Broadway Adventures: Fun, Firsts, and Filipinos at Hello, Dolly!

Pudding!

That’s the code word Cornelius Hackl tells Barnaby Tucker they’ll to indicate they are having an adventure in Hello, Dolly! It’s quite fitting because our blog name is The Adventures of Amanda and Ashley, after all, and watching the national tour of Hello, Dolly! certainly was an adventure that made us want to yell “Pudding!”

We started out the month by watching Hello, Dolly! at the Oriental Theatre in downtown Chicago. We’ve wanted to watch it for nearly a year but were convinced that we had to see it when the full touring cast was announced. Julian DeGuzman, our fellow Filipino whom we first discovered in Newsies, was included in the list of ensemble members, and that was more than enough reason to go. Even better, though, Jess LeProtto, who was competed on season eight of So You Think You Can Dance, was announced to play the role of Barnaby Tucker. We watched Jess during his season of SYTYCD and were excited about his inclusion.

Like many people, we were first exposed to Hello, Dolly! after watching the Disney Pixar movie WALL-E. Among the many human belongings WALL-E has found is an iPod that has the Hello, Dolly! movie on it. He watches them perform “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” and grabs objects to help him mimic the choreography.

Less than a year after watching WALL-E, we went on a field trip to see a production of Hello, Dolly! at the high school we were set to attend. However, we don’t remember anything from that high school production and went into watching the national tour production knowing only what we saw in WALL-E and the number performed at the 2018 Broadway in Chicago summer concert. Because of this, we weren’t quite sure what to expect other than it should be good. We knew the Broadway revival had won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Revival among other awards, and we had heard that Betty Buckley is legendary. When the tour got to Chicago, we also saw that the Chicago Tribune gave the show four stars. Despite this, we didn’t get our hopes up or were expecting too much of it. We went in with an open mind and were simply looking forward to seeing a show new to us.

Our seats were in the front of the right center balcony and offered a great view of the stage. We’ve been to Broadway in Chicago shows before but never one at the Oriental Theatre. It’s a beautiful theater with intricate detailing throughout and was a wonderful venue for Hello, Dolly!

When the curtain came up shortly after 7:30 p.m., our first thought was “Where’s Julian?” Fortunately for us, he was easy to spot in the front, stage right. The song and music progressed, and then a prop horse controlled by two people appeared on stage. Normally, a horse prop wouldn’t be exciting. But Julian introduced his Instagram followers to this horse named “Tita Patty” (Tagalog/Filipino for “Aunt Patty”) and said he was excited for us to all meet her on tour. So we were amused by the sight of her. (Check out Julian’s Instagram story titled “Tita Patty” to hear from her! It may not be as funny if you aren’t Filipino, though.)

From the start, we realized the show was a lot more comedic than we thought, which was a pleasant surprise. Betty Buckley did a wonderful job from curtain rise to curtain fall. Her portrayal of Dolly Levi seemed effortless, and we’re glad we got to see her lead the show.

Credit: Julieta Cervantes

During the first scene at Vandergelder’s Hay and Feed, Cornelius and Barnaby popped up (literally), and we were thrilled to see Jess. It didn’t take us long to realize he was perfect for Barnaby, and we absolutely loved his portrayal of the character. We had really only known Jess for his dancing abilities, so we enjoyed his acting and singing. But we were still in awe of the fouettes he did during one of the dance breaks.

Nic Rouleau was also impressive as Cornelius. One of the best parts about seeing Hello, Dolly! was being introduced to talent we didn’t know about, and he was no exception. Morgan Kirner, who plays Ermengarde, does a high-pitched shriek throughout the show, and, although purposefully annoying, it had us wondering how she could possibly yell like that an on a consistent basis.

Credit: Julieta Cervantes

The choreography included a variety of styles from classic jazz/musical theatre to ballroom and allowed the ensemble to shine. It fit the late 19th century setting of the show without making it feel like we were watching something outdated. The songs and music were fun, entertaining, and complemented the story well.

By the time the show was over, we felt good having enjoyed the show we just watched and could see why its original production made it a classic. The only songs either of us knew of beforehand were “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” “Elegance,” and “Hello, Dolly!” so it was nice to hear them in context with the show and see it all come together.

Once most people left the balcony, we did what we now always do after shows: pick up all the Playbills left behind. We wanted more than one Playbill because we were going to stage-door (say hi to performers and get autographs from the cast), but we prefer having one as-is and one signed. We’ve never understood why some people don’t take their Playbill with them―it’s a free, collectible souvenir that people collect and some even pay for! After we added more Playbills to our collection, we headed out as fast as we could to go to the back of the theater where the stage door is. Ashley had stage-doored before when she lived in New York during summer 2017, but this was going to be Amanda’s first-ever stage door experience!

Earlier that day, Ashley actually tweeted Julian to let him know we were coming to that night’s show, wanted to meet him, and had a present for him. He replied and confirmed he’d be at the stage door later that day, so we had been waiting all day to say hi to him! Any time someone came out of the stage door, we’d hope it was Julian or Jess.

