Tanya Manalang, Apple Chiu: In the 'Miss Saigon' shortlist

MANILA, Philippines - Celebrities, singers and theater professionals trooped to the Philippine Opera Company's Opera Haus in Makati last November for the 4-day auditions for the re-staging of "Miss Saigon."

Each hopeful sang and danced for a possible slot in the musical that shot Lea Salonga to superstardom when "Miss Saigon" was launched almost 25 years ago.

Two of Resorts World Manila's stars in its current production of "The King and I" — Tanya Manalang (Tuptim) and Apple Chiu (Lady Thiang) — were among the many who auditioned.

Both made it to the final round; they are in the shortlist of 7 female roles.  

Tanya Manalang is a Lea Salonga fan. She did her first professional theater stint via Trumpets’ "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’" as Lucy when she was 8 years old, and played Susan when she turned 12.

Apple Chiu was a finalist in the 2006 Philippine Idol and was a singing talent in ABS-CBN’s "The Singing Bee" before venturing into theater. She was cast for "Miss Saigon" Korea 6 years ago for the role of Gigi until the production decided to stick with an all-Korean cast.

ALMOST GIGI IN KOREA. Apple Chiu was cast as Gigi in the 'Miss Saigon' production in Korea but never got to play the role

ALMOST GIGI IN KOREA.

Apple Chiu was cast as Gigi in the 'Miss Saigon' production in Korea but never got to play the role

“My only worry when I auditioned here (last November) was my back. I had a mild back injury and the production has dance routines. I had to undergo 6 therapy sessions prior to going in for the auditions,” Chiu tells Rappler.

Chiu admits to feeling pressured and anxious during the auditions. It felt like her first time, she says. Relief came only when she was included in the callback.

Manalang, on the other hand, was not sure in the beginning if she was going to audition or not. She knew she wanted to try out just for the experience. Her audition piece was "I Still Believe" which she sang at around 11am.

“When I was asked to come back for the second round of singing at 6pm that same day, that was when I realized I had to be serious about it. I only had two hours to rehearse 'I’d Give My Life for You'," she recalls.

Both say that it’s their dream to be part of "Miss Saigon."

“I grew up singing the songs of the production. It is also my dream to perform in West End and in Broadway. 'Miss Saigon' is the perfect opportunity (to fulfill that dream),” Manalang says.

“I must say, it’s every theater actor’s dream to be part of 'Miss Saigon'," Chiu adds.

'I grew up singing the songs of Miss Saigon,' Tanya Manalang

When asked how they felt during the auditions, Manalang and Chiu reveal different mindsets. Chiu was worried about how she would be able to handle the dance routines because of her injury. For Manalang, her auditions with Resorts World Manila for "The King and I" gave her more jitters.

With "Miss Saigon," Manalang said she was close enough to the audition panelists to see their reactions. With "The King and I," she was asked to stand in the middle of the huge stage of the Newport Performing Arts Theater; panelists were seated afar and she only saw their silhouettes.

We ask them what they think they had or showed in the auditions that made the panelists include them in the "Miss Saigon" shortlist. “Over the years that I have worked for theater, I have gained more confidence and maturity as an actor and as a performer,” Chiu quickly replies.

Manalang adds, “Perhaps it was my size. I’m petite. When I went into the auditions, I wasn’t wearing any make-up. When I don’t put on make-up, I just look like I am 14 years old.”

Chiu will most likely be cast as Gigi once more; Tanya is gunning for the role of Kim.

Will Apple Chiu be Gigi in West End? We have to wait and see.

Will Apple Chiu be Gigi in West End? We have to wait and see.

That the auditions were regarded as exploratory exercises did not matter to Manalang and Chiu. Both are still happy that they made it far, out of thousands of registrants. They are hopeful for the best, come what may. (As of December 9, "Miss Saigon" producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh confirmed in an interview with The Philippine Star's Ricky Lo that he will restage the musical in 2014.)

For those to aspire to be in theater, Chiu gives this advice: “If you are serious about pursuing theater, you have to be at your best all the time. Know your songs especially when you come in for auditions. Come prepared. Do your research for the role you are eyeing. Always have the discipline that theater requires.”

“Just go for it. Every performance is a lesson in itself. The one thing I have learned from my director in 'The King and I' (Freddie Santos) is that there is no time that you do not need to be trained. One must be open and have room for growth all the time,” adds Manalang. - Rappler.com