On Sunday All Stars and Tropang Trending

When practically every viewer was stunned by the announcement of the axing of Party Pilipinas last two months ago, the big question was WHAT NOW? Not long after, the network announced the concept of the new show replacement: artists to be grouped, given a theme and compete with each other. Right from the start the concept was met with scepticism and yes, admittedly, a lot of sarcasm from the loyal fans of Party PIlipinas. The big question remained: WHAT NOW?

The new show

Watching the pilot episode of Sunday All Stars (SAS), I was just praying that they get it through with the least of flack. The production numbers were great. I admire the dedication of the artists. It was good to see them (or at least most if not some) started to get their creative juices going. The next four episodes were a bit of a surprise in the sense that I must admit that the excitement of seeing what each group had prepared and who will win did catch on. I was also glad that the criteria for judging was adjusted as the show progressed, decreasing the weight of online and text voting and giving more weight on the say of the judges who were seasoned or veteran artists themselves. I like the fact that the entry of guest judges (be it deliberate or because some of the resident judges could not make it) diffuses the notion of undeserving wins because the mainstay judges have their own favored groups or artists.

SASlogoThat is the upside. The downside is that I am not sure how long the show – and the artists – can sustain such a format. To have to come up with a winning production number every week on top of their own gigs or projects as individual artists may take its toll at some point. We are already seeing a number of the busier artists struggling to meet the demands of the show, particularly those who need to be somewhere else because of other professional engagements. I mean, these are individual artists and SAS isn’t their only show. A lot of them are into other projects, some needing to be out of town, abroad or rehearsing most days of the week. Unfortunately for these busier artists, they turn out to be among the “liabilities” in their groups, and get some flack particularly in the VTRs prior to each performance. Some may deserve the “special mentions” for not being proactive or supportive but some don’t because they are simply doing their jobs as artists or performers.

I’m also not into the game portion of the show, or at least that segment still hasn’t grown on me. Maybe it’s because for years we had been used to having a noontime variety show on a Sunday sans the games that highlight the noontime shows during the rest of the week. The audience and the viewers are the focus on weekdays and Saturdays while the artistas and performers take center stage on Sundays. Breaking the habit seems a bit difficult, or may even be considered suicide, if the network cannot present a good enough reason to break it. And at this point, I’m still a skeptic.

I also sigh in regret every Sunday that the artists only get to perform during the group production numbers, unless they are part of a show currently being promoted. I feel bad for the singers/performers who have shows but could not really promote properly. I feel it such a waste to have very talented and established artists there who get to do their thing for just a few seconds or minutes. Sunday All Stars can boast of world-class artists who can keep our noontime Sundays worthy of spending in front of the television the way Party Pilipinas had if it could come up with a better format that will be fair for both the artists and the viewers. For now, it’s a struggle. The excitement of the competition is great but the toll it will take on its artists and its sustainability as a weekly thing comes with a big question mark.

The new trend

What I love though about the past few weeks is the shift of focus in terms of the production numbers, judging from the emerging winners particularly after the change in criteria for choosing the victors for the week. The triple win of Tropang Trending seems to send a message – deliberate or not – that glitz and glamour may be great up to a certain point but simplicity, sincerity and substance can take you farther.

Now don’t get me wrong with that statement. All I am saying is that I like the fact that the group that really zeroed in on artistry and purpose got to bring home the bacon for the past few weeks. After decades of being caught up in the ratings game, people in the industry tend to lean too much on gimmickry and popularity to get our attention as audience. Many times the people behind the shows overlook their responsibility to educate the audience too. You do not just think about what they want so the show will rate. You think about what they also need to know and learn to make television a more meaningful medium of communication. The kilig and kwela factors can only take us so far. These are the sure-fire escape routes for people behind the shows to rate without having to work that hard at artistry and creativity. After a while though, it gets stale and you need to find another loveteam or another sensational artist to carry the burden of making a show or concert rate.

TTrendingThis week saw the third straight win of Tropang Trending as Best Performance by a Group and gave them their 3rd Best Solo Performance in the person of Rachelle Ann Go. Rochelle Pangilinan and Mark Herras were previous recipients of this award. I wouldn’t say that Tropang Trending upped the level of performance because each group put a lot of effort in their presentations. I would say instead that Tropang Trending deviated from the usual. Instead of guesting big names, they opted to feature non-celebrities. They featured “ordinary” people who actually touched our hearts maybe a tad more this time because of the reality that they stand for. Instead of banking on loveteams, kilig or pakwela, the group really zeroed in on the theme and what relevant message they can impart through their performance. Usually this formula bombs when it comes to movies and tv shows (too deep, they say) but I am glad it has given this group significant wins the past three weeks. Is it safe to say that the judges are making their sentiments known in their choice of winners? I feel it very telling for veterans in the industry leading the wins towards a group that not only presents substance but also coherence, sincerity, artistry and an appeal that cuts across all generations – the way it used to be or even should be again maybe?

