By Alwin M. Ignacio

“Whatever part they will give us, I will accept. Of course, God willing, to be Thuy will be the best gift in my career and a dream come true.”

He was only 15 years old when Gerald Santos became the second season winner of Pinoy Pop Superstar.  No longer a boy, but not yet a man. His competitors then include Aicelle Santos, Harry Santos and Denver Regencia.  At a tender age, he slayed “Hanggang,” the Wency Cornejo classic, and “Kahit Isang Saglit,” Martin Nievera’s version of the anthem.

As the Pinoy Pop Superstar winner, he became a staple in the musical variety shows of GMA 7 and even appeared in a primetime drama. His first album A Day in the Rainbow gave him his first hit pop ditty “Mahal Kita” which eventually became the theme song of Marian Rivera’s Marimar.

Together with his PPS colleagues, they had weekly regional concerts. He had his own successful concert and even graced important special events at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Gerald has done two major productions where he both played the lead roles. His first was in 2011 in Gantimpala Theater Foundation’s Sino Ka Ba, Jose Rizal, where he scored an ALIW Award nomination as Best Actor in a musical, as Dr. Jose Rizal, of course.

The second is Redlife Entertainment Productions Inc.’s San Pedro Calungsod, the Musical, which had a successful nationwide tour. For this particular musical play, he was also the play’s composer.

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As he celebrates his tenth year, Gerald Santos embarks on another glorious musical theater quest.

“When I did Sino Ka Ba Jose Rizal and San Pedro Calungsod the Musical, super talaga ang naitulong sa akin,” began Santos during his intimate tete-a-tete with this glitter.ph correspondent.

With his theater experiences, the singer is most grateful, “With my singing voice, it helped me a lot. All the vocal exercises, it made the quality of my voice more mature and robust, I think it became stronger kasi nga chest tone kasi kadalasan ang ginagamit mo for musical theater pieces. My directors helped with my line delivery, on being still and composed on stage, na dapat hindi malikot ang ulo mo. Hindi ka rin dapat parang namimimilipit ka pag kumanta.”

“Another aspect of my theater experience is the level of professionalism and commitment of my co-actors,” he added.  “When I first did Sino Ka Ba Jose Rizal, I was amazed with the fact that every one came on time. They got their blockings. Vocal at dance rehearsals pa lang, performance level na sila. They also made me feel so welcome. My cast mates were so embracing and helpful. Hindi ko naramdaman na binagito nila ako. They were patient with me and I was so eager to learn. Kaya when I got my ALIW nomination for the play, I know na I will not get it if not for the help and support of my co-actors. Ang mga tao kasi sa teatro, hindi mo lang sila nagiging katrabaho o kasama sa stage, they become your friends, then you become part of their family.”

 

The Miss Saigon Audition Experience

When Gerald Santos learned that a Miss Saigon audition would happen in Manila, he did not have any second thoughts in joining the audition.

He shared, “Sir Nestor Cuartero had the opportunity to watch me in the Pedro Calungsod the Musical. After the show, we had the chance na makapag-usap. Siya ang nagsabi at nag-convince sa akin na kung magkaka-audition for Miss Saigon, mag-audition ako. Siya rin ang nag-suggest na in case nga mag-audition ako, na I audition for the part.

“When I read in my Face book news feed na may audition date na, naalala ko ang sinabi ni Sir Nestor. What I did, I researched. Binasa ko sa Google yung musical. Sa YouTube, hinanap ko yung mga videos at recordings, pinanood ko at pinakinggan and I zeroed on Thuy na talaga.”

Gerald admitted that during registration day, he did not mind lining up.

“Sa first day more than three hundred kami. Mostly mga theater actors ang present. May ilan ring may pangalan na, mga kakilala na rin.  Ibang klaseng experience yung pumila, biglang nag-flashback sa akin yung Pinoy Pop Superstar days ko.  Maaga kasi akong dumating sa Opera Haus pero pang 164 pa rin yung number ko. During the registration, I submitted my curriculum vitae and some samples of my CDs.”

 

First Call Back

The Concert Prince recalled: “The first call happened after two days. My slot was 12:30 noon. There were two panelists who included Director Bobby Garcia of Atlantis Productions and the casting director of Miss Saigon. Kinakabahan ako pero di naman ganun ka-grabe. I told them na I was auditioning for the part of Thuy and that my piece was Thuy’s intervention. Naramdaman nila siguro na during my singing na tensed ako. So after singing, they said to me to relax, na mag-breath in at breath out. Tapos, they made me sing again. After I sang it for the second time, all they said was what I did was pretty good and that was it.

 

The Second Call Back

Gerald continued, “The second call back happened two days after. So, I had enough rest and time to practice since they already sent me via email the songs, the piano guide and the minus one na lahat, pulos kay Thuy. Ang panel na sa second call, andun ulit si direk Bobby, the musical supervisor, and the stage director. Immediately they made me sing songs of Thuy. Buti na lang prior to that I was listening to it. Pinakanta agad sa akin yung Thuy’s intervention. As I was singing, they requested me to stop and gave me notes on how to attack the song. When I sang it again, they said it was good.”

