Home for the holidays
DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda (The Philippine Star) - January 8, 2016 - 9:00am

Guess who blew into town for a few days just before Christmas? Rachelle Ann Go, that’s who. The singer-turned-international theater star of Miss Saigon and Les Miserablés flew to Manila, but was in the country only for a week, then had to return to London immediately for Les Miz’s holiday shows.

While she was here, she granted an exclusive interview on how she’s been getting along in London. After landing the role of Gigi in Miss Saigon — which also coincided with the 25th year of the musical — Rachelle Ann left Manila in March 2014, spent a year doing Miss Saigon, then at the end of that one year, moved on and auditioned to play Fantine in Les Miz. She landed the role, which is another feather in her cap.

She says of the Les Miz experience: “Ang sarap, sobrang iba siya sa ginagawa ko sa Miss Saigon,” she beams. “It’s been incredible, a life-changing experience. I’ve done theater before but not on the international stage, not in London’s West End. I’m so blessed.”

To think, says Rachelle Ann, that when she first got the offer to fly to London for Miss Saigon, people were discouraging her from going. “Actually, ang daming positive and negative comments,” she says. “Some people were saying, ‘Don’t go, because if you leave the Philippines, you will be leaving a career, people will forget you.’ But then I thought, it would be a new chapter of my life, I had to take the risk.’ So it was like I was thinking, ‘What do I want to do?’ I was also torn, I didn’t want to leave my family also. Then, it’s a different country, alam ko na mag-isa ako. But I was also thinking, I wanted something new in my life. For the last 10 years, I’ve been doing the same thing — pop music, recording, concerts — I wanted to be different… I did Little Mermaid and Tarzan in Manila, I’ve dabbled in theater, so I said, ‘Why not?’”

For Rachelle Ann, the pluses far outweighed the minuses. “It’s in London, it’s West End! It will open a lot of doors, a lot of opportunities, so I said, ‘I’m gonna do it. Even if I’m afraid of living solo, I’ll do it.’”

The first few weeks she was in London, it was easy because they were busy rehearsing and she had plenty to focus on and keep her busy. But when they moved to the theater after a month, and there were breaks during which the cast would sit around and wait, that’s when Rachelle Ann realized how much she missed the people back home.

Looking back, with all the adjustments she had to make, Rachelle Ann says the experience and time spent away from home was definitely worth it.

“I think I gained more, kumbaga ako nga as a person and as an artist, I think at that point, before I left for London, I achieved everything I wanted to achieve. My experience in London, it’s irreplaceable, it’s once-in-a-lifetime. When I left, feeling ko nagawa ko na lahat, what should I do next? I wanna move forward, I wanna grow, because I’m not learning anymore. That’s why I also decided to leave the country, that’s how I felt.”

She really feels like it was the right decision — and if she were given the chance, she’d do it all over again. She got what she needed to get out of the experience. “I feel like I’ve grown as a person and as an artist. Nag-mature na talaga ako.”

But Rachelle Ann was not really alone during the recent holidays. While they had shows on Dec. 24 and 26, she had company to share the season even if her family was back in the Philippines. “My friends, naawa sa akin, nag-invite (they took pity on me and invited me),” she laughs. “Jonjon Briones (who plays the Engineer in Miss Saigon), his family is there, pati ‘yung nag-Jean Valjean sa Les Miz, and his wife, silang dalawa, sinama nila ako.”

Even while she’s in London, Rachelle Ann always makes sure to stay in touch with her family in Manila. She is looking forward to coming home in 2016 to star as Fantine in the Manila run of Les Miserablés. It opens in March 2016. Her last show in London is on Jan. 30, then she will come home to Manila and will stay here for three months. Her contract for that will last until June this year.

As a Pinoy, says Rachelle Ann, she’s very proud to have helped reinforce the image of Filipinos as among the most talented artists in the world. “Sobrang nakakataba ng puso,” she says with a smile. “As a Pinoy, I’m proud. Posible pala talaga.”

ACIRC ANN ATILDE BUT I BUT RACHELLE ANN LES MIZ LONDON MISS SAIGON RACHELLE RACHELLE ANN WEST END
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