Tropang Trending I believe has the least number of artists – actor or singer – who are very active on tv during the rest of the week. That edges them out somehow in the online and text voting to some extent. And we all know that the voting public consist mostly of fans who will tend to vote for their preferred artists. But the competition being what it is, and with judges who are icons in the business and are very serious in upping their industry, I am glad that the usual formula to get viewers in isn‘t what’s lording over the decisions.

In a way, the competing groups make the viewers choose which appeals to them the most. And to those viewers who are not influenced by idolatry, the show makes them think deeper than just immediate or superficial gratification. In choosing their winner, they get to think about not just what they like but what made them think. We have too much of the kilig factor and the loveteams during the week, particularly in the teleseryes from afternoon to late evening. On a Sunday afternoon, the whole family is watching, from toddler to grandies. It is nice to see that Tropang Trending takes this into consideration, making their presentation appeal to this wide range of viewers.

tropangtrending1The pressure is now on Tropang Trending though because although the out-of-the-box formula has been working for them so far, they need to realize too that it will not work all the time unless they inject something different as they go along, or else the attention just might go back to those who aren’t lacking in the usual kilig and pakwela factor. Their strategy may just go stale at some point when you have viewer participation, particularly the younger generation that dominate the cyberworld in the equation. I do believe though that they are very much aware of this and will make sure they will not fall into that trap that will make their future prods predictable.

Congratulations to the winners not just this week but the past weeks. I just hope that the competition will not take its toll on the artists in the coming months. GMA, I think you still need to rethink the concept of the whole show to make it a venue for improvement for artists without making it such a burden or source of stress for them. Otherwise those may just be the very reasons for demotivation to set in and affect the air of camaraderie and healthy competition between and within the groups.

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Tarzan The Musical: A Review

(Reposted from Thoughts in Kilobytes)

When Viva Atlantis Theatricals announced that it will stage Tarzan The Musical here in Manila, I merely shrugged and thought, “Okay, go ahead.” My interest was sparked more by the announcement on who was playing the role of Jane Porter, and later who shall don the Disney loincloth and swing from tree to tree, hollering ooooo ei oooooo ei oooooo ei oooooooooo.

The characters brought to life

Dan Domenech, a Broadway actor, was a great pick for the title role. Dan was superb in his portrayal of the feral character. He was funny, heart-warming, charming and yes, definitely built well for the part (I can hear women swooning left and right). Despite the role being very physical, he made swinging look so easy and sang as if he was just having a conversation with someone over coffee. Yet the ease with which he tackled the character didn’t take away any of the deeper emotions he had to convey. His scenes with his ape-mother Kala always brought that emotional pinch in one’s heart – whether they were happy or heavy with emotions. Dan and Ima Castro, who took on the role of Kala, were heartwarming to watch as they reminded us about the kind of love that transcends not just race but even linnaean classification.

945042_10151810147134505_811246080_nI did wonder how Dan will be able to successfully pull off the ape-talk but it turned out I was just wasting time in doing so. He knew the challenge of having to communicate half of the time in a language none of us knew, and he did a great job. He looked very comfortable being an ape man, and I’d say was even having fun doing so.

Fresh from her successful debut as Ariel in The Little Mermaid, Rachelle Ann Go gets to play the nerdy Jane Porter who loves to say a mouthful. As if that wasn’t enough, she had to deliver her speaking lines with a British accent. Although she was always fond of speaking with an accent, maintaining it throughout the show was a different story. Not surprisingly though, she was able to pull it off and in such a charming way too. The new darling of Disney musicals was awesome in her portrayal of Tarzan’s love interest. Those kilometric lines delivered with just the right kind of wit, charm and humor belied the fact that this was only her second musical. As director Chari Arespacochaga puts it, Rachelle is indeed a great instinctive actress. Like Dan, Rachelle looked very comfortable and cute as a button as Jane.

Of course, most were curious as to how Dan and Rachelle will jell as they play out the love story between Tarzan and Jane. Well, let me tell you that the chemistry was very potent – whether they were being funny, confused or heartbroken. They definitely tickled me pink in that funny scene of their first meeting. And people said doing comedy was difficult. The two made it look like peanuts here. Then they made you feel the wonder and excitement of new love as they sang For The First Time. The kiss…yes, the kiss definitely took people by surprise when it happened, and made quite a number of hearts skip a bit, including mine.

