Vina Morales says Filipino performers should aspire for Broadway

Why Filipino performers should aspire to work on Broadway, says Vina Morales

/ 12:25 AM December 22, 2023

Vina Morales says Filipino performers should aspire for Broadway

Morales as Aurora Aquino —BROADWAY WORLD

Now, I can finally say that I’m a Broadway actor,” said Vina Morales when Inquirer Entertainment asked what for her was the significance of having joined the production of “Here Lies Love,” which had its final performance in New York in late November.

Vina played Aurora Aquino in the unconventional disco musical about the rise and fall of former First Lady Imelda Marcos. The show, cowritten by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, featured an all-Filipino cast.


“It’s now legit! I’ve ticked off another item on my list of what to achieve as an artist. My heart swells whenever I get called that—a Broadway actor. I was really grateful for the opportunity. With all the things I’ve accomplished in my career—concerts, movies, TV shows—I still had the chance to do this,” Vina told Inquirer Entertainment during a recent interview organized by her talent management company, Star Magic, to welcome her back to Manila.


“This has inspired me to do more quality projects. I promise to give my best in whatever project is assigned to me, be it a small role or a big one. I want to constantly challenge myself. You see, sometimes, we become complacent, especially when we’ve been working in this industry for many years and we just keep doing the same things. That’s what changed in me. Now, I’ve got that spark again.”

Lea Salonga, who is also one of the revival show’s producers, first played the role of Aurora, mom of Filipino politician Ninoy Aquino, who was assassinated in 1983. “The show is actually about all of us Filipinos on Broadway. Each of the cast of ‘Here Lies Love’ has a story to tell on how we got there. To tell a Filipino story on Broadway was really hard work. We actually made history and I’m proud to have been part of that,” said Vina. “In the beginning, I was nervous about being part of the Broadway show. I kept saying, ‘Kakayanin ko ba (can I do it)?’ The whole time I was there, I kept saying ‘Kakayanin (I can)!’ I was able to prove that I could push myself to my limits. Theater is something else. There’s no room for mistakes there, no take twos. You just have to focus on what to do and pray that you don’t commit any errors,” Vina advised.

Revamped production

“Here Lies Love” was first publicly presented as a musical in Massachusetts in 2012. It then premiered Off-Broadway in New York a year later under the direction of Alex Timbers. It opened in London in 2015. A revamped production from the original Off-Broadway creative team was staged in Seattle in 2017. Its most recent production on Broadway closed on Nov. 26 after a run of 33 previews and 149 regular performances.

“This show is important because it’s about a specific portion of our history. This really happened in the not so distant past. We can’t deny this, and this is what ‘Here Lies Love” is retelling. It had an even bigger impact because our story was told on Broadway,” she pointed out.

We then asked Vina to share her observations in terms of the culture and work ethic of the people she had worked with on the show, especially those who are non-Filipinos.

“The whole cast is Filipino, as well as the producers, but the production team is of mixed nationalities. They’re all very professional. You can’t afford to be late. You have to focus. They correct you right away when they spot an error. As an artist, you just have to take it. It’s for the good of your role and the entire show,” Vina said.


“One thing I can say is that it was one of the best productions I’ve been part of. I never had any problem with any of them. They’re all so kind, that’s why we became a family on ‘Here Lies Love.’ This is just me, because I’ve only worked with them for a few months. It was actually hard for me to say goodbye because I had a great time working with them. Hanging out backstage was always a lot of fun,” the actress said.

Life outside work was even more fun, she claimed. “We did the show eight times a week. Can you imagine? We were just in the theater for that long, every single day. Work was especially tough during weekends because we had a matinee and an evening show. That’s why we would look forward to Monday, our off-day.”

When time permitted, Vina said they organized get-togethers. “As Pinoys, what do you think we did as a form of bonding? We did karaoke!” she recalled. “There were times, too, when we had boodle fights, which is so Filipino. We ate Filipino food with our hands.”

There were also what Vina called preshow get-togethers. “We came together because some of us would bring food. In fact, since I celebrated my birthday at work, I also prepared Filipino food for them. I knew how much they missed food from our country. I was glad that even those of other nationalities were able to appreciate the food. ‘Kanin is life’ was our mantra. If rice is served, everyone gets excited.”


Vina said she also marked her last “Here Lies Love” performance with a celebration.

“We went out after my last show. That’s one of my unforgettable experiences with them. More than the time we spent performing onstage, it’s really the bonding time that mattered the most. Our Thursdays were also memorable. We didn’t perform and just partied with the audience and the production team, while a DJ played disco music. That’s another experience that was so special. That would last for an hour. After that, we would all feel tired and just head home.”

Contrary to the usual impression, working for a show on Broadway wasn’t about living the high life at all, said Vina.

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“I would be asleep before 11 p.m. because I had to rest my voice and body for the performance the next day. If ever I went out to explore Manhattan, I did it during Sundays so that I could rest the whole Monday. It’s also during my off day when I would do my chores—wash laundry and tidy up my apartment. That’s another thing that I liked about my stay there. I got to be very independent—in Manhattan, New York, while doing a Broadway show. How awesome is that?” Vina declared.

TAGS: Broadway, Here Lies Love, Vina Morales

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