Interview: Broadway and Concert Sensation MiG Ayesa
From Stutter to Superstar: Catching Up With Multi-Pedigreed Leading Man and Globetrotting Rock God MiG Ayesa
By Matthew Blank
At the very cross-section of theatre and rock and roll, there lives a man of brilliance. Built of charisma and unstoppable vocals, that man’s name is MiG Ayesa. A gentle and eloquent man by nature, within his average-sized frame is contained immeasurable multitudes of passion, kinetic energy, empathy, and room-shaking talent.
Ayesa is equally at home on the West End stage as he is blowing the roof off of a smokey music venue. You might well find him in reruns on Australian telly, or competing in a nationwide programme to win a spot as lead singer of INXS. He might be displaying his vocal acrobatics on your cruise ship, in a Pinoy restaurant in Queens, on the Broadway main line, or as a leading tenor lighting up the Las Vegas strip. His remarkable career has seen him performing the music of Queen, with original members of Queen, in front of the actual Queen.
Some have called him an international Man of MiG-Stery, and there truly is no better way to describe the Manila-born, Aussie-raised gentleman. Take a scroll through his Instagram if you have ever wondered just how far an uncanny talent, unbreakable work ethic, and winning charm can take a person.
I first became aware of his work as a young lad collecting cast albums from all over the world, a hobby I assume most of us shared. I acquired a recording of an Andrew Lloyd Webber concert from the 1990s, featuring Anthony Warlow and Sarah Brightman. Also featured on that less-than-legal cassette was a young “Miguel Ayesa.” His name would stick with me over the years and, indeed, I would recognize him immediately as he took the stage in Broadway’s Burn the Floor and, later, Rock of Ages.
My travels would finally bring me to Manila in 2015, where Ayesa took on something completely different by starring as Robert Kincaid in the first international staging of Jason Robert Brown’s The Bridges of Madison County.
It was here that I came to fully experience the range of his talent, the pleasure of his good humor... and I felt firsthand a magnetic rockstar quality that can't be taught.
With dozens of international TV appearances and a couple of fantastic solo albums under his belt, Ayesa's theatrical credits include We Will Rock You, Thriller Live, Annie, Buddy, Grease, Aladdin, Rent and The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
American audiences may remember him best as a Top 3 finalist in the reality show Rockstar, in which 15 singers competed to step in as lead singer of Australian supergroup INXS.
Ayesa's next project will see the multi-hyphenate truly blending his rock and theatre worlds as he stars in the new musical All Out Of Love, featuring the music of Air Supply.
The ever-busy world traveler managed to carve time from his nonstop schedule to speak to me about his experience as a multi-racial man of the globe.
Going all the way back, where were you born and raised? What did your parents do for a living, and how did you get involved in music and theatre? Do you remember your first onstage role? When did you get the sense that it was something you could and would do for a living?
I was born in Manila, Philippines, but we moved to Sydney, Australia, when I was just two years old. My mother was a doctor, a certified radiologist, while my father worked in an advertising firm. I actually came from a long line of doctors. Both my grandfathers were doctors and were friends in medical school, and all my uncles and aunts on my mother’s side were doctors. No one in my family were ever performers, so that’s something I developed on my own. I wanted to break away from the medical field and do something unique with my life.
It was really a calling that started with when I was about six. I suffered from a stutter, and it was such an embarrassment every time I tried to talk with my friends or speak out in class. However, when I sang a song or spoke words from a script, my stutter disappeared. I learned the piano simply to accompany myself singing. That was the only time I truly felt normal and confident, and after a few years my stutter completely vanished. Music was my therapy, my escape and very quickly became my true love.
My first really significant role was playing Oliver in the school musical OLIVER! I was eleven years old, and I was hooked. However it was never something I thought I would be doing for a living, as much as I would have loved that. I was doing my Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications at Macquarie University, earning $6 an hour at the Candy Bar at Village Cinema City, when a friend of mine told me he made over $2000.00 just by smiling at a camera for a Coke commercial. What!? So I got an agent and started testing for commercials. After a year of rejections I was just about to quit until I was cast in an anti-speeding campaign. Something must have clicked, because I then booked my next two consecutive auditions.