Tarzan-and-Jane-2Ima as Kala and Calvin Millado as Kerchak were truly seasoned thespians who made us realize that man or ape, we all live and love no differently. Ima was exquisite in her portrayal of a wife and mother who was torn between her husband Kerchak’s wishes and her child’s feelings. She made me think about the struggles of a mother between protecting her child and facing the difficult task of telling him the painful truth.

Calvin as Kerchak was convincing as the leader of the pack as he protects his family and makes everyone realize the atrocities that man can do to satisfy his wants and needs. His tough love when it came to Tarzan is something any father (human or otherwise) can relate to.

Playing Tarzan’s best friend Terk was Jeffrey Hidalgo, another singer who successfully crossed over from pop to theater. I really enjoyed his Trashin’ In The Camp. He was amusing as the quite obnoxious ape who had always been there for his friend since the start.

Arnel Carrion as Clayton was also hilarious and convincingly irritating as the foil to the goody-goody tandem of Jane and her lovable father Professor Porter, played by yet another theater veteran Eugene Villaluz. Eugene was endearing as the gentle and understanding father to his vivacious daughter. I truly loved his scenes with Rachelle.

Adding a twist to the costume and set

I have heard quite a few people say that the set was not as dreamy as that of The Little Mermaid but I’d say it’s not suppose to be up for comparison. The stage lit up when the scene called for it, as it did when Jane made her first appearance as she sang Waiting For This Moment. There were enough flying and swinging to keep the kids and kids at heart entertained and the set was good enough to bring a scene to life and yet not be a source of distraction.

The bahag is a nice touch to add a little twist to the usual image of Tarzan in a loincloth that we’ve come to love. I must say though that I love Jane’s classic get-ups more than those that I’ve seen in other Tarzan musicals elsewhere. And thank goodness Dan’s wig made him a gorgeous Tarzan. Glad to see the wig that Rachelle wore for her first pictorial as Jane was replaced with one that turned her into that carefree but still well put together woman.

I also loved the costume and makeup of the gorillas, by the way.

Getting the message across

Tarzan-and-JaneI remember clearly what director Chari replied when I asked her why people should watch Tarzan. “Ultimately the people should come because it’s so entertaining and it’s a beautiful story about family. It’s a visual treat and there’s a lot of flying but over and above all, what resonated in me when I read it is that the story says that a family could be a family you were born in, the family that raises you, the family you choose. That covers everything, right? It’s a great message done in a spectacular way, and with beautiful music. That’s all the reasons to go watch it – and of course Dan and Rachelle.”

Did it happen for me? Yes.

The tug whenever Dan and Ima interact erased the distinction between man and ape. They brought out familiar emotions that spring from loving and caring for another. Calvin’s booming voice and imposing presence couldn’t have sent his message any clearer: Family always comes first. You can feel his struggle to keep his family safely together and stand by his principles and beliefs. “Animals kill for survival. Man kills for sheer pleasure.” That message he delivered in a way that reverberated in my mind.

While the mother-and-son scenes between Tarzan and Kala were mostly emotionally-charged, the father-and-daughter relationship between Jane and Professor Porter was always sprinkled with humor and an easy-going kind of affection. Eugene and Rachelle were a delight to watch as a father and daughter whose common interests forged a close relationship.

When Tarzan and Jane meet, and their association turned their worlds around, the contrast between the dynamics of their families couldn’t have been more evident. Whereas Tarzan had chosen to stay to prove his love for his adoptive family, Professor Porter was ready to let go of his daughter if it meant her happiness. I will always remember that part when Jane expressed regret in not teaching Tarzan about love, and Professor Porter gently pointing out that perhaps it was he who was teaching it to her.

The chemistry between Dan and Rachelle led me to feel elated when Tarzan decided to go with Jane, and then later felt distraught when he chose to stay after all and Jane eventually had to say goodbye and ship back to England with her father. Both were very effective in weaving around us the magic of falling in love, the sacrifices it entails and the joy of finally finding the one you chose to build a family with.

Ultimately, the concept of family was summed up in the words: Here I have everything. Here you are home. Tarzan made me remember that wherever you feel love, wherever you feel you belong, then you are with family. It also reminded me that a family will always be ready to put each others’ feelings and safety before their own, no matter how painful.

I must admit that I wasn’t really a Tarzan fan before. I haven’t seen the movie (or must have forgotten that I did) but I am glad I watched this one and made me appreciate my family all over again.

Ooo ooo ee eh ooo!