One of the first people we saw at the stage door was Nic. Like everyone else who came out to say hello to fans, he went down the line of people and signed autographs with the occasional quick conversation that was more than “You did great tonight!” and/or “Thank you!” but each person was pretty quick. Not too long after we got to the stage door, Ashley saw that Jess came out and was already signing autographs. We got excited, especially because that meant we actually had something more to say to someone other than “Great job!” and “Thanks for the autograph!”

Amanda, Jess LeProtto, and Ashley

When Jess made his way over to us in the stage door line, we told him that we had watched him when he was on SYTYCD. He was so happy that he, in turn, made us really happy. We also told him that we love following other SYTYCD alumni who go to Broadway. After he signed our Playbills, we got a photo with him. It was a really great moment, because we weren’t sure whether we’d get to meet Jess―who’s also a Newsie―and we’ve never met any of our favorite SYTYCD dancers before.

A couple more people came out and signed autographs before Ashley spotted Julian come out of the stage door. Surprisingly, neither of us introverts were anxious about meeting Julian (or Jess for that matter). Rather, we were just really excited―we were going to meet a Filipino who works in Broadway and was a Newsie! When Julian came over to us, we said hi, and Amanda told him that we were the ones who tweeted him earlier that day. He recalled the tweet, asked for our names, gave us each a hug, and thanked us for the support. He was happy to meet fellow Filipinos―particularly ones who see Broadway shows. Then, we gave Julian the gift we made him: a canvas painting inspired by the Philippine flag. He thought it was cool―cool enough to showcase when we took a photo together!

Amanda, Julian DeGuzman, and Ashley
🇵🇭 🇵🇭 🇵🇭

Having already met the people we stage-doored for and with it nearing 11 p.m., we stayed at the stage door for a couple more minutes before leaving to end the adventurous day we had.

We’re glad we saw Hello, Dolly! in Chicago before the parade passed by, and you should, too, if you get the chance. (Say hi to Julian for us if you do!)

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Our Adventures of October 2018

Having a birthday in October, we always look forward to the fall month. But, this year, October was an especially good month. From finally getting to be in the room where it happens to exploring new places, October was the most eventful month of 2018 so far!

Hamilton Chicago

We watched the Saturday, October 6 matinee of the Chicago production of the Tony award-winning musical Hamilton. Our mom bought us tickets in May when the new block of tickets went on sale. We decided to go to in October as an early birthday celebration (our birthday is on October 8).

Even though we were late to the show and missed the first three songs or so, we loved finally being in the room where it happens. The cast recording is often played in our house and car, but nothing compares to watching a musical live and in person―the way theatre is meant to be experienced. It was great to finally put visuals to the songs we often listen to, see how they work in context with the show, watch Andy Blankenbuehler’s Tony Award-winning choreography. The lighting design, too, was especially cool to see and really complemented the songs and storytelling in the show.

Our 23rd Birthday

For our birthday this year, we just really wanted to have some good dessert. And we did just that. We went out to lunch with our family at The Cheesecake Factory on the day before our birthday. They adorned our cheesecake slices with a chocolate “Happy birthday” and extra decoration, which made for great pictures.

On our actual birthday, we bought ourselves a cookie cake and then later got a red velvet cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes, so we definitely got our share of sweets―the best part about birthdays!

Road Trip Vacation: Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wyoming

Minnesota

The weekend after our birthday, our family began our fall road trip. While the big destination was Mount Rushmore, our first stop was Bloomington, Minnesota, where the Mall of America is located. It’s definitely the biggest mall we’ve ever been to, and it has some great stores we don’t have in Illinois. Plus, there’s no sales tax on clothes in Minnesota―a big plus for shopping lovers like us!

The Dora the Explorer ferris wheel in Nickelodean Universe in the middle of the Mall of America

Because of its immense size, we will admit it was a little overwhelming making our way through the mall. We weren’t sure how much time we’d have at the mall, so we did our best to not spend too much time in one store. Two of the stores we went to were Cotton On and Typo, and we found some great things at both places.

A Mickey Mouse pouch from Typo, one of the stores in the mall

It was also cool to see the amusement park aspects of the mall, like the roller coasters and ferris wheel. We only had so much time at the mall, so we opted against going on any of the rides, but we’ll have to go back one day and try them out!

South Dakota

Mount Rushmore

We only spent a night in Minnesota, as there were still eight or so hours to drive to get to Mount Rushmore. Because it was rather cold and there was snow on the ground when we got to Mount Rushmore, not everything was open there, like the trails. So we spent just a few hours there, but it was cool to see the mountain carving and learn more about how it came to be. And, with Thomas Jefferson and George Washington’s faces being on the mountain, you can bet we made Hamilton references!

The face of Crazy Horse

After Mount Rushmore, we drove to another mountain carving landmark, Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse is a work in progress, but it will be a mountain carving of the Native American leader it’s named for. Since Crazy Horse isn’t finished yet, and it doesn’t have the money or status of a national park, we didn’t spend too much time there. But it was awesome to learn more about Native Americans, their culture, and their history at the welcome center.

Next was the Needles Highway, which is part of Highway 87 in Custer State Park in South Dakota. It’s basically a narrow, winding road surrounded by huge granite spires. Because the road isn’t very wide and full of sharp turns and one-car tunnels, it’s pretty scary to drive on, so we’re definitely glad it was our dad who was driving and not us. The highway provides great views of the cool rock formations and the surrounding landscapes.

