November 25, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

‘I still can’t believe it’

FROM ballads to Broadway, singer Gerald Santos will be singing new tunes real soon.

Miss Saigon producer Cameron McKintosh formally announced the inclusion of Mr. Santos in the principal cast of the forthcoming Miss Saigon UK and Ireland tour. According to a press release, Mr. Santos will be playing Thuy, along with Filipino theater actor Red Concepcion who will essay the role of The Engineer. The tour will open at the Curve Leicester in London on July 1-22, and will run in a number of venues until 2018.

Mr. Santos said auditioning the role was no easy task, which is why he was still floating on cloud nine even though he officially got the role late last year.

“Even if it is [as an] understudy, I will gladly accept it. But until now, it has not sunk in yet,” he said at a press conference on Feb. 21.

“Finally, on Dec. 23, they (producers) sent us an e-mail offering me the role of Thuy.”

It took a year of callbacks before Mr. Santos finally landed his first international role.

He and his manager learned about the Miss Saigon auditions in January 2016. Admittedly, he did not know many of its songs, but with the encouragement of his friends and family, he studied the role of Thuy. He was No. 164 on March 15, the day of the audition.

“We were given a minute to sing our piece. Director Bobby Garcia of Atlantis and Miss Saigon’s casting director Paul Wooller were there. They said Thuy’s song was a risky choice, but I eventually got a call back after,” he said.

The second and third auditions were the hardest, Mr. Santos said. He recalled being pushed to the limit to get the emotions the panel were asking for and he was required to do a dance.

“Dancing is my Waterloo,” he said. “In the middle of the audition, I was called in another room and asked [me] to perform in front of them. Then they just said ‘You’re done, Gerald. We appreciate your hard work.’”

The following day, he was called for a final audition -- this time in front of Miss Saigon’s Claude Michel Schonberg himself. He said there were only 10 of them left vying for the role of Thuy.

Mr. Santos said waiting for news was the hardest. In April of last year, he received his first e-mail from the Miss Saigon staff saying that he was being considered for the role of Thuy. Though there was positive feedback, there were also pointers on how to improve his performance.

“I am always reminded that Thuy is not a villain. He’s just madly in love with Kim. (He) was just intense and angered by the situation,” he said.

In October, another e-mail arrived saying that an update would be released. And in December, Mr. Santos had the chance to speak with director Laurence Connor via Facetime.

Mr. Santos first came to the public’s attention when he was named the grand champion in GMA 7’s singing contest Pinoy Pop Superstar. He then had roles in the theatrical productions of Sino Ka Ba, Jose Rizal and San Pedro Calungsod.

To preparing for a much bigger production -- Miss Saigon will have eight shows a week -- he has started training with voice coach Marlon Silva of the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music, English training with the International Academy of Manila, and taking an acting workshop with director Floy Quintos.

“I don’t know how will I survive, but let’s cross the bridge when we get there,” he said.

He said he will also try to get in touch with fellow performer Rachelle Ann Go, who is now making a name for herself in the lead role of Kim in Miss Saigon on Broadway, and ask for advice, especially on how to live and stay in UK.

Mr. Santos said he had thought 2016 would be a dead-end for him, as his career had been in the doldrums over the past few years. “When you think you’re just about to give up, something good happens along the way.”

“I will be forever grateful to all those who have been supporting me since I started my career. Let me assure all my Filipino supporters that even if I am touring the UK, I will always remember all of them,” he said.

Mr. Santos held a concert on April 9 at SM North EDSA’s Skydome in Quezon City which was aptly titled Something New In My Life.

Miss Saigon, set in the last days of the Vietnam War, is about 17-year-old Kim who is forced to work in a Saigon bar run by The Engineer. There she meets and falls in love with Chris, an American GI, but they are separated when Saigon falls. Kim then goes on an epic journey of survival to find her way back to Chris, who has no idea he has fathered a son.

Performing alongside Messrs. Concepcion and Santos are Sooha Kim as Kim, Ashley Gilmour as Chris, and Zoƫ Doano as Ellen. In certain performances, Kim will also be played by Joreen Bautista.

Miss Saigon will also play at the Manchester Palace Theatre on March 21 to May 12, The Bristol Hippodrome on May 16 to June 23, Theatre Royal Plymouth on July 4 to August 4, and Norwich Theatre Royal on Aug. 15 to Sept. 15. Further venues will be announced soon. -- C.A.M. Arcilla