(You still have the chance to swing by the Meralco Theater and catch the last two weeks of Tarzan The Musical. For tickets, call Viva Atlantis Theatricals at 687-5853 loc 661 or 673 / 892-7078 / 840-1187. You may also call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or visit ticketworld.com.ph. Check out www.vivaatlantistheatricals.com for more details.)

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Rachelle Ann Go: The Woman Behind Jane

Jane Porter was depicted in the Disney movie Tarzan, where the Broadway Musical was based on, as an intelligent and beautiful young woman albeit somewhat talkative. Yet she was charming and proper, an art-lover and one who is not afraid to venture into the jungle to draw the wildfire. She was a mixture of fluff and strength, and possessed a charm that tamed the man-ape that was Tarzan.

4tarzanRachelle Ann Go this time swims out of the ocean and swings into the jungle as Jane and changes Tarzan’s life in the Manila staging of Tarzan The Musicale running from June 14 to 29 at the Meralco Theater. She is excited to take on another Disney character that is more mature than the little mermaid Ariel.

The character does not digress much from the woman who shall breathe life into the role. Just as Jane is not afraid to venture into the jungle, Rachelle never stopped pushing her limits. Her years in showbiz saw her transform from a singer to a total performer, and then some. She does not hesitate to take on challenges that most may be unwilling to venture into. She never stopped growing as an artist, making sure she learns new things so she can offer more to her audience. Rachelle’s successful theater debut attests that her artistry does not end on TV and the concert stage.

jane2

Challenges are nothing new to Rachelle anyway. In her more than nine years in the business, she has gone through a lot and had come out stronger and wiser each time. She has experienced the beauty and not so of this highly competitive business and has chosen to be true to herself and her craft. She shares Jane’s intelligence as she smartly navigated herself through the bumps and turns in her career. Despite the deluge of new singers and the industry-crippling problem of piracy, she has managed to hold her ground and even make significant inroads that have inspired new and established colleagues. Her incredible voice may have been her vehicle to get into the business but there was more to her that brought her to where she is now. She is well known by her colleagues as a hardworking and highly professional person, always prepared and enthusiastic to work. She is also known to want to keep learning and doing new things. She is well loved because of her humility despite her numerous accolades and achievements, her generosity in sharing her talents and blessings, and her sincerity to inspire others.

jane1

Always cheerful and easy-going, she is the type you can easily be comfortable with, can laugh with and can just be your true self with. She can make you feel at home with her endless stories and funny ways, and yet she can be all serious and give you really sound advice. And if you think the glitz and glamour of the business had rubbed off on her, you can think again. She continues to be that humble person that she was before entering showbiz, lives in the same house she grew up in, and is kept grounded by her family who continues to live the simple and unassuming life. Despite her simplicity, she definitely is no plain Jane. She knows how to have fun but she isn’t a party person. She loves spending time with friends but she values family time so much more. She could go to numerous showbiz events and hobnob with the big names who only have praises for her, and yet she chooses to live a quiet private life surrounded by people who truly care for her. She looks all grown up when dolled up and can give you a mean performance when she gets on that stage but once she steps out of the limelight, she reverts back to the same ol’ Shin who looks no older than a 15-year old when devoid of make-up and can make everything okay with a smile or her child-like giggle.

Just like Jane, Rachelle’s charm and sense of humor have captivated quite a number of men (neanderthal and otherwise). Unlike Jane though, she has yet to find her real-life Tarzan who will sweep her off her feet. She has realized a thing or two about the ways of love and the sting of heartache, and had to learn the hard way how to deal with breakups where she had to endure public scrutiny. Romance Blvd may have paved a tough road for her thus far but she came off every wrong turn much stronger and wiser, and had helped her evolve into a better person and a deeper performer.

jane3

Jane and Rachelle are both women who went through changes in their lives that added to their strength and character. Many have no idea how tough Rachelle had become through the years. Disappointments, heartaches, trials…these are just temporary setbacks where she draws strength and wisdom from, and then move on and seek better opportunities. Her strong faith has given her that confidence to live life the way she believes is right and be able to inspire people to do the same.

It will be interesting to see how Rachelle brings to life a Jane that is marked with her own personal touch. She has said she has learned so much from Jane. Well, Rachelle, I think Jane can learn as much from you too.

Rachelle joins a powerful cast that include Broadway actor Dan Domenech who plays Tarzan, Ima Castro as Kala, Calvin Millado as Kerchak, Eugene Villaluz as Professor Archimedes Q. Porter and Jeffrey Hidalgo as Turk. Chari Arespacochaga directs.

Tarzan The Musical goes on stage at the Meralco Theater from June 14-29. For tickets, call Viva Atlantis Theatricals at 687-5853 loc 661 or 673 / 892-7078 / 840-1187. You may also call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or visit ticketworld.com.ph. Check out www.vivaatlantistheatricals.com for more details.

