The current theater rave in Canada, Tina: A Rock ‘n Roll Journey, is a two-act musical concert about the life story of rock ‘n roll icon Tina Turner, which was written and choreographed by Leandro Mendez.
Leandro, 31, was born in Caloocan City and finished his studies at Vancouver, Canada. His production traces Tina's beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee and presents her life by using sound, live dance and creative video imagery. The musical concert is currently on tour in Canada and will soon hit different cities in the United States from 2007 to 2008.
The youngest of eight children, Leandro grew up in a musically-inclined environment. His mother, Erlinda dela Paz, was a trained classical vocalist at the UST Conservatory of Music (where she had Sylvia La Torre as classmate) and a live performer on radio during the ‘50s and early ‘60s. Leandro's three sisters were members of the show band Hall of Fame that performed in numerous hotel lounges.
Already a writer at age nine, Leandro left Manila for Canada to study at the Vancouver Film School (Writing for Film and Television) in 1999. He wrote his first script in 1997 when he joined a scriptwriting contest sponsored by ABS-CBN. He only found out that he won when he was already in Vancouver.
His first two scripts were psychological thrillers: a supernatural thriller based on the mananaggal myth titled Dark Siren while the other is entitled Lihim.
His third work, Mariana, is a period piece based on his mother's accounts on the Japanese invasion of the Philippines when she was just eight years old. He also wrote the story concept for the upcoming comedy Reyna, starring Keanna Reeves, under Viva Films.
Aside from the musical Tina: A Rock ‘n Roll Journey, Leandro is planning to write a new musical—this time based on the life of Asia's Nightingale, Lani Misalucha. Leandro got the inspiration when he watched Lani at the River Rock Casino in Vancouver.
Here is a conversation via e-mail of YES! Online with our kababayan, Leandro Mendez, about his musical Tina: A Rock ‘N Roll Journey:
YES!: Tell us something about the stage musical Tina: A Rock ‘n Roll Journey.
Leandro: Tina [starring Filipina-Canadian Luisa Marshall] is a stage musical that showcases the remarkable life of rock icon Tina Turner through her own hits. This project was very challenging for me as a writer because I had to translate Ms. Turner's tragic and colorful life [for] the stage without the use of dialogue.
Tina is a live visual feast. [There is] a singer/actress performing as Tina Turner with various wig and costume changes, ten gorgeous back-up dancers and dynamic video imagery shown on a giant screen as backdrop.
YES!: What made you write such a musical? Why choose Tina Turner as your subject?
Leandro: I have always been a big fan of Tina Turner ever since she came out with her album Private Dancer back in 1984. But it was not until the year 2000 that I finally got to see her live on stage here in Vancouver. I was blown away and mesmerized by her amazing talent. I started reading up on her-books, magazines, internet articles. I also watched tons of documentaries and biographies on her life. I came to realize what a strong woman Tina Turner is despite of the physical and mental abuse she suffered from [ex-husband] Ike Turner, her career, downfall after her divorce, taking care of her children, then her great comeback as a successful solo artist.
I have always admired strong, independent women—[just] like my mother. My late father—who used to physically abuse my mother—left the family when I was only two years old. My mother was left to take care of us eight children. It was a major struggle for her to single-handedly keep us all fed, clothed and educated. She's the best mother in the whole world. That is why I chose to pay tribute to Tina Turner, the strongest woman in music history. She reminds me so much of my mother and what she went through in life.
YES!: What makes Tina different from the other popular musicals that were already staged on Broadway and the West End?
Leandro: Tina is a unique musical because there's no dialogue. And the fact that the life story of a recording artist like Ms. Turner is told through her own songs is very special to me. It hasn't been done before. Also, the video imagery and symbolism shown throughout the show prove that a writer can clearly convey a message yet leave the audience to draw their own interpretation and conclusion.
YES!: How far will Tina go? Is it going to have an international audience?
Leandro: I really hope for Tina to go worldwide. So far, the show has been touring Canada then next year, it will tour the US soon. Also, there's discussion of a possible European tour in the summer of 2008 but I don't want to elaborate further on it. I don't want to jinx it.
YES!: You express your interest in working in the Philippines once more. Doing projects that would further project your creativity and artistry—whether it is film, music or theater. The present fad in local filmmaking today is making digital/independent films. Would you like to join in soon?
Leandro: Absolutely! There's so much more interesting stories that can be told through digital/indie films than doing the traditional, conventional movie formula.
I am really glad to hear that a lot of young, talented directors and writers with fresh, innovative ideas are getting a chance to showcase their work. I would love to be part of that too and also the chance to work and collaborate with other Filipino artists. Pinoy talent is one of the best in the world.
For more information on the writer and the musical, log on to www.tinajourney.com.