A panorama from a scenic overlook on the Needles Highway

Once we were done with the western part of the state, we headed east to start our journey home. But we had two stops along the way. First was Badlands National Park, which is a huge national park full of sedimentary rock formations and canyons. Someone described it to us “natural castles,” which is a great way of describing it. The park is so big that it can take hours to drive through the whole thing, see it all, and even climb on some of the rocks.

Some formations at Badlands National Park

Lots of wildlife―such as prairie dogs, rams, and buffalo―live in the Badlands, and if you get lucky enough you can even see some. There’s a certain area of the park where you’ll find the wildlife, specifically bison, but we only saw a ton of prairie dogs. We did see a few rams while driving through the park, though! One ram was right by a car in the parking lot near a scenic outlook, and people didn’t seem startled by it at all.

Our last stop on the road trip was Sioux Falls. It was basically a pit stop on our way home because driving from Mount Rushmore to the Chicago suburbs is like a 16-hour trip, but we did spend a little bit of time exploring South Dakota’s largest city.

The view from the Falls Park tower

We spent most of our time in Sioux Falls at its namesake falls. The waterfalls aren’t huge like Niagara Falls or anything, but they are still pretty to see. There are a bunch of flat rocks that you can walk on to get closer to the falls that make for great photos. The Falls Park visitors center also has a scenic tower that gives you a great view of the entire length of the falls. We were hoping to walk around downtown a bit and see what local stores and restaurants they had, but our dad was in a rush to go home, so the waterfalls were pretty much all we saw there.

Wyoming

While we were still on the west side of South Dakota and not far from Wyoming, we took a quick road trip to Devils Tower in northeastern Wyoming.

Devils Tower

Devils Tower is basically a big, tall igneous rock formation. There a main trail that goes all around the formation that also offers great views of the landscape below. The trail is close enough to formation that you get a good look at the texture and details of it.

If you look closely at the far right of the rock, you can see someone climbing Devils Tower.

For big risk-takers, you can even climb Devils Tower with the proper registration and permits. While we were walking the trail, we saw someone climbing, and he/she got pretty high up! That’s pretty much all there is to do at Devils Tower, so it was a rather short trip. It’s a good place to visit if you want to get away and simply enjoy nature, especially because there isn’t very good cell phone reception  or even Wi-Fi around there.

Historical Adventures: Filipino American History Month

October has been officially recognized as Filipino American History Month since November 2009 when Congress passed the resolution for its recognition. But FAHM has been observed since the inaugural one in 1991. The month was established by the Filipino American National Historical Society in 1991.

October was chosen as FAHM to commemorate when Filipinos first came to the continental U.S. on October 18, 1587. The month’s purpose is to bring awareness to the ways Filipinos have contributed to American history.

In honor of FAHM, we spent October learning more about how some of our fellow Filipinos have contributed to American society through basketball, Broadway, and gymnastics―some of our biggest interests.

The following lists are not complete lists of Filipinos in their respective fields. Broadway performers are listed under the show they are best known for.

Basketball

Photo credit Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Name: Jordan Clarkson
Bio: Clarkson is the lone active NBA player of Filipino descent, getting such heritage from his mother. In June 2018, he became the first Filipino to play in the NBA Finals.

He played collegiately at the University of Tulsa before transferring to the University of Missouri. Clarkson was drafted by the Washington Wizards with the 46th overall pick in the 2014 draft. He was then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, spending the 2014-2015 season going back and forth from the Lakers to its D-League (now G-League) affiliate―the D-Fenders―before ending the season as a starter for the Lakers.

Along with Jeremy Lin, Clarkson was a part of the first Asian-American backcourt in the NBA.
NBA Draft: 2014 – 16th pick of the 2nd round, 46th overall
NBA Career:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers (2018-Present)
  • Los Angeles Lakers (2014-18)

Accomplishments:

  • 2014-15 All-Rookie First Team

 

Photo via Yahoo Sports

Name: Nate Robinson
Bio: In 2001, Robinson, whose Filipino heritage comes from his maternal great-great-grandfather, started school at the University of Washington on a football scholarship before choosing to focus on basketball during his sophomore year. He played three seasons on the Huskies men’s basketball team, passing on his final year of eligibility to enter the 2005 NBA draft.

Robinson is best known for being an undersized guard with a tremendous vertical leap, giving way to an explosive dunking ability. He is the NBA’s three-time slam dunk champion.
NBA Draft: 2005 – 21st overall pick
NBA Career:

  • New Orleans Pelicans (2015)
  • Los Angeles Clippers (2015)
  • Denver Nuggets (2013-15)
  • Chicago Bulls (2012-13)
  • Golden State Warriors (2012)
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (2011)
  • Boston Celtics (2010-11)
  • New York Knicks (2005-10)

Accomplishments:

  • NBA Slam Dunk Champion (2006, 2009, 2010)

Photo via NBA

Name: Erik Spoelstra
Bio: Spoelstra, whose mother is Filipino, is the head coach of the Miami Heat. Not only is he the first Asian-American coach to win an NBA title, but he’s also the first Asian-American head coach out of the four major sports leagues.