The first one cast me as “Pedro” in the pilot for a new children’s TV series called Mission: Top Secret, filming in Australia, Spain and The Netherlands. On my way home from the airport from that job, I stopped by Her Majesty’s Theatre in Sydney to audition for the role of “Ritchie Valens” in a new musical called Buddy: the Buddy Holly Story. The British producers of the show offered to bring me to the West End for a season. So at the age of 21, I was flying Business Class to London, staying in a four-story luxury mews, and performing not only for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip at a Royal Variety Performance, but also for Princess Diana and her two young Princes.
It was at this point that I thought, “Hmmmm… maybe this is something I would like to do for the rest of my life."
Quite a journey! Let's dive right into the theme of this publication! What is your ethnic background? What do you feel you take individually from your Filipino, Spanish and Aussie sides of the family? Cuisines, values?
Diving into the deep end, I am a mutt: Spanish, Filipino, with some Austrian (not Australian!) blood, with a drop of Chinese in the mix too… with an Australian passport and a United States Green Card. I draw from my heritage as much as I can for I truly believe it’s what enriches our lives, that we truly can’t move forward before we know where we’ve come from.
From my Filipino heritage I get the value of family and the respect for my elders. Family is everything for me. Respect is the foundation from which everything is based. I am very grateful that my parents instilled that in me. I also have a love of food, which is definitely a Filipino trait! I love Asian cuisine more than any other food: Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Chinese Dim Sum… it’s all good!
I do love Filipino cuisine but probably eat that the least of all the Asian cuisines. It’s delicious, but not the most healthy option around, and I don’t eat pork or red meat, so that rules a lot of dishes out. However the seafood and vegetarian versions are amazing! Seafood kare-kare with bago’ong is irresistible (with generous portions of rice, of course!) and anything with sticky rice or halo-halo is a must!
From the Spanish and Austrian side of me, I feel more at peace and content in Europe than anywhere else. I missed living in London where I could go to Paris for lunch or spend the weekend in Barcelona. I have a fascination with history and a knowledge of ancient civilisations. I do admire the modern cities, but take me back to the Gothic parts of town every time!
My Mum is a Legarda, a very well known and established name in the Philippines. My Dad’s side of Ayesa, originally came from Northern Spain in the Basque region. There is even a town in Spain called Ayesa near Pamplona. But Dad’s mother is a Preysler, who originally came from Austria, but through Spain. So as Filipino as I am, I cannot deny my European roots. But although I actually have no Australian blood, I am probably more Aussie than anything else, as I spent the majority of my life, including my formative early years, being an Aussie. From that I take my “joie de vivre” and sense of humour and adventure. I also hope to project a sense of openness and casual friendliness that only Aussies can possess.
I am so proud of where I’ve come from and will never deny any side of me. I consider myself a citizen of the Global Village: an International Man of “MiGstery!”
Do you find that you identify more strongly with one side? Do you consider yourself Filipino with a strong Australian influence? Or the opposite? Or is it all one big glorious mashup?
I may have already answered this question, but I truly feel the sum of all my parts. I consider myself Australian for sure. But Australia is probably one of the most multi-cultural societies where we are all immigrants from all parts of the world. What makes us Australian is our sense of unity under the one flag. My best friends from school were Italian, Lebanese, Latino, Chinese, Anglo-Saxon, Greek, Croatian, Russian, and Filipino… but we all considered ourselves Aussies. We ARE all one big glorious mashup!!
Tell me about your experience growing up in terms of racial identity. Was race an issue or cause of challenges and/or pain as a child/teen? I know it is much more common to see people representing multiple backgrounds in the Philippines than in much of the United States. In a lot of ways, Filipinos are a great example of what America is becoming, in that so many people can trace their backgrounds to Spain or China or the UK or the States. Filipino IS a melting pot ethnicity! But did you ever feel that you didn't fit in or stood out, being a Filipino guy living in Australia, or being back in Manila rocking that Aussie accent?
