Rachelle Ann Go shines in ‘Les Mis’ Manila
Almost two months ago, a giddy Rachelle Ann Go told The Manila Times in an interview, “I’m really excited to do [Les Miserables]—to do Fantine—in the Philippines. Finally Filipinos will be able to see what I’ve been doing in London!”
Fast forward the promotions and rehearsals that happened in between, The Manila Times caught up with the 26-year-old actress anew, fresh from the first three nights of the musicale’s run at The Theatre at Solaire.
Cameron Mackintosh’s world famous production held its Manila premiere quietly on March 11, followed by a grand gala, which he attended along with the multi-awarded show’s composer, Claude Michel Schonberg.
Asking after her sentiments over “doing what she does in London” back home now, Go replied: “I was very emotional during the first preview [of the show]because I was performing here. And then of course my family saw me for the first time, and I became even more emotional!
“I was teary-eyed and I was shaking during the curtail call. It was all very surreal,” added the only Filipino in the cast, who also shed some tears when Schonberg thanked the likes of Lea Salonga, Joanna Ampil and herself at the gala for sharing their talent in the international arena.
It will be remembered that the Philippines’ latest “import” in the West End first broke into show business when she won GMA Network’s Search for a Star in 2004. Go did project after project after the bagging the signing tilt, and quickly became one of the more recognizable voices in Original Pilipino Music (OPM).
But fate had bigger plans for the hardworking lass.
In 2014, Go was cast to give life to Miss Saigon’s Gigi Van Tranh, when the much beloved production returned to the West End.
Despite hesitations in playing one of theater’s most famous prostitutes, the Filipina shone in the role and even received recognition from popular online theater website BroadwayWorldUK.com. And then, just soon as she ended her year-long contract with Saigon, she was cast in Les Miserables’ 30th anniversary production as Fantine.
Presently, Go is one of the lead cast members of an international cast from Australia, USA, and England on tour for Les Mis. She will only perform in Manila however, intentionally taking a leave from the West End show so she can perform for her countrymen.
Meanwhile, looking back at his long-withstanding relationship with Philippine talent, Mackintosh said at the past week’s media call, “I first came here 28 years ago for the original audition of Miss Saigon in London and what a treasure trove the Philippines have been for us! This is a country with immense talent and indeed we are always in debt for Miss Saigon.”
He added, “I don’t think we can ever produce shows around the world without all the amazing Filipino performers.”
Mackintosh went as far as describing Go as his “current leading lady in London”—a complement that made the Filipina artist giggle when it was her turn to sit down with media. It was all she needed to do to show just how privileged she feels over the compliment.
Asked to compare the West End production from the Manila run of Les Mis, Go related, “London has a classic production and we use a revolving stage, dito naman sa Manila, ito yung new production, mas modernized version na ito.”
She also noted that her character’s fight scenes are done more heavily in the local production than the West End’s, sometimes unintentionally leaving her with bruises and scratches.
“It’s rough but I like it—I am more challenged in this version,” Go declared.
As for pleasing the audience, Go shared she finds performing for the West End crowd and Manila’s audience both stimulating, but confessed that knowing just how musically-inclined Filipinos are give her more jitters.
“They are both difficult [to please],” she elaborated. “Pag nag perform ako sa London, every night iba’t ibang lahi yung nanonood sa akin. Dito naman sa Pilipinas, mas kinakabahan ako kasi may kakilala akong nanonood. At lalo na alam natin ang mga Pinoy magagaling kumanta at saka perfectionist yan so feeling ko bawal magkamali,” the humble international artist continued.
Go also tackled in the interview the challenge of giving life to a maternal role as a single woman.
“I’ve been living in London for two years away from family, so somehow, feeling ko sila yung anak ko at sila yung iniiwan ko dito sa Pilipinas,” she said.
Theater observers say, she is more suited to play the role of Eponine, which Lea Salonga also portrayed in 1993 for Broadway.
All the same, Go is grateful to be Fantine at this point in her young career for the international stage.
“Eponine is such a good character also pero wala na rin po akong mahihiling pa sa kahit Fantine[‘s role] lasts for about 20 minutes on stage. It is such a heavy character, it is an iconic role at saka malaking part siya sa story,”
The Manila Times asked Go to describe her rapport with the international cast beyond the stage, seeing as they are booked for a six-week run in the capital.
“You know what, I really loved this cast! Bagong bago pa lang kami pero iba yung chemistry ng buong cast at galing pa kami sa iba’t ibang lupalop–from Australia, from London and the US. Ibang klase yung chemistry at ang galing ng talento. Sabi nga rin ni Mister Cameron [Mackintosh], ‘This is a great cast, this is a great company.’”
Back in February, Go imparted a nugget of wisdom and a message of encouragement for all dreamers like her in her sit down with The Manila Times.
“Just don’t stop reaching for your dreams! You need to do something about it, be strong and be brave,” she enthused. “Don’t be scared to reach the impossible because nothing is impossible. Just be brave and be confident with what God gave you.”
So heed, because this talented gem of a Filipina surely know what she’s talking about.