He played collegiately at the University of Portland from 1988 to 1992 and went on to play professionally in Germany as a player/assistant coach for the TuS Herten basketball club.
NBA Career:

  • Miami Heat head coach (2008-Present)
  • Miami Heat assistant coach (1997-2008)
  • Miami Heat director of scouting (2001-2008)
  • Miami Heat advanced scout (1999-2001)
  • Miami Heat video coordinator (1995-1997)

Accomplishments:

  • NBA Championship (2006, 2012, 2013)
  • NBA Co-Coach of the Year (2017)

Photo via Getty Images/NBA

Name: Raymond Townsend
Bio: Townsend, whose mother is from the Philippines, played three seasons in the NBA and was the first Filipino-American to play in the league. Before the NBA, he played college basketball at UCLA and earned all-conference honors.

He was drafted by the Golden State Warriors as the 22nd overall pick in the 1978 draft.
Currently/Previously: Retired
History:

  • Indiana Pacers (1981)
  • Golden State Warriors (1978-80)

Broadway

Aladdin

Photo via Nickelodeon

Name: Joshua Dela Cruz
Bio: Dela Cruz started doing theatre in high school, joining the program there to make friends. The summer before his junior year, he studied at Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey on a scholarship. He then went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theatre from Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey. Cast as an ensemble member and understudy for the titular role, Dela Cruz made his Broadway debut in Aladdin. He had been with the show since its first production in 2011.

Now, Dela Cruz will be the host for Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues reboot. Interestingly enough, he grew up watching the show and would sing the “Mailtime Song” to his sister.
Currently/Last seen in: Blue’s Clues & You – Host
Major Broadway credits:

  • Aladdin on Broadway – Aladdin replacement, Aladdin understudy, ensemble

Via adamjacobs.net

Name: Adam Jacobs
Bio: As a child, Jacobs studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as a pianist. He studied piano for until he was 13 before trying musical theatre. During high school, he furthered his musical theatre education by attending the summer programs at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia and the American Conservative Theater in downtown San Francisco.

Jacobs went on to study at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater. He eventually was cast in the Les Misérables national tour as Marius. He then made his Broadway debut in the 2006 revival of the show, working alongside fellow Filipinos Ali Ewoldt and Lea Salonga.

Jacobs is best known for originating the title role in Aladdin, which opened on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre in March 2014. He was also with the show since its first production in 2011.
Currently/Last seen in: Sweet Charity at Lincolnshire, IL’s Marriott Theatre – Vittorio Vidal
Major Broadway credits:

  • Aladdin National Tour – Aladdin
  • Aladdin on Broadway – Aladdin
  • The Lion King on Broadway – Simba replacement
  • The Lion King North American tour – Simba replacement
  • Mamma Mia! second national tour – Sky replacement
  • Les Misérables Broadway revival – Marius
  • Les Misérables third national tour – Marius replacement

Photo credit Deen van Meer

Name: Arielle Jacobs
Bio: Jacobs sang in her church choir alongside her brother, Adam―who originated the title role in Aladdin on Broadway. The two were in a song and dance troupe called “The Razzle Dazzle Kids” together. She started doing theatre in high school but was unsure of whether to pursue music professionally. When applying to colleges, half of the schools Jacobs applied for were for music, and the other half were for science. She only got into the schools where she applied for music. Jacobs ended up attending NYU, graduating magna cum laude.

In 2010, she made her Broadway debut in In the Heights as Nina. In 2016, she originated the role of Princess Jasmine in the Australian production of Aladdin. Jacobs now plays the same role in the Broadway production of the show.
Currently/Last seen in: Aladdin on Broadway – Jasmine replacement
Major Broadway credits:

  • Aladdin on Broadway – Princess Jasmine replacement
  • In the Heights – Nina replacement
  • In the Heights national tour – Nina
  • Wicked – Nessarose replacement
  • High School Musical on Stage – Gabriella Montez

Photo credit Marc J. Franklin

Name: Don Darryl Rivera
Bio: Rivera, a Seattle native, has loved singing since he was a child and took piano lessons growing up. He was also a member of a Filipino folk dance group called Kultura. In high school, he decided to pursue an acting career and went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington.

He did numerous productions at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington D.C.; the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and the Seattle Children’s Theatre before originating the role of Iago in Aladdin’s world premiere at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre. He eventually went on to originate the same role when Aladdin opened on Broadway in 2014 and remains a member of the cast as Iago.

Rivera is also an accomplished composer and playwright, having contributed to children’s musicals. As a playwright, he did the book for the musical Harold and the Purple Crayon, which is based on the children’s book. He also collaborated on the book and music for the musical Adventures with Spot, which was adapted from Eric Hill’s Spot book franchise.
Currently/Last seen in: Aladdin on Broadway – Iago
Major Broadway credits:

  • Aladdin on Broadway – Iago
  • Aladdin national tour – Iago

Hamilton

Photo via Isa Briones

Name: Isa Briones
Bio: Briones is the daughter of Miss Saigon’s Jon Jon Briones and Megan Johnson Briones. With actors as parents, she was born into a musical theatre family. In fact, she was born in London while Jon Jon was closing the original West End production of Miss Saigon. However, it wasn’t until her family moved to Los Angeles that she started her acting career. She did television and film but committed to doing musical theatre while Jon Jon did the West End revival of Miss Saigon starting in 2014.

