Truth be told, singer-actress and GMA International talent Rachelle Ann Go was quite reluctant to audition when the “Miss Saigon” production team came all the way to Manila from London in search for talents for its upcoming West End production last November 2012.
This despite the fact that Rachelle Ann is considerably a veteran when it comes to singing competitions having been joining amateur contests since she was 11 years old. Not to mention, she was named champion in the defunct Philippine reality talent show “Search for a Star” in 2004.
The 27-year-old TV personality says she got scared.
This is u such a big deal. I never really imagined that I’ll be doing musicals until I watched Miss Saigon in Canada back in 2010,” shares Rachelle Ann.
According to Rachelle Ann, she fell in love with the theater upon seeing the actress playing “Kim” perform on stage and hearing the cast sing and dance.
“I imagined myself performing on the stage. That same year, I was asked to audition for The Little Mermaid and I fell in love with theater more,” recalls Rachelle Ann.
Since then, roles kept landing on Rachelle Ann’s door. She played “Jane” in the local production of Tarzan. But even after all those Disney performances, Rachelle Ann still felt her theater experience was not yet enough to land a part in Miss Saigon.
“I have always played the sweet girl in the past. And I thought the roles in Miss Saigon would be more daring,” says Rachelle Ann.
Rachelle Ann found courage in supporter Lea Salonga who sent her a private message on Twitter, encouraging her to Tony award winner and popular singer first portrayed the lead role of Vietnamese bar girl ‘Kim’ in the original London premiere of Miss Saigon in 1989. The play, which has been performed in 15since, launched Lea’s career as an international theater actress.
Lea saw Rachelle Ann’s performance in Little Mermaid and was thoroughly impressed.
“Why don’t you audition? You won’t lose anything if you try,” urged Lea.
She received further encouragement from theater director Bobby Garcia, who directed Rachelle Ann in her two Disney plays.
Needless to say, Rachelle Ann decided to try her luck. And audition she did.
During casting call, Rachelle Ann had to compete with thousands of other hopefuls. The auditions had several levels.
On the first day she sang, “I’d Give My Life For You.” There was a bit of dancing too. On the final stage, the panel of judges, which included executive producer Trevor Jackson, director Laurence Connor and music supervisor Stephen Brooker, asked Rachelle Ann to sing “I’d Give My Life For You” again and “This Money’s Yours.”
Rachelle Ann didn’t expect anything after that. But she was hoping to be “Kim.”
“The role is really exceptional. I guess a lot of girls are aspiring to get the role of ‘Kim’ because of how it contributed to Miss Lea’s career,” narrates the Filipina singer, who was among the six Filipina aspirants shortlisted in the end.
After the auditions came the long wait: Days became weeks, and weeks turned into months before Rachelle Ann could hear any news about the results. In fact, she was almost ready to give up, begrudgingly thinking that maybe Miss Saigon was not for her. Then she got an email informing her about the final casting call in London in October 2013.
“I was overwhelmed when I received their email. I never thought that they would be interested because I haven’t heard from them for almost a year,” shares Rachelle Ann.
She adds “The First thing that comes to my mind was the costume!”
In London, Rachelle Ann had to undergo another series of auditions.
“The most nerve-wracking moment was when (procuder) Cameron Mackintosh and his team were right in front of me. All eyes were on me and I was shaking. I sang “Movie In My Mind’ and ‘The Heat Is On In Saigon.’ They even asked me to dance. For the final casting they asked me to sing “Movie In My Mind’ again,” recalls Rachelle Ann.
During the final casting, the panel threw Rachelle Ann a curve ball. “It was a make-or-break question. They explained to me that I was not the right age for Kim, but would I be interested to be Gigi? I said, ‘Yes,’ right away,” beams the upcoming West End actress.
She furthers, “I don’t care if the role is big or not or how much the talent fee is. I just want to be a part of the production because I believe that it will lead me to more opportunities and help me grow as an artist.”
Beginning May 3, Rachelle Ann is set to reprise the role of bar girl Gigi Van Tranh at the Prince Edward Theater in London’s West End. She will appear alongside another Filipino actor Jonjon Briones who will play “The Engineer.” The theater actor was part of the original West End cast and played the same role in the production’s tours in Germany, United States, United Kingdom and Asia including the Philippine staging in 2000. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Eva Noblezada of Charlotte, North Carolina will be playing the role of “Kim.”
Loosely based on Giaccomo’s “Madame Butterfly” Miss Saigon narrates the tragic love story between Kim and and an American soldier named Chris during the American occupation in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh), during the Vietnam War in 1975.
“I do think that Miss Saigon is still relevant today. Although Miss Saigon is set during the Vietnam War which happened a very long time ago, wars are still happening in different parts of the world. It shows that people are the casualties of these wars. But within the backdrop of chaos, an eternal love could blossom between two people,” tells Rachelle Ann.
“Love transcends everything including race, religion and background. Even if Kim and Chris were so different from each each other, they found love in a horrible place. It shows that love cannot be controlled or stopped if it is meant to happen. It also shows that love in all forms will overcome challenges.
“The ultimate sacrifice of a mother for her child’s future is the greatest example of an act of true love. Mothers make big sacrifices for their children everyday.”
Rachelle Ann sees some commonalities in Gigi, “I think we are both dreamers –strong in the outside but soft in the inside, wanting to be loved. Our only difference is what we do for a living.”
The young actress begins rehearsals for “Miss Saigon” this March. Before leaving for London, Rachelle Ann regularly hit the gym – “I need to be fit to wear a bikini” – and enrolled in dance classes since her character does quite a lot of dancing.
She tried learning how to cook, as well. “I will be living alone, far from my family. I will have to take the train on my own, cook my own food, and do the laundry. I have to learn how to be independent. I will really miss my family, friends and Filipino food. But it helps a lot knowing that there will be Filipinos in the cast.”
Rachelle Ann is excited for her new adventure.
“I’m looking forward to the things that I will learn as a person and as an artist. I’m also excited to explore one of my dream places. I expect to meet new friends and I’m excited to learn a lot from the people that I’ll be working with. I look forward to growing as an artist and be given the chance to prove myself in other endeavors, perhaps a concert or other theater role probably in ‘Les Miserables.’ I want this once-in-a-lifetime experience to make me better as a performer and give me insights for myself as a person,” finishes “Gigi.”
About the author
Glaiza Lee became a writer because she loves being able to escape into imaginary worlds she created through words. But her travels are not limited to make-believe places. In reality, she can rough it out. She loves backpacking to interesting destinations, eating exotic food and experiencing life to the fullest..