Haha! Yes you hit that nail on that head! Sometimes because of being such a mix of so many cultures, being an Aussie “Mestizo” (the Spanish word for mixed-race), meant that I was a bit of an oddity everywhere. Not really Filipino, not really Spanish, not really Australian… it was never a problem for me, but was something I was definitely aware of. I was pretty lucky growing up in a multi-cultural society, that celebrated diversity at the same time making light of it, seeing the funny side of it all. Only in Australia could there be a group of Greeks and Italians putting on a show that became a runaway hit called Wogs Out of Work!
I remember though, at primary school for English class we were divided into two groups. We were divided into “Aussies” and “Immigrants.” Guess which group I was put into? Anyways, it wasn’t long before I realised this was really not right. I spoke better English than most of the white Anglo-Saxon Aussies, yet I was being forced to do comprehension tests on basic short stories designed for non-English speakers.
I actually challenged my teachers to give me the same test as the Aussie kids and if I passed would they reconsider which group I belonged to. I not only passed the test, but topped the class. I moved into the “Aussie” group the next day. I was 8 years old.
Inevitably, we encounter a lot of people who are curious "what we are." I tend to think it's harmless curiosity 99 percent of the time, and I'm happy to share that information. Does the question bother you at all? I get all kinds of guesses... usually Latin, Greek, Italian. What do you get most often?
I get … “What are you?!” No-one ever picks me as Filipino, yet my mix is such that they can’t place me as anything. Asian? European? Alien? It doesn’t bother me at all. I love that I am a true mix. I really can barely play the Chinese card, but I add it in there just to make it sound even better!
My friends at high school nicknamed me “ASIAN” because I did NOT look Asian, even though I certainly was. To an outsider it may have sounded racist or judgemental, but in the true Aussie way, it was meant as a celebration of my diversity; a mirror to how weird and wonderful we all are to be so different yet unite under this one banner of AUSTRALIAN.
How has race played into your theatrical career? Have you lost work due to not reading a certain way in a casting breakdown? To my knowledge, you haven't done the traditional "Asian shows." But I would love to see you take on King of Siam or The Engineer one day. What are your general feelings about race as it pertains to your journey and the overall trends in casting these days.
I believe that if you don’t fit the character, then you shouldn’t be cast as the character. I may be part Asian, but I don’t believe that I am right to play The Engineer or Thuy in Miss Saigon. I believe those Jonathan Pryce days are over. And they should be. There are so many authentically Asian actors who should play those characters, and to dress someone up to look Asian is almost as bad as doing “Black Face.”
Having said that, I still believe there is some bias when it comes to casting if they know your ethnicity. Early on in my career in Australia, my agent Lee Leslie suggested that I Anglicize my name so as to not be typecast. For respect for my parents (that Filipino trait again!) I said no, that I am “Miguel” and will be known as “Miguel.” Yet as time moved on, it became clear to me that all the parts I was being asked to read for all had some ethnic bent to them: “Ritchie Valens” in Buddy; “Danny Zuko” in Grease; “Pedro” in Mission; Top Secret; “Aladdin” in Aladdin; even “Angel” in Rent.
I was even told when I did West Side Story for the Victoria State Opera, that I could be “Tony” but how can they have a “Tony” whose name was Miguel? The last straw was when I went to a casting for a film for the part of a Cuban drug lord and I walked into a room full of Fidel Castro lookalikes, pox scars and all. Done. Lee was right.
When I moved to London, I decided to officially change my professional Equity name to “MiG Ayesa.” The ethnicity of the name was highly ambiguous… Russian, if anything (‘MiGs’ are planes made by Russian aviation manufacturer: Mikoyan Gurevich). So my ethnicity was never questioned and from that point on I was seen for every role, including playing “Galileo Figaro" in We Will Rock You and ultimately “Stacee Jaxx” in Rock of Ages.
You have primarily play a lot of outsized “Rock God” characters where race is the least noticeable thing about their persona. That must be nice, on some level, to find that your successes have fallen on your incredible talent and not out of the need to fill a certain ethnic "type." Can you pick a favorite? Does any one role stand out as the most challenging vocally, emotionally, physically?
