New Little Cosette in Les Miz: Esang feels like ‘castle on a cloud’
Jerry Donato (The Philippine Star) - April 7, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - “I’m very excited. Ang saya ko dahil lahat sila foreigners. Ate Rachelle (Ann Go) and I are the only Filipinos (in the production),” said The Voice Kids Philippines Season 2 finalist Esang de Torres of her inclusion in the Manila staging of Les Miserables (Les Miz) during an interview with The STAR and CNN Philippines. Now playing at The Theatre of Solaire, the legendary musical runs until May 1.     

“I auditioned at the Opera House, (where the Miss Saigon auditions were held),” added Esang. “Ang nag-audition sa akin ay si Sir Bobby Garcia. I was nervous when I sang. I wasn’t sure if I passed the audition. I was wearing a crown headband. They told me to remove it because Little Cosette is poor. I sang Castle on a Cloud. I studied the song for two days.”

With her perfect pitch, the incoming Dominican School Grade 4 pupil nailed the audition piece, which happens to be the signature song of Little Cosette. That sealed her destiny as the first Filipina Little Cosette in a Les Miz touring production and was a jumpstart for a promising musical theater career in the future.

“Coach Lea (Salonga) gave me tips before the audition,” recalled Esang, who was mentored by Lea in the ABS-CBN singing talent competition. “She told me that I need to focus first. I should be disciplined and stay humble. I have to give my best because this chance only comes once. I’ve been dreaming of this. I wanted to be Little Cosette of Les Miserables. I also want to be like Coach Lea.”

According to Esang’s Dad Porong, a member of Metropolitan Chorus, it was Lea’s Mommy Ligaya, who sort of played fairy godmother to his daughter. When Mommy Ligaya met “Mr. Producer” Cameron Mackintosh in the gala night of Les Miz Manila, she told Cameron, to “check on this kid,” as Dad Porong recalled.

From there, Esang and family got the go-signal to audition and after four days, the SM Little Star runner-up was informed that she got the alternate part to half-Pinoy Chloe de los Santos playing Little Cosette, the child of Fantine, portrayed by Rachelle Ann. As the cliché goes, the rest is history. 

Esang is busy attending rehearsals, which started two weeks ago. She has to acclimatize herself to the demands of singing and acting on stage. Dad Porong said his daughter will have her Les Miz debut tonight at 8. Esang goes on stage again as Little Cosette tomorrow in the 2:30 p.m. presentation. More performances are coming her way.   

“They’ve taught me a lot,” replied Esang when asked about lessons learned from stage rehearsals. “When I sing, I should have the British accent. They also correct the way (I sing). They also teach me the actions (for the scenes). Sa Les Miz, hindi lang singing, acting din. I should show feelings, kailangan maging malungkot ako. Kasi mahirap po ang buhay ni Cosette sa play na ito.”

How does Esang immerse in the dark and impoverished life of Little Cosette?

“I pretend that my parents left me in an orphanage, ang amo ko po doon ay napakasama, ang taray niya po sa akin,” she answered. “Yun po yung iniisip ko para maging malungkot ako.”

Esang, attuned to the harsh realities of becoming Little Cosette, is off to sing Castle on a Cloud, wishing that life would be forgiving. “There is a castle on a cloud, I like to go there in my sleep, Aren’t any floors for me to sweep, Not in my castle on a cloud… There is a room that’s full of toys. There are a hundred boys and girls, Nobody shouts or talks too loud.”

The Mini-Me of Lea in It’s Showtime is up for the challenge to breathe life into a character described as “thin and pale; she was nearly eight years old but she seemed to be hardly six,” from the poster displayed at the Queensland Performing Arts Center’s Tony Gould Gallery when this writer attended the musical’s premiere in Brisbane last year. The poster was referencing a page from the Victor Hugo novel. 

As Little Cosette, Esang will share important scenes from Act 1 with Helen Walsh and Cameron Blakely as The Thénardiers and Simon Gleeson as Jean Valjean, who sees another chance at life in the young character.

Prior to Les Miz stint, Esang mounted her birthday concert, which was produced by Vehnee Saturno, at the Sky Dome last Feb. 12. She also released the eight-track album titled Ako ay Kakanta under Universal Records. Vehnee composed and produced all the songs.

(For ticket inquiries, visit www.ticketworld.com or call 891-9999.)

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