Advice for new ‘Miss Saigon’ hopefulsBy Lea Salonga
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It was announced just a few days ago that the musical “Miss Saigon,” which originally opened in the West End in 1989, is going to be revived in the same venue in 2013. Auditions for various roles will be held in Manila from November 19-22 at Opera Haus in Makati, the Philippine Opera Company’s home base.
The news has made much of Manila’s promising theater performers excited, not to mention more than just a few of us who were once upon a time in exactly the same place as where these actors will be in a few weeks: knee-knockingly nervous, waiting in line for their turn, as we did 24 years ago.
To think about it now seems such a long time ago. Many of us who auditioned were either in our late teens or early 20s. We were college students, theater professionals, lead singers in cover bands who had a regular puwesto (gig) at a hotel lounge, or were hanging on to that rare chance to come to Manila from the province, just to audition.
Needless to say, our lives have changed.
Many of us who went to do the show—be it in the original West End production, Broadway production, or subsequent UK and US tours—have remained in the business, still working as actors. A few more have branched out into directing and producing, as well as teaching and training those who would follow in our footsteps.
However, there was really nothing that could prepare us for what lay ahead when we were hired. Sure, we were well-prepared for the auditions. But that was just for those few days. Once we landed in London, well, that’s quite another story.
So, for those who get the chance to be hired for various roles in the revival of “Miss Saigon” in the West End, here are words of advice:
1) Watch a lot of live theater.
There is an abundance of live theater in the West End, so many favorites like “Les Misérables,” “Billy Elliot” and “The Phantom of the Opera” are still running. Because these shows have been around for a long time, cheaper seats should be easier to come by. The newer shows may take a bit of waiting, but sometimes, you just never know.
2) Learn to use the London Underground.
My mom kept me from taking the tube while we were living there, because of a few announced bomb threats. It was only a couple of years ago that I decided to move about like a local, get my Oyster card and ride, ride, ride. I rode the tube to rehearsals, to restaurants, to the theater and back to my hotel. It’s efficient, reliable and quick. Not to mention pretty cheap.
3) Get your legs used to walking.
I know, I know. If you’re used to public transport in our fair city, then go ahead and skip this one. But if you’re used to riding either in cabs or private cars, make sure you bring along a good pair of walking shoes.
4) Chances are, there’s no air conditioning, so get used to it.
The heaters all work just fine, but many of the older London theaters do not have air-conditioning. The girls wearing the skimpiest of costumes were very thankful during the hot summers. I couldn’t say the same for the more conservatively clad GIs.
5) London gets very, very, very cold.
And during those bone-chilling winters, performing gets more difficult. Commuting to and from work is more of a task than it is during the rest of the year. Learn to dress warm—one piece of advice handed to me was “silk underwear” that was available in ski shops. Thermals work too, especially under your jeans. Oh, boots with thicker soles!
6) Continue your training.
Ask the locals (i.e., your stage manager, castmates, musical director or director) regarding voice, dance and acting training. This is an investment in your instrument, and London is one of the best places for any or all of these. Once the play starts its run, you’ll have the time to devote to mastering your craft. If you decide to continue in the industry, your arsenal will only be that much more well-armed.
7) Have yourselves a bloody fabulous time!
There is nothing like being part of an original company working on something incredibly special such as this, in such a great city. Explore the town, as well as the countryside. Check out the local pub and take in the fare. Visit museums (there are a ton of them), travel around Europe (Paris, Munich and Berlin, for example, aren’t that far away). You’ll be there at least a year, so make the most of the entire experience and enjoy yourself.
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