I have been so blessed to play the roles I have been given. I never take for granted the opportunities that have come my way. Playing “Stacee Jaxx” in Rock of Ages was possibly the most fun I ever had on stage. Playing such an [over the top] character like him, where too much is never enough, was a dream. Sex, drugs and rock and roll... and long blonde curly hair. What more could you ask for?
But possibly playing “Galileo” in We Will Rock You will go down as my favourite “Rock God” role ever for several reasons. When I was offered the role it was an affirmation that I was truly on the right path. It was one of the the most coveted roles in the West End at the time, and to take over from Tony Vincent was a tall order and a huge responsibility. I had not been in London for very long before getting We Will Rock You, and it was a bit of a battle to win the takeover position from other hopefuls.
To sing the music of Queen, my favourite band of all time, in that way, in that theatre, in that city… I will never forget that first time I did it. Singing “We Are the Champions” had a completely new personal meaning for me. One of the greatest byproducts of this was the close association with the surviving members of Queen who were so involved with the whole process from casting to performance.
I must admit that I have kept all of Brian May’s emails to me… I might even have one of his replies engraved on my tombstone.
Your career, aside from a few classic Broadway roles, has seen you performing the music of INXS, Queen, Michael Jackson, all the Stacee Jaxx stuff. Those are some huge shoes to fill. Tell me what you find more challenging and more rewarding: to sing such iconic and difficult rock music and be held up against some of the greatest rock tenors to ever live, or to take on a character and tell a story as I saw you do so beautifully in The Bridges of Madison County?
I love playing the rockstar. I’ve always wanted to be a rockstar. I still do want to be a rockstar. I WAS on Rockstar. I still write and record music and am working on a new album as I write this. It’s been because of my music that [I came] to play rock roles. They are a natural, (but never easy!) transition from my rockstar aspirations.
But it’s playing roles like “Robert Kincaid” in The Bridges of Madison County which are totally challenging and it’s only if I succeed will it be rewarding. In a way, I love playing these roles more because it’s what people don’t expect from me, and so I will hopefully surpass their expectations and change their minds about the limitations of my craft. I’m a lover of art, not just rock, and it may be surprising to know that the music of The Bridges of Madison County moves me more than most rock shows that I’ve done.
So let's talk a little about Bridges. I literally went to Manila so I could see that production, in which you starred opposite Joanna Ampil. That role was so different from most of what you've done in theatre. Subdued, classically sexy, very Broadway and underspoken. What was that experience like?
I was so thrilled you could see that, because it was the first international production of that show. I had to get the approval of Jason Robert Brown [and] apparently I passed! I love that show and believe it is an absolute work of art. A hands-down modern classic.
Having done my research with reading the novel a couple of times and watching the movie, I wanted to portray “Robert Kincaid” as the troubled, damaged man he was, who felt like he had a second chance at happiness by meeting “Francesca” and allowing her into his deliberately lonely world.
Really it was all Joanna Ampil as “Francesca” that drove me on. I tried to pull back and away as much as I could but her magnetism on stage just made me naturally open up and surrender to the undeniable inevitability of that true passionate love that comes maybe once in a lifetime, if ever. Jo was so brilliant in that role, I spent most of the show just marvelling at her brilliance and, in a way, it made my part quite easy to play… but so rewarding. I only wish we could do it again. A one-month season for such a show is way too short.
I think I unwittingly first heard you sing when I was a teenager, collecting weird and perhaps illegal recordings from around the world. One cassette that landed on my desk was a recording of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber starring Anthony Warlow. He is perhaps my favorite of all time, so I was collecting any Warlow sound bits available. I think Marina Prior might have been on that, or maybe Sarah Brightman. But also featured was someone named "Miguel Ayesa." I think this was 1995 or so? What are your memories from that experience? This must have been one of your first major musical theatre showings. What was it like working with Anthony, and are you still in touch? The man was and is a true idol to any musical theatre tenor from Australia. Did you learn a lot working with him at such a young age?
