‘Rent’ actress waits on Broadway | Inquirer Entertainment

‘Rent’ actress waits on Broadway

/ 04:40 PM June 18, 2011

Francesca Camus

Francesca Camus said she is lucky to be cast as the lesbian lawyer Joanne Jefferson in “Rent.” The role traditionally defaults to African American women. In the movie version, “Cold Case” actress Tracie Thoms played Joanne.

“Joanne’s role typically casts African American women, so for them to cast a Filipino is quite an honor for me,” she said in an interview with The FilAm during a break in the Vegas rehearsals for the Pulitzer-winning musical. “Rent” is a collage of stories about Manhattan artists trying to come to terms with hardships as the dreaded HIV-Aids casts a pall over their Bohemian lifestyle.


It’s funny, mused Francesca. Joanne doesn’t always have to be played by an African American woman. Maybe the part is meant for a “minority standing up for gay and lesbian rights,” she muttered as if to answer her own doubts.


For months, Francesca has been performing for “Rent” at the Green Valley Ranch Resortin Vegas, about 10 minutes from the Strip. A documentary on gay rights got her interested in playing Joanne.

“I was in L.A. two weeks before the show opened and I saw this documentary of gay rights from the ‘60s-‘80s and everything they went through,” she recalled. “It just dawned on me that one day, this is who Joanne is standing for, representing the gays and lesbians of the community and the minorities who were struggling in the ‘80s-‘90s.”

Produced by Nevada’s RagTag Entertainment, “Rent” runs through July, with proceeds to benefit the Golden Rainbow nonprofit providing housing to Southern Nevadans living with HIV/Aids.

While Francesca’s acting needs a shot of conviction — she came off a little bit tentative in the show that we watched — her vocal range was articulate and flawless. For a Vegas musical debut, hers was a respectable performance.

The coming month will be busier for Francesca. She is set to perform for “Side by Side by Sondheim” and “Tommy the Musical,” where she will be playing the role

Francesca Camus

originally given to Tina Turner.


“There are new composers from New York who will be coming on board, who knows, I might end up going to New York!” she said, eyes lighting up.

“When you do get gigs, it’s great but you really have to keep yourself busy and you have to put yourself out there and always make yourself available. We’re in a small town that if someone knows that you’re not in your A-game, it will pass around, the word will go fast,” said Francesca. “But if you always show that you work really hard and that you’re always ready and prepared to work, people are always going to hire you, and I haven’t had any problems so far.”

Although she’s quite well known in her San Francisco community as a youth mentor, voice teacher and events planner, she was never in the spotlight. One day, she just decided to step out of her comfort zone, starting with honing her singing talent. In 2009, she moved to Vegas where she auditioned for all kinds of singing roles.

She landed her first job singing arias in “The Venetian,” but enjoyed best the “make believe” part.

“I would dress up in period clothing for Italian renaissance, sing opera and play an Italian person,” she said.

Francesca, who sings blues, jazz, classic rock and virtually anything pop, is what Vegas entertainment is all about. With “Rent,” she’s doing three other shows simultaneously.

Positive reviews from critics and regular show goers give her so much inspiration and encouragement, she said.

“I used to be really involved in the Filipino community so when I came here I told myself I just couldn’t base everything on color anymore,” she said. “I went out there and auditioned and just did the best I could and showed them I can do everything any other person can do.”

“I think the important thing for people to remember when they’re going out to audition is to never have a big head. Always absorb everything and just remember that you’re going to be growing every single day. It’s a team. Just because I’m one lead role doesn’t make me more important than anybody else,” Francesca continued.

For up-and-coming artists, she had this to say: “Always remember to stay true to yourself and always remember that everything is a growing experience. Honestly, since I’ve joined this cast I’ve become a completely different person, I’ve just embraced life so much.”

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Elton Lugay is a journalist, publicist and community events planner. He lives in Queens.

TAGS: Broadway, Gay, Lesbian, Musical, Rent

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