At the start of the year, Briones won the “Featured Actress in a Musical” award at the Ovation Awards, peer-judged theatre awards in Los Angeles. The award was for her portrayal of Natalie in Next to Normal at the East West Players theater.

In March, Briones joined the Hamilton first national tour cast, becoming the youngest member of the company.

She was also in the Emmy Award-winning American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace as Elena Cunanan.
Currently/Last seen in: Hamilton Angelica national tour – Peggy Schuyler, Maria Reynolds replacement; Eliza Schuyler/Hamilton understudy
Major Broadway credits:

  • Hamilton Angelica national tour – Peggy Schuyler, Maria Reynolds replacement; Eliza Schuyler/Hamilton understudy

Photo via Karla Garcia/Broadway Dance Center

Name: Karla Garcia
Bio: Garcia is a Maryland native who took her first tap dance class at 3 years old. She started dancing competitively at 8 years old and got her first professional gig when she was 12 years old, performing in Brothers of the Knight with Debbie Allen at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. It was at this age that Garcia also decided she wanted to be a professional dancer.

She went on to attend NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts on a scholarship. While there, she became involved with the International Filipino Association and participated in their dance team. In 2006, she made her Broadway debut in the musical Hot Feet, which featured Earth, Wind and Fire’s music, as a member of the ensemble. After its three-month run on Broadway, she returned to NYU to get her degree. In 2009, Garcia competed in season five of So You Think You Can Dance and was a member of the top 20.

Now, Garcia is best known for being the first Filipino-American cast member of Hamilton. She also is a choreographer, having won the “Best Choreography” award at the 2017 Richmond Theatre Critics Circle Award for Virginia Repertory Theatre’s production of ’ In the Heights.
Currently/Last seen in: Hamilton – Co-dance captain
Major Broadway credits:

  • Hamilton – Co-dance captain
  • Gigi Broadway revival – Parisian replacement
  • The Addams Family – Addams ancestor
  • West Side Story – Lupe replacement, swing
  • Wicked Emerald City tour – Ensemble replacement
  • Hot Feet – Ensemble

Photo via Jamila Sabares-Klemm

Name: Jamila Sabares-Klemm
Bio: Jabares-Klemm is a Filipino-born actress, singer, and dancer who’s most well known for her role as Eliza in the Chicago production of Hamilton. A lot of her childhood was spent in the Philippines, but she later moved to Baltimore, Maryland, and attended an arts school there. Jabares-Klemm is a Nittany Lion alumna as she received her B.F.A. in musical theatre from Penn State University. Her resume includes a plethora of regional and touring productions, including the first national tour of Hair, Chicago Lyric Opera’s production of The King and I, and Macbeth at the New York Classical Theatre.
Currently/Last seen in: Hamilton Chicago – Eliza Schuyler/Hamilton
Major Broadway credits:

  • Hamilton Chicago – Eliza Schuyler/Hamilton
  • Hair first national tour – Member of the Tribe replacement, Sheila understudy

Miss Saigon

Photo credit Emilio Madrid-Kuser

Name: Emily Bautista
Bio: Bautista previously went to Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, for theatre arts with the intent to look into other programs. She had become discouraged about a professional career in theatre and started to distance herself from it. But she ended up being offered the Kim Understudy/Female Ensemble role for Miss Saigon’s Broadway revival, making her Broadway debut in the show. She will now be Kim in the current U.S. national tour for Miss Saigon and will eventually go back to school “on (her) own time and with (her) own money.”
Currently/Last seen in: Miss Saigon U.S. national tour – Kim
Major Broadway Credits:

  • Les Misérables North American tour – Éponine
  • Miss Saigon Broadway revival – Kim understudy, bar girl

Photo via officiallondontheatre.com

Name: Jon Jon Briones
Bio: Briones was an engineering student before getting into musical theatre. He had a friend who was a producer that was facilitating the auditions for Miss Saigon. Briones helped arrange the auditions and then decided to audition himself, landing a spot in the ensemble. After doing Saigon in London, he went on to be a swing—and later the Engineer—for a German production of the show. Eventually, he returned to the West End to play the Engineer followed by the Philippines and across Asia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Briones made his Broadway debut as the Engineer in 2017. He also portrayed Modesto Cunanan in the Emmy Award-winning American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace.
Currently/Last seen in: American Horror Story – Grand Chancellor Ariel
Major Broadway Credits:

  • Miss Saigon Broadway revival – The Engineer
  • Miss Saigon West End revival – The Engineer
  • Miss Saigon West End – Ensemble

Photo via IBDB

Name: Billy Bustamante
Bio: Bustamante is a director, performer, choreographer, and photographer who studied musical theatre at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He made his Broadway debut in 2015 when he was a swing in The King and I’s Broadway revival. Bustamante is a co-founder of Broadway Barkada, a Filipino cultural organization made up of Filipino performers; has a photography business, Billy B Photography; and acts as co-artistic director for B-Side Productions, a New York City-based theatre company.
Currently/Last seen in: Soft Power world premiere in Los Angeles – Cast
Major Broadway Credits:

