West End’s Gia Macuja is singing ‘Ibong Adarna’ in original Ballet Manila production
She has made her mark on London’s West End, counting stellar turns in “The Lion King,” “Miss Saigon,” and 2016’s “Here Lies Love.” But for Gia Macuja-Atchison, there is simply no place like home.
“This will be one of my longest stays in the Philippines since I left 20 years ago for England,” said Gia, who’s in town to take on the singing lead role in Gerardo Francisco’s “Ibong Adarna,” Ballet Manila’s 22nd season opener. “I had to be here for two weeks of rehearsals as well as another two weekends of the shows.”
Though it’s not really a holiday for Gia, she said it is a vacation for her husband Bob Atchison and their kids Abigail and Jamie.
“My mom and dad are helping look after my family while I rehearse and do the shows. I was, however, allowed by my boss to go on a short holiday to a resort for the long weekend,” Gia said.
The boss she was referring to is older sister Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, artistic director of Ballet Manila, who thought “Ibong Adarna” should have both a dancing and singing mythical bird.
Gia will wear the same costume as dancers Abigail Oliveiro and Katherine Barkman, who share the dancing role.
Gia, a trained soprano, actually had to mine her classical background to prepare “Adarna.”
“Since the bulk of my work in London has been mainly focused on the lower register and belt range of my musical theater voice for ‘Miss Saigon,’ ‘Lion King’ and ‘Here Lies Love,’ I knew I would need a bit of time to get my classical voice back into shape. I was originally trained in the classical voice, so I really enjoyed going back to my roots in this role,” she said.
“Adarna” composer Diwa de Leon had sent her the materials online early on so that she could rehearse while still in the United Kingdom.
“I really wanted the feedback of Diwa the minute I got off the plane because it’s one thing to learn the music via cyberspace, and another to actually have a one-on-one session with him directly,” Gia said. “He really helped me understand why he wrote certain bits of music at certain points in the story and how to interpret it.”
To keep her voice in tiptop shape, Gia said she did daily vocal exercises and took honey ginger tea and honey to soothe her throat, too.
“I also took ballet classes upon the advice of my sister to improve my stature onstage as well as learn graceful arm movements,” she added.
She praised choreographer Francisco, expressing surprise at how he managed to condense the story into an hour and a half.”
It is truly a grand and beautiful production,” she added. —CONTRIBUTED
“Ibong Adarna” will have two more shows on Sept. 2, 6 p.m., and on Sept. 3, 3 p.m., at Aliw Theater, CCP Complex, Pasay City. Call 8919999.
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