This thing called Miss Saigon auditions.

Nov 19, 2012 by

I had approximately a month and a half to prepare for an audition of a lifetime for the revival of a musical called “Miss Saigon” at the London West End. The audition announcement indicated that the production would need a fresh batch of talents who would comprise the male and female Asian ensemble as well as the slot for the lead role of Kim. We all know that this coveted role launched the career on an international scale of our very own Lea Salonga, so naturally, the template of looking for a new talent would be based on her original performance. I was auditioning for an ensemble role. I decided with my whole heart that I would go through rigid vocal training with the professional help of Daphne and Ma’am Crista. It only meant that partying and other nocturnal activities would have to be shut down. I braced myself — and I knew what was coming: a major battle with the unknown.

My vocal coach Daphne was also auditioning for an ensemble role and I was most fortunate to be in her company in the entire audition process. On the day of the registration (Saturday, Nov 17), Daphne and her companion Carol reserved a space for me on the queue at 4 am. That gave me the convenient slot at number 7. I felt so thankful they were there because the line was snaking along as the hours ticked with a handful of people who all looked intimidating. And it was just the registration day.

I’m sure you don’t wanna hear about the registration process, so let’s go straight to the D-Day. The day that turned my innards upside down as well as the rest of the Saigon hopefuls who genuinely came up with a new verb upon meeting one another: hey, are you ‘Saigoning’ too? It was cute, but it didn’t help in calming my nerves.

I was slated to audition at exactly 10:06 AM, sequence number 7. I was fully rested, feeling great about my voice and body. I had a good vocal warm up workout hours before my audition and was all set and ready. Kevin accompanied me to the Philippine Opera Haus – about 15 minutes away from the hotel. When I arrived at the venue at around 9.15 AM, there were several auditionees awaiting for the doors to open; fully made up and some of them kind of looked the part of Kim already. I was feeling nauseous, not knowing this whole process can actually sauté my innards with gall bladder juice. It was horrifying, the anxiety. I focused with all my might on my audition piece, Bui Doi on my iPod. Daphne was looking all set herself and I knew she would nail the singing part. While I am an experienced performer in the field of musical theater, I am also fully aware of my limitations as a singer. By nature, I am a bass – bordering on baritone under very good conditions. So my apprehensions stem from the fact that I was surrounded by some of the more seasoned members of the Philippine Opera Company who can belt out Nessun Dorma while in the middle of eating a really nice halo-halo. So yeah. You can imagine what a wreck I was. I was holding on a string of positivity that I might as well just give it a try because it is not as if these West End guys open an audition on an annual basis. It was a suicide thing for me. Underscore the confidence and guts part.

I was one of the first batch of auditionees (together with Daph) who went inside the venue. It was the coldest place on earth, as far as that moment was concerned. I kept humming to keep my voice warm and the superb pei pa koa was doing its job really well. The guys from Philippine Opera Company were killing me all the more because they were excruciatingly playful amidst the death sentence awaiting me inside the audition room. The West End guys (all three of them) plus Dong Alegre came in, went straight to the room and closed the door curtain. Daphne gave me a hug and I told myself to pray.

As the door officer called out the first auditionee, I was falling apart like a decapitated vampire in Twilight, only worse. I could hear the piano playing with the auditionee’s voice soaring like, ‘oh great, and I thought she looked lousy’. Then came Daphne’s turn. Her soprano voice boomed from the inside and the other auditionees outside looked awestruck. I was feeling so proud for Daphne coz I think she did such a fabulous job.

Then it was my turn.

I stepped into the room feeling like the smallest person in the whole goddamn universe. I kept clearing my throat. The room, I thought, was even colder than the one outside. It was freezing. The door officer told me to step on the marked spot. I did. The pianist asked me “what are you going to sing, Bobby?” I said, “huh?” She repeated the question. I told her “Bui Doi.”  Then she said:

We’ll start on this bridge part coz that’s what they want to hear.

When she said that, I wanted to run out of the room. It is EXACTLY the part I didn’t want to sing because it is the part which builds up to the highest note meant for tenors. I knew it was totally going to be a wreck. I gathered as much air as I could and sang. I built it up alright from “These are souls in need, they need us to give, someone has to pay…” and the next part shifted to falsetto (withholding a major grin on my face), “for their chance to live…help me try…”

I was shaking from the inside and I was holding myself back from showing it as the four judges were staring at me like a bunch of Lord Farquaads all together. One of the guys, in thick British accent held his hand up and told the pianist:

Can we start from the very beginning of the song and swell it up til through the chorus?

I heaved a sigh, knowing that the first stanzas would show the best part of my timbre. So the pianist played and I sang. I was in my element. I was very comfortable with the notes and I was feeling great about the piece. Then the first chorus ended.

Then the same judge spoke:

Indeed it was a very challenging song to sing, but that’s alright, ok?

And they all smiled and I thanked them. Then I left the room, half-dead.

When I walked down the stairs to leave the audition venue, I was looking at a throng of auditionees waiting for their turn. I asked Daphne if she got word or anything and she said none. The rest of the other guys before us didn’t also get any word whatsoever. I resigned to the fact that, well, there goes. I guess it’s the part where we settle down and hope for some twisted turn of events that you get a text message for a callback. If it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, then life goes on. But the experience is both precious and humbling and if you ask me if I will do it again, the answer would be yes.

Thank you to everyone who sent me prayers and well wishes for this unique endeavor that I have decided to go through. It was exciting and terrifying at the same time. It made me realize so many things about myself and about other people too. Thanks to my friend Richel who obligingly drove me around – leaving her work just to accompany me. I am forever grateful. Thanks too, to Dulce and Helen for being there and cheering me on while awaiting for the audition day. The best thanks go to Kevin, of course. Trust me when I say that because of this audition, a really big and super new musical is coming our way in Iloilo and you better prepare your winter clothes for dancing in the cold to the tune of Boogie Wonderland!

Life is good. Thank you, dear God, for this wonderful talent. The audition was really worth the try.

Miss Saigon Audition Manila Venue

Miss Saigon Audition – Venue

 

Miss Saigon Audition Manila 2012

With my vocal coach and fellow auditionee and friend, Daphne during the registration day. We were both wracked up on the actual audition day that we forgot to take photos. LOL

2 Comments

  1. admin

    As of this writing, my friend and fellow auditionee Daphne Jontarciego (as seen on the photo above) has received a Call Back notice for the dance routine audition. Here’s praying that Daph makes it to the final cut! Cheers!!! So proud of you, Daph!!!

  2. Isabela

    hi, i happened to come across this blog entry while i was googling certain things, and i was wondering if you could recommend vocal coaches here in Iloilo. Hoping to hear back from you soon. xx

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