What!?! You had a recording of that? Yes, it was Anthony Warlow and Sarah Brightman on that tour. 1996. This was one of the first “legit” musical theatre shows I did. I had already at this stage done Buddy, West Side Story, Grease, Aladdin and Cinderella. It was actually the last show I did before I gave myself a year to become a rockstar… but then found myself being drawn back to musical theatre with Rent and Grease: The Arena Spectacular.
However, working with such legends as Warlow and Brightman remain experiences I will treasure forever. I had only seen Anthony Warlow on stage as the “Phantom” and was totally blown away. So when I first met him it was at a rehearsal. In comes this very dapper, quiet, super-friendly and very self-deprecatingly funny man. We then sat down around the piano and he started to sing “Gethsemane” from Jesus Christ Superstar.
My jaw dropped as he started to sing. That resonance. That voice. That tone. I will never forget it. At this stage I still never had a singing lesson, so this was a masterclass on how to hone in on a well-crafted and designed voice and focus it on the job at hand to really create something magical. I worked with Anthony again on Grease where he played the “Teen Angel” and he continued to be so charming and down to earth and amazing at his craft. I’m such a fan.
One thing I know to be true of you: you travel ALL THE TIME. Tell me (because I know you can answer this): it is April 30 of 2018. So far this year, how many flights have you taken and how many countries have you visited? Do you have those final numbers for 2017? I know you're working all over the globe, on cruise ships, in clubs... but with THAT amount of travel, what ARE you doing and how do you do it? Just checking my Insta, it seems like you're often in 3 different countries at the same time.
I am way down on my count from last year! In 2017 I did 95 flights. So far this year I’ve done 27 flights, so I don’t think I’ll come even close to last year. I love travelling, but there comes a time when you've got to ask, “Do I have to travel so much?” I blame myself. When I came back to NY from Bridges, I had a very dry spell of auditions. Nothing was opening, as Hamilton was just about to open, so no new jobs opened up. All I wanted was to work.
I filled in briefly for one of the “Tenors of Rock” on a ship, posted about it, then next thing you know I was scouted by an agent who asked whether I knew any Mandarin or would I be willing to learn some as they needed some Western acts who could crossover for the Chinese market. Before you knew it, I was doing my first solo show for Royal Caribbean in front of 99.9% mainland Chinese passengers and travelling ALL the time, from NY to Manila, to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tianjin, Qingdao, Beijing, Incheon, Beppu, Jeju Island, Fukuoka, Yokohama, Okinawa, Kagashima, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Da Nang, Phuket, Penang, Singapore… you get the point.
But that’s just for the solo shows. I also work with the “Tenors of Rock” who not only have a Vegas residency but also do ships around the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Alaska, as well as a Queen show called Rock Rhapsody which sails everywhere, too!
That’s why it seems I’m always travelling… because I am always travelling.
I was actually lucky enough to be on hand for both of your Broadway runs. I was ushering at Burn The Floor when you joined the cast, and I saw Rock of Ages multiple times while you were with the NY company. Do you want to come back to Broadway? How would you say New York audiences differed from those you'd find in Manila or Sydney?
You surprise me more with each question. You were working at the Longacre Theatre? Amazing! I definitely would love to come back to Broadway. It’s not that I need to do it for my resume, but I just love the life of doing a show at night, and having your days mostly free to be creative with other projects, coming home to your own bed after work… it’s such a novelty to do that. I haven’t worked and lived in the same city since 2012!
Sure the prestige of being “on Broadway” holds weight and can lead to other jobs for sure. Especially once you are in the community, you get a chance to work more in the community as your reputation grows. I was just making some momentum within the Broadway community when I decided to leave New York after leaving Rock of Ages and after my wife and I separated.
This city was too painful to stay focused in. So I went back to London for a while, worked on Thriller Live, worked in the Philippines on several theatre projects and a travel reality show called Fil It Up, and then toured Europe with the Arena Tour of We Will Rock You.
