian premiere of the acclaimed new production, the show's current Fantine in London, Rachelle Ann Go, multi-award winning Filipino singer-actress who will also play the same role in the Asian premiere, grants an interview with BroadwayWorld.com.
Rachelle, who appeared in a couple of theater productions (Disney's "The Little Mermaid" and "Tarzan") in Manila prior to her West End theater debut in the 25th anniversary production of another Mackintosh blockbuster, "Miss Saigon," observes that working in a theater production in Manila is quite similar to that of London.
"Working with Atlantis Productions in Manila and with the Mackintosh team in London makes me realize that our techniques and methods of acting in Manila are at par with the international standards," says Rachelle. However, the demands vary because the roles that she bagged in London were heavier and required more from her: she has longer work hours in London compared to Manila. Rehearsals for LES MIS lasted for five weeks (six times a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
"Since the musicals I did in London were heavier in terms of content and delivery than what I did in Manila, I had to make sure that I was able to perform my very best for a year or more. In LES MIS, I also had to adjust my accent to the manner that was accustomed to Europeans...Theater audiences, in general, show appreciation for artists who perform exceptionally and give their best on stage."
Rachelle recalls the moment she met Mackintosh for the first time: "It was during the final audition for 'Miss Saigon.' He told me, 'I'm sure you're used to performing before a big crowd in Manila'...He also asked what musical theater roles that I wanted to do, and if I wanted to work in London. Filled with glee, I shouted back at him, 'Of course!"
On playing the tragic heroine Fantine, Rachelle notes that she studied her character and even read the classic novel of Victor Hugo, which inspired the musical. Rachelle focused more on how she could effectively portray a woman who clings to love so dearly to the point of personal sacrifice. She thinks a lot of women can relate to Fantine's story. In fact, Rachelle used her personal experiences and challenges to bring out the character through her. She shares that she will be using the same technique in the Manila run of LES MIS.
"Fantine's story is about loving someone and making sacrifices. I had to remember all my personal challenges in making the character of Fantine my own."
Looking back at her own experiences auditioning for Mackintosh's biggest musicals, Rachelle has this to say for aspiring singers-actors, "Never stop learning; attend workshops and lessons diligently, and surround yourself with people who can help you." Also for actors who dream to play in a West End or a Broadway production, "Be confidently prepared every time; know your script and story, and make a good impact. Always remember that first impression lasts forever."
She adds, "Bring a lot of confidence and chutzpah! Just do your best, and be yourself!"
Rachelle also shares the greatest lessons she has learned from her fellow actors in London: "Always tell the story...and don't focus on perfection, but more on delivering your character to the audiences.
"I'm now more confident because I've been performing eight shows a week to different audiences from all over the world. I also learned how to use my voice properly and not to abuse it. I learned a lot from my fellow actors who are exceptional in their crafts."
Likewise, Rachelle has been very thankful for a job like this and asks for God's guidance that His desires be hers as well. Her parting advice is to listen to the people who encourage you, love you, and treasure what you do. And always aim for excellence--for one day, the world will marvel at your work.
"I didn't plan this. I just prayed for God's desires to be my desires. What I did when I was starting was to do the best in everything. I didn't let opportunities pass. I didn't listen to people who tried to bring me down. I only listened to people who encouraged me and loved me."
Rachelle continues to look forward to more career adventures; she's very much willing to do more projects, despite being away from home and her loved ones.
She throws the question, "What role should I do next?"
Rachelle Ann Go is a well-known pop music artist and actress from the Philippines. She began her career after she won the Grand Prize in the reality talent search "Search for A Star" in 2004. Since then, she has headlined concerts in the Philippines and internationally, recorded seven albums, which became certified gold and double platinum records.
Theater credits include Fantine in the 30th anniversary production of LES MISERABLES (London's West End), for which she won the BroadwayWorld UK Award for Best Performance in a Long-Running West End Show; Gigi in the 25th anniversary production of "Miss Saigon" (London's West End), for which she won the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical and the BroadwayWorld UK Award for Best Featured Actress in a New Musical Production, and Ariel in Disney's "The Little Mermaid" (Asian premiere), for which she earned her first Best Actress Award in a Musical (BroadwayWorld Philippines Awards). She also played Jane Porter in Disney's Tarzan (Asian premiere).
Rachelle's final performance as Fantine in London is on Saturday, January 30; she will return to playing the role in London on Monday, May 9.
The Make A Difference Trust, or TheatreMAD, brings together London's theater industry and its supporters to raise funds for HIV and AIDS projects that are raising awareness and providing care, support, and education in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa, as well supporting those in the entertainment industry who are facing hardship as a result of the long-term chronic illness.
Photos: Johan Persson, Darren Bell