With an upcoming concert underway for her homecoming in the Philippines this February, plus returning to play Fantine in Les Miserables in March, Rachelle Ann Go opens up to MEGA about her newfound perspective of home, love, and theater.
There’s a sense of Filipino pride whenever anyone mentions the name, ‘Rachelle Ann Go’. From her Broadway debut in Miss Saigon back in 2014 as Gigi, and her portrayal of Eliza Schuyler in the acclaimed hip-hop musical, Hamilton, to reprising her role as Fantine in the West End production of the well-loved Les Miserables, Rachelle has truly made waves in the international scene. Yet, as she steps into the dimly lit Grand Bar and Lounge in Resorts World, wearing a plain blue dress and flip flops, Rachelle exuded nothing but simplicity. She was makeup-less, all smiles, and holding a surgical mask in her hand as she greeted us. Anyone who didn’t know her would never have thought that they were in the presence of an international star. But it all changed when she began humming a simple tune –silent enough for only the people surrounding her to hear, but loud enough to know that she is brimming of talent within her.
Rachelle has many surprising quirks about her. One is that she wasn’t interested in musical theater before landing a role in one of Broadway’s biggest shows. In the middle of hair and makeup, she brought up that years ago, before she was exposed to musicals, Rachelle’s uncle took her to watch Miss Saigon while she was in Canada. “I was like, ‘what’s Miss Saigon?'” she laughs. “I wasn’t a fan of musical theater. I grew up singing pop music and I was idolizing pop singers. But when I first saw Miss Saigon in Canada, I had a vision of myself doing this show, and then after two years, the production company of Miss Saigon went here in the Philippines for an audition.”
“I didn’t tell anyone, even my friends. So, I went there and auditioned for the main part. And then I didn’t hear from them for about a year, and then I got an email saying: ‘We want you to be in the show but we want you to play the role of Gigi and she wears this and that…’ So, doon pa lang natakot na ako.”
It was that leap of faith that opened doors to many of her roles that came next. “One morning I woke up and just felt at peace and I was like, ‘you know what, I’m gonna do this even if I’m scared. Even if it’s not the main part…’ I flew to London for the final audition and then they called me the next day. I wasn’t expecting to do one more show. I told myself that after one year, I’m going back home because I was so homesick.”
After a year of staying in London, Rachelle heard about the auditions for Les Miserables, the same company that produced the show for Miss Saigon. “I actually told the company that I’m interested in this show [Les Mis]. Kinapalan ko talaga mukha ko! I was so brave and bold… there was nothing to lose!”
Despite being homesick, she knew that she had to stay in London. By then, everyone back home was already rooting for her. Proving right about her gut, she landed the role of Fantine in Les Miserables, and her most recent role, Eliza Schuyler in Hamilton. “Nung narinig ko si Eliza, the wife of Alexander, I was like, ‘This…This is the part I wanted.'”
She then talks about what was so special about her character in Hamilton. She says that most of the characters in the musical were men and only a handful were women, one of them being Eliza Schuyler. “Siya ‘yung nag end ng show eh. So it’s very powerful, karamihan kasi ng characters sa Hamilton lalaki. Iilan lang yung mga babae. So, for a woman to close the show [it meant that] she’s telling the story talaga.”
When asked if going on Broadway was an achievement she never expected, Rachelle nods. “Definitely, definitely. Growing up, all I wanted to do was sing or do concerts or record an album, but when I was there, I learned so much. I learned about my purpose; why I’m doing this job, why I’m singing. Before, I just wanted to sing and belt, and please other people, but it’s not the thing.” She then recalled her elementary days. A chuckle leaves her lips as she tells a story about how every slam book she wrote on would have ‘I wanna be famous’ written in her goals and dreams. “Ganun dati ‘yung thinking ko about fame! But when I was there, it’s not about that. It’s about telling the story, inspiring the people, and reaching out.”
Ask Rachelle about her work and she’ll have a story up her sleeve. One that was most moving was her experience in being a part of the diverse cast in Hamilton and being part of the Filipino-Asian representation. “It’s a very diverse company. Nakikita ko every night, iba’t ibang kulay ang mga nanonood. May mga Asians din. ‘Yung mga bata, they’ll look up to you tapos nakikita nilang magkamukha tayo!”
“It’s a mirror of themselves. Feeling ko, I’m an instrument para ma-achieve rin nila ‘yung mga pangarap nila sa buhay. Feeling ko ‘yun ‘yung nakita kong purpose, is to really be an instrument. Sa akin,’ yung greatest achievement is building relationships and sharing your beliefs with other people as well.”
A fact known to many, Rachelle takes pride in her Christian beliefs. From the dressing room, her phone would be blaring Christian worship songs whilst getting her makeup done. We silently gush about her voice, even if she wasn’t flat out singing, but merely humming the tunes. She tells us that one of the things that kept her going while she was in London was her faith and sharing it to others. “Sa company namin, it’s very spiritual. We pray, even non-believers join the group, join the prayer circle. And for people to come up and say to me, ‘I don’t believe, but I know you have a Jesus. Can you pray for me now?’ Parang miracle talaga siya.”
Rachelle opens up about how the first few years that she was away was the hardest for her. Having been the only foreigner who didn’t grow up in London, she shares that it took her a while to adjust and unlearn the true meaning of home. “You don’t have any choice but to survive. I didn’t have loads of friends when I moved there. But then, I realized, being home, for me, is not just being in the Philippines. Being home is ‘yung meron kang peace sa puso mo. Sabi ko, everywhere God puts me, that is home for me, as long I’m at peace.”
Recently, Rachelle purchased a new home in London with her husband. So more than just her career, her perspective on love has flourished and deepened, too. Now, back in the Philippines for her first concert this Valentine’s day as a married woman, Rachelle is over the moon excited about being able to reintroduce herself to her Filipino fans. She’s bringing Broadway and West End back home as she stars in a homecoming concert, along with her special guests, Lea Salonga, Erik Santos, and Zephanie.
“I have to share what I’ve learned out there. I have to tell them my story, my journey. Dun ako excited eh! More than singing and performing, [it’s] telling them how great it is to be out there as a Filipino representing our country.”
Before the interview ended, she talks about her future and her hopes for the coming years. “When I go back to London, we’re going to start rehearsing for Les Mis this February. I’m doing it again because they reopened in December. This is a new production, before kasi, revolving stage siya. This is a new one, so I’m looking forward to it…Feeling ko naman this is easier than Hamilton, so now I can focus on being a wife, focus on building a family and creating a home. Parang paiba ng paiba yung priorities ko. Before talaga, all I wanted to do is to work.”
Despite her busy schedule, Rachelle also wants to create original music and is hoping to start working on it this year. “I think I’m in that kind of season na… What kind of music do I want? Because when I left Manila, I was singing pop music. Tapos naging musical for six years na ngayon. So what do I want now to record? Kasi feeling ko hindi musical eh,” She laughs lightheartedly. “Yung album gusto ko iba; what my heart is yearning for. As an artist, I’m in that season now.”
Rachelle Ann Go: The Homecoming will be held on February 14, 2020, Friday 8 pm at the Marriot Grand Ballroom in Resorts World Manila. Tickets are available here.