Since finally deciding to come back to New York, it has been so hard to get back into the scene, especially since I have been travelling around the world on ships! But that is a goal of mine to get back into Broadway and I hope to make that happen again. New York audiences are so great and passionate because they come to Broadway FOR Broadway. They are a combination of excited tourists and fired up regulars who spend BIG money to get a ticket and who demand a lot. But they give as much as they get.
Broadway can really be electrifying when all parties are synchronised with their energies. It can be intoxicating. Manila audiences are quite different as it’s not really a theatregoing culture. This however is changing and more and more shows are opening up, giving audiences a chance to experience more and know that it’s ok to clap or be appreciative of performances.
One thing though: they don’t seem to like any pre-show music in the theatres in Manila. So I feel audiences are immediately intimidated to stay silent. I’ve never understood that about working in Manila. Especially for a show like Rock of Ages, I want the audiences PUMPED by the time we hit the stage, not doped.
Sydney audiences can be wild too and then they can be deathly subdued. It all depends on the weather. I think most Sydney-siders would rather be at Bondi Beach than at the theatre, and I don’t blame them one little bit.
You truly have one of the great rock tenor voice any of us have ever heard. How do you keep it healthy? You've sort of fucked yourself by being known as a guy who can sing Queen and Bon Jovi with ease. What are MiG's tricks for vocal health and excellence?
Okay. Now you really have my attention. :-) And hahaha!!! Yes!! Many times I say, next time I’m doing the “Lou Rowles” musical or sing with the “Baritones of Rock.” I have had my share of losing my voice and, especially in 2012, I was suffering from emotional stress which totally screwed my voice for a year.
I’ve since been taking lessons with Deric Rosenblatt here in New York to nurture good habits and proper techniques to prolong the life of my voice and to ease the tension I apply to my chords when I am tired or blown out. My advice is to warm up properly before singing. Make sure you DON’T over-sing at sound check, and to pull back from the excitement of showtime curtain, so you keep a steadying methodical energy to make your voice last for the entire show.
It also helps to drink lots of water and no alcohol at least the night before a show. I used to not care about any of those things, but ever since losing my voice onstage, I make sure that I do everything I can to maintain vocal health. It’s almost a paranoid obsession about it.
You've really spread out your work and split your time among so many places. I recall meeting you in Manila a few years back and you're just such a laid back, down-to-earth, REAL guy. We went to that holiday concert together and I remember swarms of fans either coming up to you for autographs, and some who were too shy and just stood off to the side, pointing nervously... until you'd see them, give a big wave and bring them over for a photo. Are you used to the celebrity aspect of it? In some cities, I'm sure you can walk around at will without being noticed. But certainly in Manila, at least in certain venues, you're the famous guy in the room. Is Manila your biggest fan base, would you say? Do you enjoy being recognized and approached on the street?
Yes, I remember that concert too. We were front row watching Jo Ampil, right? I kind of get a little embarrassed about attention, as I haven’t done anything of note for a while, and I wish I could give them something more to be proud of, you know? But I do appreciate it when I am recognized.
I feel as though all that hard work and focused dedication I have tried to achieve has somehow made an impact somewhere. It makes my day when I feel that in some way, shape or form I have moved someone or inspired someone. I would say the Philippines would be my biggest fan base right now, but I am always surprised at how many times in Australia I get that, “Were you in The Ferals?” or “You should have won Rockstar!”
Where is home? I know you have a base in NYC, but you're so often in Manila or on a plane traversing Asia. Do you have one place that you consider your homebase?
New York City is home for now. It has been for the past 11 years. I love it here. I am waiting for the love to be reciprocated again! But I don’t know how many more bitter winters I can face.
Moving on, it's been announced that you'll next be starring in a new musical featuring the music of Air Supply. Tell us a bit about the project and how you got involved.
I’ve been hearing about an Air Supply musical in the works for quite a while now. They’ve been workshopping a show in New York, and around the world for the last couple of years in a couple of different incarnations. Yet I only heard of the workshops after they had finished and I always wondered why I was never involved. I adore Air Supply’s music. I have always been a fan. I’m Australian. I just don’t know [how] I was always overlooked in the casting here.