  • Miss Saigon Broadway revival – The Engineer understudy, assistant commisar, moulin club owner
  • The King and I Broadway revival – Swing, Lun Tha understudy

Via broadwaydirect.com

Name: Eva Noblezada
Bio: Noblezada went to the Northwest School of the Arts and was one of five finalists at the 2013 National High School Musical Theatre Awards — better known as the Jimmy Awards. She was noticed by a casting director at the awards ceremony and was eventually cast to play lead the West End revival of Miss Saigon as Kim. She later made her Broadway debut in March 2017, reprising the role of Kim for Saigon’s Broadway revival. Noblezada will be in a musical movie Yellow Rose, starring opposite of Saigon’s original Kim, Lea Salonga.
Currently/Last seen in: Hadestown West End – Eurydice
Major Broadway Credits:

  • Miss Saigon Broadway revival – Kim
  • Les Misérables West End – Éponine
  • Miss Saigon West End revival – Kim

Photo via IBDB

Name: Catherine Ricafort
Bio: Ricafort is a 2009 graduate of the University of Southern California. At USC, she majored in industrial and system engineering and minored in musical theatre. She also held principal roles with the Pacific Festival Ballet Company and the USC Repertory Dance Company. Despite her major, Ricafort wanted to try pursuing a professional career in theatre, and it paid off when she joined the company for A Chorus Line’s national tour. She followed that with her Broadway debut in Mamma Mia!. After Honeymoon in Vegas abruptly closed in 2015, Ricafort made use of her engineering degree by helping launch Homepolish’s product division. She then returned to Broadway in Allegiance and has since been a part of numerous Broadway productions.
Currently/Last seen in: SpongeBob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical – Karen the Computer
Major Broadway credits:

  • SpongeBob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical – Karen the Computer replacement, undersea creature replacement
  • Miss Saigon Broadway revival – Dominique, Patpong street worker
  • Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical – Lila Dixon understudy, KENO Quartet, Cat’s Meow dancer, ensemble
  • Disaster! – Ben/Lisa understudy, casino guest, staff, Traci
  • Allegiance – Betsy Tanaka, ensemble
  • Honeymoon in Vegas – Mahi, ensemble
  • Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella – Ensemble
  • Mamma Mia! – Ali replacement, ensemble
  • A Chorus Line national tour – Connie replacement

Photo credit Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images North America

Name: Lea Salonga
Bio: Salonga, a child star in the Philippines, was a pre-med biology student at Ateneo de Manila University when she auditioned to be in the 1989 original production of Miss Saigon in the West End. She ended up originating the role of Kim and went on to make her Broadway debut in the same role when Saigon transferred to Broadway in 1991, winning the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. She has since performed in numerous musical productions on Broadway, across the U.S., in the Philippines, and throughout Asia. Her most recent Broadway role was portraying Erzulie in the Tony Award-winning revival of Once on This Island. Salonga is best known by the general public for being the singing voice of Disney’s Princess Jasmine in the animated Aladdin movie and Fa Mulan in the animated Mulan movie, making her the only person to have voiced multiple Disney princesses.
Currently/Last seen in: Annie at the Hollywood Bowl – Grace Farrell
Major Broadway credits:

  • Once on This Island Broadway revival – Erzulie
  • Allegiance – Kei Kimura
  • Les Misérables Broadway revival – Fantine replacement
  • Flower Drum Song Broadway revival – Mei-Li
  • Les Misérables – Eponine replacement
  • Miss Saigon – Kim
  • Miss Saigon West End – Kim

Photo credit Billy Bustamante

Name: Lianah Sta. Ana
Bio: Sta. Ana became the first Filipino-American to win the Star of Tomorrow singing contest at Harlem’s Apollo Theater. She was also the junior grand champion at the World Championships of Performing Arts in 2010. Furthermore, as a child, she sung at Madison Square Garden, the U.S. Open, and at Yankees and Mets games. At 17 years old, she made her Broadway debut as a member of the ensemble in Miss Saigon. Sta. Ana, also the Kim alternate, made her debut as the 17-year-old Kim on March 4, 2017. She is currently attending Columbia University’s School of General Studies part-time.
Currently/Last seen in: Women on Fire: Stories from the Frontlines Off-Broadway – Performer
Major Broadway credits:

  • Miss Saigon Broadway revival – Kim alternate

Newsies

Photo credit Cindy Ord/Getty Images North America

Name: Aaron Albano
Bio: Albano sang solos in church growing up, which is how he discovered his love for the performing arts. He joined the Children’s Musical Theatre of San Jose and took dance classes at Marie Stinnett Dance Studio. Come high school, his commitment to performing arts remained strong, as he attended Abraham Lincoln High School, a performing arts magnet school, in San Jose, California.

