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Doors ‘Saigon’ opened for Filipino actress

Her “Miss Saigon” character Gigi opened the door to “amazing” opportunities for Rachelle Ann Go. Thus, although she has until May 2015 to play the jaded bar girl, the 28-year-old Filipino singer-actress said she was exploring options that would require her to either stay in London or come home to Manila after her stint in the musical’s West End revival.

Rachelle flew in recently for a three-day engagement with a new clothing brand, and met reporters in a media gathering. She said auditions for new cast members for the musical’s next run had started. “We were told not to worry because not everyone will be replaced, and that we will be asked if we want to keep our current roles or consider others.”

While the role of Kim, currently being played by 18-year-old Filipino-American Eva Noblezada, would seem desirable, Rachelle said, “I see Eva perform onstage and her job is so vocally and emotionally draining.”

She is looking for an agent, she said, “Because you need one in order to try out for other productions.” Another attractive prospect for her is the role of Eponine in “Les Miserables.” She’s watched several other musicals, besides, like “Phantom of the Opera,” “Matilda,” “Wicked” and “The Bodyguard.”

The most unforgettable part of her “Miss Saigon” journey so far was the 25th anniversary gala show, which was joined by original lead cast members Simon Bowman (Chris), Jonathan Pryce (The Engineer) and Lea Salonga (Kim).

Rachelle is thankful that “The Movie in My Mind” ― her character Gigi’s show stopper ― was among the numbers picked for the special program. She performed it with Lea, who told her that she was amazing. “I wept tears of joy,” said Rachelle.

The reviews were just as encouraging. “I’m so grateful; I didn’t think I would be noticed ― it’s really a small role,” she said.

She has yet to reward herself for this accomplishment. “I’d like to build my dream house for my family,” she said. “I’m saving up for that.”

The onset of winter reminds Rachelle that she should take extra care of her voice. “Cold weather makes singing a little more difficult. I have to be very disciplined,” she pointed out. “I can’t afford to be sick because no one will take care of me.”

She does eight shows a week, and on at least two occasions, she had to will herself into performing. She related: “I fell ill on Aug. 30, a day before my birthday. I had a cough, which made my voice hoarse ― and I was supposed to do two shows, that day. I was crying while singing during the matinee show, because I couldn’t reach the notes. I had to excuse myself for the second show because I didn’t want to ruin it.”

The second time her health failed was, mercifully, after the 25th anniversary show. “We were rehearsing every day. It was a combination of stress, nerves and lack of sleep,” she recalled. She has since learned not to push her body.

“It’s better to rest than risk getting sidelined for much longer.”

Rachelle trains with Mary Hammond (one of Lea’s teachers) whenever her schedule permits. “I’m learning new techniques and my vocal stamina has improved,” she said.

By Allan Policarpio

(Philippine Daily Inquirer)