“How’s your singing — like your Tita’s or like your Mom’s?” This was a direct quote from Director Robbie Guevarra of 9 Works Theater Company while interviewing Missy Macuja Elizalde. My 16-year-old daughter is set to make her first musical theater appearance in the company’s February run of La Cage Aux Folles. Yes, I am thrilled to share that my daughter is on the brink of a musical theater career! The very same career that her Auntie Gia has been in for most of her life.
My baby sister, Gia, has always been the real singer of our family of wanna-bes. So yes, Robbie Guevarra, I do hope my daughter takes after her aunt! Anyway, Gia started displaying her talent as our alternative car radio at the age of four – standing in the middle of our Kombi’s front seat and singing her heart out while Joly and I held up both her arms so she wouldn’t fall. (Sorry, but at that time, car seats for toddlers were still unheard of.)
As my parents were always very supportive of our talents and interests, she was sent to Maestra Mercedes Santiago for formal singing lessons. Later, she joined Repertory Philippines and did several musical theater productions in which her coloratura soprano voice never failed to astound us!
Gia then moved to England, where she went to Mountview Conservatory to get a degree in Musical Theater — and even before graduation, managed to land a contract in the London run of Miss Saigon. She first played Gigi, and also became the first Asian Ellen.
From there, she went on to be part of the original West End cast of the Lion King. There, she eventually met and married the show’s first violinist Robert Atchison, with whom she now has two children – Abigail, 9 (who is following in her mom’s footsteps and is in Lion King’s Cub School training for a run as Little Nala) and Jamie, 6.
Not one to rest, my sister also formed a musical trio together with fellow Miss Saigon alumnae, Maya Barredo-Duffy and Cez Campos-Bonner. Collectively known as the West End Mamas (who sometimes also perform with their respective Papas), the group has been actively doing concerts in the UK and has guested twice in the Philippines for shows with Ballet Manila. On their first run, they even won as Best New Group at the 26th Aliw Awards!
This year, our Gia landed another big role playing Estrella Cumpas, one of the three major characters in the critically-acclaimed production of Here Lies Love at the National Theatre. Indeed, even as I write, my gorgeous baby sister is out hob-nobbing with acting greats at the Royal Opera House for this year’s Evening Standard Theatre Awards, where she joined the rest of the Here Lies Love cast in receiving their “Beyond Theatre” Award, given “for pushing the boundaries of the musical”.
I have always been proud of my baby sister and I always will be. In fact, I can’t wait to watch her this December and spend our first white Christmas together in London! Good job, Gia! And see you soon!