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Tarzan The Musical: Shaping Up To Be A Fabulous Treat

4tarzanWhat will happen if you have a Broadway actor, a fierce diva, and a host of veteran and young talented thespians? Then what you get is a jungle-full of music and excitement that will keep your emotions swinging in every direction. From June 14 to 29, Disney’s most loved ape man, Tarzan, hollers his way at the Meralco Theater, courtesy of Viva Atlantis Theatricals Inc.

Tarzan the Stage Musical, based on the 1999 Disney film and adapted from the story “Tarzan of the Apes” by Edgar Rice Burroughs, is topbilled by Broadway actor Dan Domenech as the feral Tarzan. Turning Tarzan’s world around as Jane Porter is pop star Rachelle Ann Go, whose first attempt at theater via Disney’s The Little Mermaid was a critical success. Their journey will be brought to life with the help of Calvin Millado as Ketchak, Ima Castro as Kala, Eugene Villaluz as Professor Archimedes Q. Porter and Jeffrey Hidalgo as Terk.

945042_10151810147134505_811246080_nDomenech admits that playing the role of Tarzan is demanding physically. “We are doing run throughs right now. We’re walking around like apes. That takes a lot of work. It’s very athletic. I’ll be doing a lot of flying in the show and it takes a lot of energy out of me.” He is quick to say though that despite the arduous rehearsals, they are all having a good time. Another challenge for him is effectively pulling off the scenes where he gets into ape talk. “It’s difficult to do that and to also feel what you’re supposed to be feeling. It is easy when you’re speaking any kind of language to get into a conversation with someone, and feel what you’re saying to them and feel what they’re saying to you.” The challenge, according to him, is in speaking an unfamiliar language and yet still establishing that connection with the audience.

Despite flying in just days before rehearsal started, Domenech feels at home with the cast. “Oh, it’s great. You know, it’s the same as any other show in any country I’ve ever visited, every place that I’ve been, theatre to theatre, has the same life so I feel very at home here.”

intvwHe has been so immersed in rehearsals the past weeks to have much time to explore the Philippines. “My schedule has not allowed me really to experience a lot of things I’d like to experience here so far while the show is on but so far it’s been great, you know. The people, they’re great. The food…oooh. The food!” On his first week here he tried all kinds of Filipino food, including the dreaded balut. “But I had to stop because I’m wearing a bahag so I can’t eat lechon everyday like I wanted.”

If playing Tarzan has its challenges, playing Jane requires Go to maintain a British accent in all her speaking parts. “As suggested by my director, I started speaking to my family with an accent. I know it drove them crazy,” she laughed.

She remains unfazed by the challenge of proving herself again in this musical. “I guess there is pressure but in a good way. I don’t want to compare it with Little Mermaid. I’m really just enjoying this. Jane’s character is different from Ariel. I love her character. She’s more mature. I don’t think about surpassing the success that The Little Mermaid earned.”

danshin07Domenech and Go only met for the first time when rehearsals started but felt at ease with each other not long after. This made taking on Tarzan and Jane easier to do. Admittedly though, at first Go felt a little concerned that her co-actor might have such high expectations from a newbie like her, but his good nature helped quell that feeling. “Dan is very professional. He is such a talented guy. When he sings, it’s so effortless. He is also a nice guy, and that made it easy to work with him. He is an amazing person,” Go said.

The New York-based actor returned the compliment. “She’s an amazing person too. She’s not hard to get along with. She’s awesome. She makes me look good. I don’t have to do much work. It’s all her,” he laughs. “We’re having a good time.”

Ace director Chari Arespacochaga takes pride in the talent and professionalism of her actors. She says of her two lead stars, “Dan and Rachelle, they are very professional. They are both amazing. They have good chemistry and they are very generous to each other so their scenes are really great. And you know we keep our atmosphere very light. It’s serious work but it’s a light and warm atmosphere and we take care of each other. I prefer to work that way because eventually I will leave the show to them and they have to take care of the show.”

261700_10151815490404505_1754453204_nHaving kids in the cast can be a bit of a challenge, Arespacochaga admitted, “But the kids are very talented. When you see them, you want to applaud for them.”

Children of all ages are bound to enjoy Tarzan The Stage Musical, what with a twist that Arespacocha and her team added a local flavor to spice up the production. “Disney is very open to you creating it your own way, treating it your own way. Our spin on it is our jungle. It’s tribal Philippines. That’s our own twist on it and they love it. They would rather that you do not do it the way it’s been done before,” Arespacochaga disclosed. It would also be interesting to see Tarzan donning our indigenous bahag designed by no less than Eric Pineda, instead of the traditional loincloth that the character is associated with.