Albano went on to study musical theatre at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and immediately moved to New York City afterwards. He made his Broadway debut in 2004 as an ensemble member in Bombay Dreams. He is well known for being an original cast member of Newsies.
Currently/Last seen in: Hamilton Philip national tour – Ensemble
Major Broadway credits:

  • Hamilton Philip national tour – Ensemble
  • Cats – Chorus, Skimbleshanks, swing
  • Allegiance – Tom Maruyama, ensemble, Sammy Kimura understudy
  • The King and I – Assistant dance captain, Simon of Legree understudy, swing
  • Newsies the Musical – Finch, A Citizen of New York, Bunsen understudy, Seitz understudy
  • Wicked – Ensemble, Boq understudy
  • Wicked Emerald City national tour – Ensemble, Boq understudy
  • Mary Poppins – Valentine, ensemble, Robertson Ay understudy
  • A Chorus Line – Mark understudy, Paul understudy, swing
  • The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee – Chip Tolentino
  • Bombay Dreams – Emsemble, Akaash understudy

Photo via Disney

Name: Julian DeGuzman
Bio: DeGuzman has been dancing since he was 3 years old, the age when his father enrolled him in classes. He was doing a variety of styles early on, taking ballet, jazz, and tap classes in addition to gymnastics. He committed to dance by the time he was in high school, studying at the San Francisco Ballet School. His dance education continued at the University of California-Irvine, where DeGuzman double majored in fine arts – dance and sociology.

From 2009 to 2011, DeGuzman’s dancing career was jeopardized when he had several surgeries to treat a rare form of a bone tumor in his left femoral head, the top part of the thigh bone. But he overcame the tumor to make his Broadway debut in Newsies. DeGuzman is also featured in the filmed stage version of Newsies, which is available on Netflix and Amazon, as Smalls.
Currently/Last seen in: Hello, Dolly! on Tour – Ensemble, Barnaby Tucker understudy
Major Broadway credits:

  • Hello, Dolly! on Tour – Ensemble, Barnaby Tucker understudy
  • Hello, Dolly! Broadway revival – Ensemble replacement
  • Miss Saigon Broadway revival – Barman, Vietnamese Army Soldier, Thuy understudy
  • Newsies the Musical North American tour – Finch, A Citizen of New York, ensemble, swing
  • Newsies the Musical – Assistant dance captain, swing

Photo via IBDB

Name: Nico DeJesus
Bio: DeJesus’s first dance class was a free hip-hop class that his parent took him to. He ended up excelling at it and began to take hip-hop at Neisha’s Dance and Music Academy in Chula Vista, California. At a child, DeJesus also did roller hockey and eventually had to decide between that and dance. He ended up picking dance and went on to study dance at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts. Afterwards, he studied at UCLA.

During high school, DeJesus was featured in two Barbie commercials and in Jay Z’s “Izzo” video. He has also been on MTV’s Awkward as Henry and a dancer in Disney’s television show Shake It Up.

DeJesus is best known for portraying Romeo in the Newsies national tour and is featured in the same role in the filmed stage version, too. He made his Broadway debut earlier this year in Pretty Woman: The Musical.
Currently/Last seen in: Pretty Woman: The Musical – Assistant dance captain, swing
Major Broadway credits:

  • Pretty Woman: The Musical – Assistance dance captain, swing
  • Newsies the Musical North American tour – Romeo, A Citizen of New York, ensemble

The Phantom of the Opera

Photo credit Matthew Murphy

Name: Ali Ewoldt
Bio: Ewoldt, who gets her Filipino heritage from her mother, took voice, dance, and oboe lessons as a child. She did musical theatre all throughout high school and even won an award for her role in The King and I her senior year. Knowing the challenging nature of making it in the musical theatre business, though, Ewoldt decided to go to Yale because it was a school where she could continue performing but still pursue something else. She ended up getting a degree in psychology, graduating cum laude, but at least wanted to try to pursue theatre.

During a production of The Marriage of Figaro by Yale’s opera program, she was discovered by an agent from New York and joined the agency. She started working at Disneyland’s California Adventure as the Princess Jasmine body double/understudy in Aladdin. Ewoldt then worked at DisneySea Park in Tokyo.

When she returned to the United States, she joined the national tour of Les Misérables as a member of the ensemble. When the tour closed, she made her Broadway debut in the Les Misérables Broadway revival as Cosette alongside fellow Filipinos Adam Jacobs (who originated the title role in Aladdin on Broadway) and Lea Salonga (the singing voice for Disney’s Princess Jasmine from Aladdin and Mulan in Mulan, the original Kim in Miss Saigon).

Now, Ewoldt is Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera, Broadway’s longest-running show. Not only is she the first Filipino to portray Christine, but she is also the first Asian to portray the female lead.
Currently/Last seen in: The Phantom of the Opera – Christine Daaé replacement
Major Broadway credits:

  • The Phantom of the Opera – Christine Daaé replacement
  • The King and I Broadway revival – Royal wife, Townsperson, royal singer, Tuptim understudy
  • West Side Story 2010-2012 national tour – Maria
  • Les Misérables Broadway revival – Cosette
  • Les Misérables national tour – Ensemble

Gymnastics

Photo via LSU Athletics

Name: Sarah Finnegan
Bio: Finnegan is a former U.S. elite gymnast and current NCAA gymnastics star at LSU. The highlight of her elite gymnastics career is when she was named to the 2012 Olympic team as an alternate, making her the second Filipino of the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics training squad, as Kyla Ross was the first. She’s from St. Louis, where she began the sport. Her mom, Linabelle, from whom she gets her Filipino heritage from, put her older sister in the sport, and she also wanted to try it. After the 2008 Olympics, the Finnegan family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, so she could chase her Olympic dream and train at Great American Gymnastics Express, gym of Olympians Courtney McCool and Terin Humphrey.

