Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thank you, Kim; hello, Aida

By Jerry Donato 
  (The Philippine Star)
Read Original Article HERE

MANILA, Philippines - Her Vietnamese costume called ao dai will be stashed in the closet for sometime now as Ima Castro plays the title role in the Elton John and Tim Rice musical Aida. It will be locally staged by Atlantis Productions.
Portraying the Nubian princess is a breather for Ima who had essayed Miss Saigon’s Kim on the London stage since Lea Salonga made her final curtain call in 2001. It’s a welcome change Ima can’t wait to be part of. So, for her, it’s “Thank you, Kim. Hello, Aida.”

“Aida is more feisty. She is a strong woman,” Ima says, comparing her character with the lady from Saigon. “I think she is also boyish in a way because she can sword fight. I have to train to do that. Kim, on the other hand, is also a feisty and modern woman.”

Aida and Kim are both women in love. Princess-turned-slave Aida falls for an Egyptian army captain, while bar girl Kim for an American soldier. In the midst of warring nations and Vietnam War set as backdrop in Aida and Miss Saigon, respectively, love blooms and lives have been changed.

“(Aida) is very positive and it makes you feel good,” says Ima. “But the story is just heartbreaking. Aida and Miss Saigon are both tragic. Aida’s (ending) is more theatrical and subtle. Miss Saigon’s, on the other hand, is shocking. Both deaths are treated differently.”

Who is more selfless between Aida and Kim?

“Kim is willing to give up her own happiness for her kid while Aida is willing to give up her own happiness for her people,” answers Ima. “Aida is doing it as her duty as a princess while Kim as a mother.”

Although she has the West End experience to back her up in the new musical, Ima is not spared from having first-time jitters. She has studied the songs prior her return to Manila what with the challenge of having to sing them in low keys. 

“They are difficult because Aida’s songs are low for me as a belter,” shares Ima. “Most of the songs are in the lower notes. But the range is wide. It’s a big challenge but I’m very excited. You know it’s hard once you’ve warmed up your voice singing high notes and then you go back to low notes. That’s why I have to keep training (my voice) and singing to build my vocal stamina to sing those kinds of songs.”

“I’m gonna do around five solos and then the rest are production numbers,” she adds. “I love Dance of the Robe among the songs I’ll be performing. It has the highest note.”

Aida, which is set to run from June 24 to July 10 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, is not the only musical Ima will be doing while she’s in town. She will star as Vanessa, the salon worker with big dreams, in In the Heights in September. Ima shares that Pinoys can relate to the story because it’s about a community whose people are hell-bent on chasing their dreams and finding their true home.

How’s life in London? Ima recalls that her stint in Miss Saigon ended in 2006; and that it’s been a while for her since she last did a West End musical. But she’s been touring around the UK and outside with shows called A Touch of West End and Encore. Ima has also formed an all-female band performing mainstream music.  

“Hopefully, I will stay here longer,” says Ima. “I would love to record a pop album. I’m very happy that I’ve experienced living there (in London). I’ll go back and forth anyway. I’d like to stay here more and spend more time here. I’m glad that I’m here.”

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