LIKE their characters Roger and Mimi in 9 Works Theatrical Production’s “Rent,” real-life couple Gian Magdangal and Sheree Bautista are renting a flat for now.
The singing sweethearts and their two-year-old son Haley live in a city condo with a panoramic view of Edsa.
The young, upwardly mobile couple are saving up to buy a modest pad in the city and a roomy vacation home in the province.
That they’re working hard for the monthly rent is just about the only similarity they have with their respective stage characters, Gian says.
He and Sheree play unconventional roles in “Rent”—he a songwriter/musician and a reformed drug addict, she a bar dancer and junkie. Both are HIV-positive. (Sheree alternates with Ciara Sotto as Mimi.)
“We had to do research,” he admits.
“I watched the movie and the Broadway versions,” Sheree says. Mimi was a dream role; she even auditioned for it twice. “When I first tried out last year, I didn’t get it. So I honed my voice with coach Kitchie Molina,” Sheree explains.
Living with one’s stage partner can be both a boon and a bane, they point out.
“We can bluntly say anything to each other,” Gian says.
“He always scolds me,” Sheree quips. “We end up fighting. That’s the only disadvantage. But I count myself lucky because I’m learning a lot from him.”
They agree that it’s quite difficult leaving work on their doorstep.
“As much as possible, we don’t want to bring work home. But it’s hard to turn it off,” he confesses.
since they are both extremely passionate about acting and singing—so much so that they’ve built a mini-recording studio in their living room.
“The vocal parts on Gian’s first album (‘Love Tracks’) were all done at home,” she recalls. “We just e-mailed the files to his producer Jimmy Antiporda who was in the United States then.”
With a keyboard, mic, Mac computer, guitar and other gear, it has become easier for the couple to work on their music.
“Technology’s a big help,” she says. All sorts of gadgets, including iPods and iPads, lie all around the place.
They even have his and hers laptops. Hers is pink and studded with cutesy stickers. “I don’t like it when he’s messing with my files. So I made sure that we each have our own laptops,” she explains. “Between the two of us, I’m the gadget whiz.”
She concedes that it’s a role-reversal of sorts: She’s at ease with fixing cables and the computer, while he likes homey chores like cooking.
During the Living Stars visit, he whipped up cream dory fish with tomato sauce.
“He’s into healthy eating kasi, while I love junk food like doughnuts,” she says.
Away from the limelight, “we’re very simple,” he relates. “We just watch movies. Or we try to compose songs. But most of the time, we play with Haley. He’s the boss of the house.”
She notes: “At home, I usually do video editing or work on the computer. Or I record songs. We always sing at home.”
As early as now, they’ve noticed innate musicality in Haley.
Proud mom gushes: “He can carry a tune. He loves singing songs from ‘Little Einstein’ or ‘Spongebob.’ It’s because he watches us rehearsing or recording all the time.”
One time, Haley joined her while she was practicing “Single Ladies.”
“The bongo drums are Haley’s,” he says.
Needless to say, Haley has changed this couple’s life.
“We are still adjusting to family life,” he volunteers. “But Haley helped us. I know that it will take a lot of trust, love and understanding. We are basically two very different people, from diverse backgrounds, who must learn to live with each other.”
Luckily, he points out, “we are compatible. Sheree’s easy to deal with.”
It’s also a plus that they were longtime friends before deciding to live together. They met over a decade ago when they were in the cast of the Trumpets musical “The Little Mermaid.”
“We already had a connection and when we met again during ‘Philippine Idol’ [he was a contestant; she was a guest] five years ago, we sort of rediscovered each other,” he recounts.
Motherhood has completely altered her world, she says. “I used to be a party girl, always bar-hopping at night. But now, I’ve become a homebody.”
It was a welcome change of pace for her.
“I got tired of living alone,” she says. “Since I was 16, I was living independently. I got depressed going home to an empty house. I was ready to share my life with someone.”
If ever, they still prefer condo living over owning a house.
“Condo-living is low maintenance. Security is not a problem,” he says. “It’s more convenient and practical.”
She has lived in this building long before they became an item. “This is my comfort zone. I’m used to this area already.”
“We plan to buy our own unit when we’re ready. We’re saving up for it,” he says.
In the meantime, they busy themselves with various projects.
Apart from “Rent,” he’s also on GMA 7’s “Party Pilipinas” and the Resorts World musical “Kaos.”
(“Rent” runs all weekends until March 6 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium of RCBC Plaza in Makati.)
She is working on her second album and is preparing for a major reinvention from Viva Hot Babe to a more serious actress.
“We also dream of building a rest house in Bukidnon, in Sheree’s hometown. Or in the suburbs,” he says. “We prefer to live away from Manila. It’s too polluted and congested here.”
They also love going out of town, for quick beach holidays in Batangas or Boracay.
“We earn our own keep. We have to pay for our obligations, but at the same time, we try to balance work with leisure,” he says.
Another goal is their trip to the altar.
They are in no hurry, though.
“We want to take it one step at a time,” he says. “It’s just that now we are preoccupied with work. When the time comes, we will proudly announce it to the whole world.”
Catch RENT on its FINAL WEEKEND RUN!
MARCH 5, 2011 / 3:30PM / Saturday / RCBC
Contact: Onay Sales (0918.536.2116)
Borgy Marzan (0922.888.5344)
Robert Marzan (0922.888.5348)
Robert Marzan (0922.888.5348)
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