You know you’ve got a good show when all the elements are coming together wonderfully. The flying, the swinging on ropes, the incredible costumes and the heart-warming music made specifically for the Broadway musical by singer/songwriter Phil Collins make up all the right ingredients for a fabulous show. But as Arespacocha puts it, “Ultimately the people should come because it’s so entertaining and it’s a beautiful story about family. It’s a visual treat and there’s a lot of flying but over and above all, what resonated in me when I read it is that the story says that a family could be a family you were born in, the family that raises you, the family you choose. That covers everything, right? It’s a great message done in a spectacular way, and with beautiful music. That’s all the reasons to go watch it – and of course Dan and Rachelle.”

So bring the whole family and explore the jungle this side of earth as “Tarzan” swings by from June 14-29 at the Meralco Theater. For tickets, call Viva Atlantis Theatricals at 687-5853 loc 661 or 673 / 892-7078 / 840-1187. You may also call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or visit ticketworld.com.ph.

(This article is also posted at Broadwayworld.com)

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Tarzan swings to Manila

tarzan

This coming June 14, 2013, don’t be surprised if you see someone swinging from tree to tree or if you hear chest beating and hollering from the forests of the Meralco Theater. Tarzan swings halfway around the globe and sets foot in Manila as Viva Atlantis Theatricals brings the lovable ape man to life in the Disney musical by David Henry Hwang. It is based on the Disney film which adapted the original story by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The musical will feature songs penned by renowned singer/composer Phil Collins.

shindanTaking on the role of Tarzan is Dan Domenech, a Puerto Rican actor who made his Broadway debut as Drew in the US production of Rock of Ages and played Chase Madison in two episodes of the popular TV series Glee last year. He has a string of musicals to his name such as the US productions of Sister Act, Alladin, Wonderland in Tampa, Rent and Altar Boyz. Dan is also a choreographer and dancer.

A perfect foil to the feral man is Jane Porter, a young English naturalist, who will be played by Rachelle Ann Go. Although she is considered a newbie in the theater world as she crossed over from being a fierce pop diva, her exceptional performance as Ariel in the Manila staging of The Little Mermaid in 2010 defied the fact that it was her debut in this new medium. Her successful portrayal of the lovable mermaid led people to practically push her to audition for the role of Kim when Cameron Mackintosh’s team came over to shortlist a number of people for the 25th anniversary West End restaging of Miss Saigon. And did she make it to that shortlist.

It would be interesting to see how these two talented artists will jell as Tarzan and Jane, considering that they haven’t really met prior to the musical, not to mention coming from two different continents. Yet just like Tarzan and Jane, it is always refreshing to see artists of different cultures work together. I know that they will knock us off our feet too like they did in their previous musicals. They will be joined by equally talented theater thespians Ima Castro as Kala, Calvin Millado as Kerchak and Jeffrey Hidalgo as Terk. I’m pretty sure the rest of the cast will be just as great. Chari Arespacochaga directs.

Tarzan the Stage Musical will run from June 14 to July 7, 2013 at the Meralco Theater. For tickets, you may call Viva Atlantis Theatricals at 687-5853 loc 661/673, 892-7078, 840-1187, or you may check out Ticketworld at 891-9999. For more details, you may go to http://www.vivaaltlantistheatricals.com.

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2012: Oh what a RAGing year it was!

rag2012A swift glance at Rachelle Ann Go’s professional life in 2012 and you’d see a path that remained rocky but lighted. Well lighted, if I may say so. Many still feel she could have done better where it not for some factors that continue to cause some hiccups in her career but one thing is for sure: she is never impatient. Never had been and seems never will be. Unfazed by what ifs, she continues to do things the way she believes she should and in the process has earned the admiration of many who may have become too impatient with their own lives.

Surprisingly, many still lament her move from ABS-CBN to GMA. You can read about these sentiments in Twitter and Facebook, as well as other forums and showbiz-related websites. Some express this in a way that is offensive, some with regret. Yet for someone who has followed her career all these years, the move continues to prove to be a smart one. If honesty becomes truly the best policy, the move to another network worked wonders for this prolific artist, whose talent was frozen for years, allowing only glimpses of it during rare moments when others pale in comparison. Thanks to the prime movers of GMA, she continues to prove her mettle as not just a bankable performer but a gem as well in raising the bar when it comes to dedication to her craft.