His next song was Thuy’s death.  Then went on, “Mataas ang kantang ito and thank God, abot ko naman yung mga high notes. After my first interpretation, enthusiastic naman ang reaction nila. Then they gave me notes again. During the process of the audition, they were able to share about Thuy’s character. Thuy is not a villain, he is not a murderer and that he was angry with the situation that he cannot control, he was in a precarious situation. They requested me to sing the song na dapat may puso pa rin, na hindi dapat masyadong forceful at aggressive. They made me sing it again having the notes in mind. Then pinaulit na naman yung Thuy’s intervention at pinaulit na naman yung Thuy’s death. And while I was going out of the room, they told me to study the new lyrics.

“After the second call back, it was tiring and emotionally draining. Pag labas ko, masakit ang ulo ko, mabigat na sa pakiramdam pero alam kong kaya ko pa, kaya bring it on.”

 

The Third Call Back

Gerald smiled sheepishly at first and said, “The third call back after a day. This was the toughest, because we had dance and vocal workshop.”

Seemingly embarrassed, he went on, “Dancing is my waterloo. Although did some dancing in my concerts. Buti na lang madali-dali ang steps, may ilang basics na alam na ako like yung mga kick ball change, yung basic na pag-ikot. Sa dancing ako sobrang kaba. When we were about to do a more difficult dance routine, I was summoned to freshen up and enter the other room as I was about to sing the songs of Thuy. The entire panel sitting now are Britons.  Prior to each song, there were more instructions, there were more notes. Salamat naman kay God that I was able to absorb everything. When I did Kim’s nightmare, they wanted me to add more aggression to it and during my third take that was the only time they were satisfied. For the second piece, they made me recite the lines first of Thuy’s intervention. They wanted me to perform it like it was just conversational, that I am just telling a story, Again, they made me sing it three times. When it came to performing Thuy’s death, they wanted to feel the pain in my heart but at the same time, they wanted the dignity of Thuy maintained knowing that he is a high ranking military person. All the songs, parang nine times ko silang kinanta. They thanked me and appreciated my heard work. Mas patang-pata ako nun. Sobrang sarap sa feeling kahit nakakapagod. Akala ko tapos na at pwede na magpahinga. After a few hours, we received a call, they inquired if I am available for the final call back with Claude Michel Schonberg, and of course, I said, yes. ”

 

The Claude Michel Schonberg Audition

Gerald became quiet at first, gathering his thoughts, took a deep breath and related the final call back scenario.

“I was never wreck after they called me up. On the day itself, there was still that feeling of nervousness. It was the good kind of nervousness though. Mr. Schonberg was in the middle of the panel and the rest of the Saigon British production team. They made me sing Thuy’s intervention. Mukhang na-happy naman sila because I was able to incorporate their notes as I sang it. Ang comment lang they want me to sing it louder and stronger.”

Then his brown cheeks immediately turned reddish, as he shared a delicate situation.

“When they requested me to perform Thuy’s death, there was part na nauna ako. Mr. Schonberg immediately said, ‘Stop, stop! Be attentive. Always be ready, be conscious with your musical cues.’ Of course, I knew where he was coming from, he is a passionate man who wanted a perfect rendition of a song he composed. The incident fueled me to do better, when we repeated and finished it, Mr. Schonberg stood up and inquired, ‘Do you know the song Back in Town?’ He asked the musical supervisor to teach me the song and they were all surprised that I was able to learn it in a short period of time. When he heard my rendition, he explained the back story of the number. He explained that Thuy was away for three years. That in this song, his transformation from being an innocent young man to a man in uniform must be crystal and that the love he felt for Kim, na dapat maramdaman ko yung feeling, that I am so in love with Kim and that I am expecting her to feel the same. With all these instructions, I really performed with all of my heart.”

 

What He Did For Love

As this conversation with Gerald  neared its conclusion, he imparted the most important things about his glorious audition experience.

Santos quipped, “When you are going to an audition, always come prepared.  Know your monologue or songs, especially if these are the requirements.  Be ready to take in the directions and listen carefully to instructions. Pag may pinakanta sa iyo or may biglang pinagawa, don’t panic. It is normal to feel nervous pero give your best. Dapat willing ka to learn a new song or dance move, concentrate and absorb what it is being said or taught and listen attentively.  Go beyond your limits and of course, pray.”

Gerald added, “During the entire audition, I kept myself focused and centered. You know, when you are inside the audition room, everything happened instantaneously and I must get everything as fast as I can.  It was like going back to school and yung mga teacher ko now, talagang mga masters. Kung ano lang ako talaga, yung kaya ko, yun lang ang pinakita ko. Yun ang binigay ko. Happy ako sa experience na nangyari sa akin. Feeling ko, sa pag-kwento kung ito, may learning at pointers na mapupulot ang mga readers dito, lalo na yung mga musical theater enthusiasts.”

The Miss Saigon hopeful concluded, “This is my tenth year in show business. Getting a role is always a combination of things; it is one part talent, one part luck and most part prayers. I did and gave my best during the auditions. I am not letting go, and letting God to take care of the rest. “

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