In 2012, she became an Olympic contender, known for her balance beam and floor exercise work and elegant, artistic gymnastics. Injuries prevented her from competing at the elite level following 2012, and in 2015, she joined the LSU Tigers gymnastics program on a full scholarship. At LSU, her well-executed and beautiful gymnasts shine. Now in her final year at LSU, she’s one of the best NCAA gymnasts in the world.
Currently/Previously: Senior gymnast at LSU
Accomplishments:

  • 2018 NCAA Championships – 4th team, 7th BB, 8th all-around
  • 2018 NCAA Regionals – 1st team, all-around, and floor; 2nd balance beam, 3rd uneven bars
  • 2018 SEC Championships – 1st team and all-around
  • Perfect 10.0 on bars and beam on March 17, 2018
  • Perfect 10.0 on floor on March 4, 2018
  • 2017 NCAA Championships – 1st uneven bars, 2nd team, 3rd floor exercise, 4th all-around, 8th balance beam
  • 2017 NCAA Regionals – 1st team, all-around, and uneven bars
  • 2017 SEC Championships – 1st team
  • 2016 NCAA Championships – 2nd team, 4th uneven bars
  • 2012 Olympic team alternate
  • 2012 Olympic Trials – 5th balance beam, 4th floor exercise, 6th all-around
  • 2012 Visa Championships – 2nd balance beam, 4th floor exercise, 6th all-around
  • 2010 Pan American Championships – 1st team, 3rd balance beam

Photo credit Christy Ann Linder

Name: Emma Malabuyo
Bio: Malabuyo is a rising Filipino-American elite gymnast whose goal is to make the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. She is a two-time U.S. National Team member who excels on balance beam and floor exercise. Born in California, Malabuyo began the sport because she enjoyed flipping and climbing around the house and watching videos of the sport. After moving to Texas, she decided to train at Texas Dreams Gymnastics and began her elite career in 2015.

Since then, Malabuyo has represented the U.S. in several international competitions but has yet to receive an international assignment as a senior elite gymnast who is eligible to compete at World Championships and the Olympics. As of late August, Malabuyo is recovering from an injury that prevented her from competing in the national championships and making the national team. She has verbally committed to UCLA to compete for the Bruins gymnastics team following her high school graduation.
Accomplishments:

  • 2018 City of Jesolo Trophy – 1st AA, BB, and FX
  • 2017 International Junior Gymnastics Competition –  1st FX, 2nd AA and BB, 3rd VT and UB
  • 2017 P&G Gymnastics Championships – 1st FX, 2nd AA and UB, 3rd VT, 4th BB
  • 2017 Gymnix International Junior Cup – 1st team, VT
  • 2016 Gymnix International Junior Cup – 1st team, BB, and FX; 3rd AA

Photo credit Axel Lopez/Daily Bruin

Name: Kyla Ross
Bio: Ross is arguably the most famous and successful Filipino-American gymnast, rising to fame after winning the Team USA’s first gold medal in the women’s gymnastics team competition on international soil at the 2012 London Olympics with the “Fierce Five.” She was born in Hawai’i to Jason and Kiana Ross and gets her Filipino heritage from her Filipino and Puerto Rican mom. Ross is known for her clean and artistic gymnastics that have made her a legendary reliable competitor in elite and collegiate gymnastics. After winning the 2018 NCAA Championships with her UCLA Bruins team, she is the first female gymnast to ever win Olympic, World, and NCAA Championships.
Currently/Previously: Junior gymnast at UCLA
Accomplishments:

  • 2018 NCAA Championships – 1st team, 2nd BB, 3rd UB, 4th AA
  • Perfect 10.0 on bars in March 2018
  • 2018 Pac-12 Championships – 1st AA and UB
  • 2017 NCAA Championships – 1st VT and BB, 4th team, 6th AA
  • 2017 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year
  • 2017 Pac-12 Championships – 1st BB
  • Perfect 10.0 on beam in March 2017
  • 2014 World Championships – 1st team, 3rd AA, 6th BB
  • 2013 Longines Prize for Elegance at the World Championships
  • 2013 World Championships – 2nd AA, UB, and BB; 5th FX
  • 2012 Olympic gold medalist – team competition
  • 2012 Olympic team member

 

Dance Adventures: Our Favorite Routines from Summer 2018

Summer has become the time where dance shows dominate our TVs, giving us plenty of routines to watch. We’ve watched So You Think You Can Dance for over a decade, so our summers have been often occupied with watching dance. But with World of Dance‘s growing popularity and a newfound interest in regularly watching YouTube videos of dance classes―particularly those at Millennium Dance Complex Los Angeles―this summer has been filled with more dance than any other.

With the plethora of dances we’ve watched, it was difficult to narrow down our favorite ones from the summer. But with tremendous technique, storytelling, and performance quality, these stood out among the rest.

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Our Adventures of Summer 2018

Now that Labor Day weekend is over, summer 2018 is in the past, making it the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past three months and the adventures we’ve had. We haven’t had the most exciting summer, as we didn’t go on vacation or anything extravagant like that. But we still had some good experiences that made the summer an eventful one—many of which happened to involve Broadway. Continue reading