However, I got a message from a producer in Manila that had just read the script and she told me that I’d be perfect for a part in this Air Supply musical that was going to make its World Premiere at Resorts World in Manila. Wait, what??! Yes! I could not physically be at the auditions in Manila, as they were intending to use a fully Filipino cast to test the show, but I could send a video audition self-tape to the director and producers in Australia and take it from there. So I videoed myself singing a couple of songs and the next thing I knew, I got offered the part.
The crazy thing is a few days after I found out I booked the job, I was at a charity event in New York and Graham Russell from Air Supply was playing at it. I was introduced backstage to him and he then asked me if I could sing onstage with him because Russell Hitchcock was not there, and he was feeling a little bit of a sore throat. So within a week of not knowing what I would be doing in the near future, I suddenly scored the lead in a world premiere production of a musical featuring the music of of my favourite bands, and then I got to sing with that actual band live. There’s no business like show business! So I hope you can come nap to Manila to review All Out Of Love in October this year.
I think I read somewhere that Air Supply actually helped cure your stutter as a child? Tell me more about that!
As I mentioned before, I did have a stutter as a child, but singing helped me defeat that stutter. I was learning how to play the piano so I could accompany myself singing. I bought three music books which I played over and over again. One was a Billy Joel book, another was a Stevie Wonder book, and the third was an Air Supply book. No lie!
How long will you be with that show, and do you have other projects lined up as well?
I believe we only have 20 shows scheduled at the moment. Only 10 are on sale right now. So check out my site at www.mig-music.com/tour for tickets and times. Other projects? Nothing definite as of now, but I am working on a new album, and although it’s taking time, it’s taking shape and I’m quite excited about it.
While I've got you here, tell us your dream theatre roles, male or female, of any age or race.
Well if we’re disregarding age, race or gender… my number one dream role would be “Tony” in West Side Story. I understudied the role, so I kind of achieved that. “Jesus” or “Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar. I would also love to play “Galileo” in the sequel to We Will Rock You, called The Show Must Go On. Oh yes. We workshopped that show in London, and it was great. It needs to go on!
“Jean Valjean” in Les Miserables. Anything in Hamilton. “Robert Kincaid” in The Bridges of Madison County… I’m not done with that show by a long shot. “Roger” in Rent… I’ve played “Angel” in Australia and London but I always saw myself as a “Roger”… or maybe even “Collins.”
I’d love a gig with Jersey Boys, too. Maybe as Frankie or Bob. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Finally, please share your words of advice or wisdom for anyone (or everyone) struggling with racial identity, sexual identity, bullying, "other-ness,” ignorance or who might be losing hope for one reason or another. In "Fill My Cup," you implore Filipinos to live life to the fullest. Expand that to anyone who might be reading this.
We must be realistic in our expectations and casting can be a cruel and unjust bitch. It may be the last bastion of legal racism on earth. If they are looking for a 6’5” blonde viking, and you are a 5’9” dark Eurasian, don’t expect to book that job. But hang in there and work on your craft. Be ready for that day when they are looking for a 5’9” Eurasian with a killer voice and your skill set.
There are so many avenues to be the best you can and it’s our job to stay relevant and prepared for whatever gets thrown at us. We are all unique and we must celebrate our diversity. Relish our international ambiguity, or our racial ethnicity. Create something that makes the best of your attributes and skills. Don’t just lie there, waiting, being bitter at the world for not needing your type.
You are amazing. If you want this, only you can do this. Only you care about your career the way you do. So nurture it, develop it and care for it. It can be the greatest adventure you have ever undertaken.
In the words of a crazy Spanish/Filipino/Aussie… "Fill my cup to the very top, I can’t stop now no matter what, I just gotta live it up! Gone too far for me now to give it up. I don’t wanna give it up. I just gotta keep it up!”
END OF INTERVIEW
Matt Blank is an arts journalist, educator, designer and lecturer. He most recently spent a decade on the editorial team for Playbill.com and as Editor-in-Chief of PlaybillArts.com, publishing over 7,000 articles and covering five Tony Award ceremonies. Follow him on Twitter @MattBlankPlease and Instagram @brdwymatt.