LONDON –”I still can’t believe I’m here. It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I’m playing a leading lady in the West End. Sometimes, I’m just out there on the stage and I still can’t believe it’s happening. I feel very blessed, and I’m very thankful that I’m here,” theatre actress Tanya Manalang enthused, over her West End debut as Kim in the musical revival of Miss Saigon.
Twenty-six-year-old Manalang alternates in the lead role for the musical hit, which returned to West End after a hiatus of 15 years.
Manalang skillfully tackles the role, originally played by Lea Salonga over 20 years ago, opposite fellow thespians Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer, Alistair Brammer as Chris. Eva Noblezada stars as Kim, as well.
In an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN from her dressing room at Prince Edward theatre, the actress recounted how the Manila production of Miss Saigon molded her dreams of making a name for herself in theatre.
“I was around 11 or 12 (years old), in CCP in Manila. Lea (Salonga) was Kim and it was the first time I saw her perform upclose. It was breathtaking: the way she did everything. I was so inspired to actually do something in musical theatre,” she said.
Manalang, who began her formal training in theater at the age of six, recently furthered her training in the musical theatre at the Arts Educational School and London.
She revealed that she was halfhearted about leaving the Philippines when she auditioned for Miss Saigon in Manila, but that she was certain she wanted to be part of the Cameron Mackintosh production.
Thanks to the support of her theatre friends, family and mentors; she opted to try out for the musical.
“Pinush nila ako. I got a call back from the audition. And then after that, iba na yung feeling. I had only two hours to learn ‘I give my life for you’ for the call back. And after, I thought this is a sign,” she said.
The current run of Miss Saigon by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil is comprised of an international cast of 18 nationalities.
Manalang describes the revival as as a ‘darker version, more organic, passionate and sensual.”
Finally she shares that she hopes to serve as an inspiration to younger and aspiring actress to keep on believing and to work for their dreams.
“I never imagined myself to be here, to be where I am right now. Just never stop dreaming, never stop praying,” she said.