2012 saw Rachelle dabble in more challenges that she otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to jump into had she played it “safe” and stayed where she was for years without making much headway. She proved naysayers wrong by showing her trailblazing ways as she took full advantage of every opportunity that came her way. The lady, who once said that she is not that comfortable acting in front of a camera, wowed everyone when she bravely took on the lead role of Ariel in The Little Mermaid in 2011. Her first dibs in theatre not only earned her rave reviews but boosted her confidence as an artist. And when news broke sometime in August that Cameron Mackintosh intends a West End restaging of Miss Saigon, it wasn’t surprising when hoards of people felt she would be perfect for the role. Their confidence in her ability to breathe new life to Kim, a role that our very own treasure Lea Salonga introduced to the world, is a testament to the respect that she has earned despite her miniscule experience in the world of theatre. A respect that is well-earned through hard work, honest-to-goodness talent, professionalism and most of all humility.

It wasn’t an easy decision for her to finally turn in that registration form. Yet she felt that it was a rare chance to make another dream come true. She had prayed over it and prepared herself well. She tried to focus on what needed to be done and guarded her decision closely from the media despite their hounding. Although everybody expected her to say YES to queries about taking that chance, she held her cards close to her heart, only letting the cat out of the bag when that registration form was finally filed. Without funfare, she went through the audition in mid-November and was among those who earned the honor of being shortlisted by the team of Mackintosh. Even if no announcements had been made, the fact does not make the feat any less remarkable. As they say, if there is a will, there will always be a way. Busy schedule notwithstanding, she was able to make it through to the end…just like we all knew she would.

Yet playing Ariel wasn’t the only factor that made her follow through with her dream to do Miss Saigon, having just fulfilled yet another dream just weeks before her successful audition. On October 26, 2012 she once again showed us that she isn’t just another diva that is one-dimensional. She finally jumped into the bandwagon of self-producing her concert with the help of friends and colleagues who believed in her through the years. This concert that almost didn’t happen was riddled with challenges, including going through a throat problem that threatened to douse cold water on this new endeavor, but faith, hard work and sheer guts pulled her through.

“The feeling is so different, so good. I was able to do what I wanted to do as an artist, I was able to sing the songs I wanted to sing, and was able to do a concert that was about me and my journey. It’s a different experience altogether to be able to come up with a show that reflected who I really am,” she said with much gratitude. “It was very difficult but was very fulfilling. Yes, I was nervous but I was more excited than nervous. You know that feeling that I was able to do this. There were so many challenges along the way. I was very hands on, talking to sponsors, looking over the many aspects of production and experiencing the pressures not just as an artist but as a producer. I was involved in the music, even the lights and so many other things. Some of my friends were even telling me to let go of these details and focus instead on the performance but I wanted to be part of all those. I wanted everything to be perfect, it being my first self-produced concert. I learned so much that made me appreciate and respect the people behind the cameras even more. Whereas before I thought my job as an artist was difficult since I had to be the one facing the audience, this experience gave me a different insight on the whole process behind the cameras. I saw the challenges of being part of the production staff and being a producer where you need to look after everything and make sure things run as smoothly as possible.”

Rachelle admitted that the whole process was stressful but she loved doing it. It also humbled her how friends from the industry, like Direk Rico Gutierrez and his team who said they were doing it for the love of Rachelle, were there to support her no matter what. She admitted that there came a point when she wanted to give up but her friends and supporters encouraged her and pushed her to continue. “Their trust in me made me trust myself again,” she said. “When those difficult times came, I reminded myself to go back to my original goal in producing this concert – and that is to do it as a gift to God. I reminded myself that these bad vibes were just to challenge me. If God never gave up on me, why should I give up on Him whom I know is behind me in this endeavor?”

Her never ending gratitude to God and His blessings extended to the unconditional support from the people who love her, including school friends whom she hadn’t been in contact with for years and yet had offered their help. And of course her fans who were so tirelessly helping promote the concert despite being moved from one month to another. She was so blessed to have so many people behind her especially after her own management team’s seemingly lukewarm participation in this important undertaking of hers (which did not escape many a people’s eyes by the way). And when asked if she would like to do it all over again, without hesitation she replied with an enthusiastic yes and even went on to say she dreams of creating a production house someday.

“Everything fell into place that night. It was perfect,” she said. The rains stopped. People came despite it being a holiday (originally the venue was free on the 25th but was suddenly available on the 26th). “There were many flaws that made me want to do the concert all over again, I admit, but these were just minor things that were not enough to spoil that evening.”

Rachelle may be one artist who was not given the opportunities she deserved through the years. Yet, good for her, she is one person who knows how to create these opportunities for herself without having to step on other people’s toes. In fact, her generosity as an artist despite the lack of support from those who are suppose to be looking after her benefit, was one of the reasons why opportunities open up to her at the right time. For how can one say no to someone who has given you so much or inspired you so deeply?

Rachelle has proven that the odds can work for you. When you’ve got the talent, when your heart is in the right place and when you have earned the respect of your colleagues, nothing can bring you down. Now if you have God on your side, which she definitely makes sure of all the time, how can she lose? Winning isn’t just fame, or trending, or being a Youtube sensation. It isn’t even in the number of products you endorse or the string of shows you have. The best accomplishment is one that touches the hearts of many in significant ways – making them yearn to be better, push them to act and do better, and to pass on that inspiration to others. And she has definitely started a wave of inspiration that has made so many people realize just how blessed they are and how they can be a blessing to others.

2012 definitely showed us that Rachelle Ann Go is no pushover. Her gut feel cannot be faulted and her faith cannot be questioned. She has turned challenges into opportunities to show us that nothing is impossible if you believe…and then work hard to achieve your goals. The year also showed her that her desire to inspire is the very reason why she has reaped such blessings that transcend the material or superficial world. What she reaped in 2012 goes beyond the trappings of fame. She has truly captured what is truly important in a person – the heart and the soul – and that is a RAGing feat indeed!

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Ariel takes on Kim

By now many have heard that Rachelle Ann Go has passed the initial rounds of Miss Saigon auditions for the plum role of Kim. Amazing because for some reason, for many people she suddenly came to mind when news broke that auditions will be held here in Manila. And why not? She has those Kim qualities: the Asian look, the flair for dance and that awesome soulful voice. Yes, she can pass for a 17-year old despite being 26. She was able to play the 16-year-old Ariel in The Little Mermaid so convincingly.

There were many skeptics when Atlantis Productions announced their Little Mermaid. Can a pop diva get away with being a spunky, youthful little mermaid with a crystal clear voice? Many thought not, especially since it will also be her first time to dip her fins in the challenging waters of theater. Yet on opening night, no less than theater royalty Miss Lea Salonga was there to watch and eventually admire our very own Asian Ariel. She wrote in her column: “I don’t know that the superlatives in my vocabulary could cover just how wonderful I thought she was. Bundles of charm oozed from her, as well as an easy sense of humor and adventure. Her voice was also a great mix of that clean and pristine Disney sound, plus a deep pop sensibility that made this score (and her Ariel) accessible to everyone. She was a perfect Ariel, and her portrayal will only continue to deepen and improve. She blew me away on opening night.” She goes on to say, “Whatever management outfit, studio or record label is currently handling her needs to realize, if they haven’t already, just how big a treasure they have on their hands. Go is incredibly talented.”

For a theater neophyte, those were big words and heavy praises coming from a multi-awarded veteran. And she wasn’t alone in praising the new entrant of stage. Shin earned so much positive accolades that when the Miss Saigon auditions in Manila was announced, many believed that she has a pretty good chance of bagging the lead role. And why not? Years back, Lea herself mentioned her as one who can definitely play the role of Kim (click to watch). To think Shin hasn’t even done The Little Mermaid then.

Ever the humble and low key person that she is, she kept her cards close to her heart, prepared herself and quietly registered. She was close-mouthed about taking the plunge and instead focused on psyching herself up for the intense pressure. And yes, the pressure is immense as many people were prodding her to audition for the part. Too bad no matter how much she wanted to keep it low key, people were really keeping an eye on her.

It was with pride that we learned that she did well in her audition yesterday. I don’t want to say it isn’t surprising because casting can be tricky. All I know is that Shin possesses all the qualities that Cameron Mackintosh and his team need, and she has the emotional maturity, the unwavering professionalism, the quiet greatness and the unbelievable humility to revive the role that Lea Salonga introduced to the world. Shin definitely had the guts to try and capture her dream, not considering the risk that a rejection could bring.

Truth be told, that is what isn’t surprising to me anymore. For one who never really lived the famed life and never really took popularity to mind, a brave step to risk some to chase a dream is the true mark of an artist who lives her craft instead of simply reveling in her accomplishments at this point in time. God gave her a precious gift: a voice that can move a heart, and a heart that can move a soul. She has been firm in her motivation to inspire others through her music, and this is another way of inspiring us to reach for our dreams no matter what. The blessing in trying far outweighs the worries of the risks.

Tomorrow Shin goes under the kleig lights again to further convince the panel that she can be the Kim they are searching for. I am certain that she will do great. It is now up to the people of Miss Saigon to see that this gem of a talent can make the return of Kim to the London stage worth every pound that people will pay for to watch this critically-acclaimed Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil musical.

Good luck, Shin. Break a leg. Wow them again!

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