Singer Gian Magdangal returns to stage in "West Side Story"

"Sa akin, challenge 'yon. It's something that would build my artistry. Kasi ngayon, para tumagal ang buhay mo as a singer, dapat pinag-eensayuhan mo 'yon, dapat may variety, at saka it makes an artist well-rounded," says Gian Magdangal about playing a role in theater productions and performing pop songs on television.


Gian Magdangal is already known as a pop music artist since he became a finalist in Philippine Idol. Unknown to many, this SOP's You've Got Male member really started his singing career in theater.

Before joining Philippine Idol in 2006, Gian appeared in the stage productions The Little Mermaid, Joseph the Dreamer, Once On This Island, Footloose, and Saturday Night Fever.

He sidetracked to pop music after he became a runner-up in Philippine Idol. This opened doors for him to become a GMA-7 artist and a regular performer on the Sunday musical-variety show SOP.

But Gian promised himself that he would not forget where he started his career.

"For me, sa career ko talaga, I really shifted. Before kasi, talagang theater lahat. Now, since I got the opportunity in Philippine Idol and now in SOP, GMA-7 artist na ako, sabi ko, ‘I want to pursue the popstar career pero hindi pa rin mawawala 'yong theater roots ko,'" said Gian in an interview yesterday, August 6, after the media junket for West Side Story at the Discovery Suites in Ortigas Center, Pasig City.

He added, "Kasi, kaya rin ako nakarating dito sa SOP, kaya ako nakakanta sa Philippine Idol, dahil sa mga taong 'to [from theater]. I mean, they're the ones who helped me mold my craft and develop my singing. Kaya I really owe a lot to them and I know that I will only become better joining this group."

BACK TO THEATER ACTING. The 26-year-old singer said that West Side Story would be his comeback project as a theater actor. It is also the fulfillment of his dream to play a role in the 1950's original Broadway musical.

Gian said, "Comeback ko sa theater ito dahil the last time I did theater was two years ago, sa Footloose. 'Tapos ito 'yong next at ito rin 'yong isang theater dream role [for me], Riff.

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"Well, Tony is also a dream role, but Riff, dream role ko rin siya. Sabi nga ni Tito Audie [Gemora], 'yong Tony wala namang dancing pero 'yong singing talaga 'yong pinukpok. Pero dito sa [role ni] Riff, singing dancing, and acting. You will see a really different side of me as a [theater actor]."

Gian admitted that he was surprised when STAGES president Audie Gemora asked him to play the role of Riff when West Side Story was first staged in Manila back in 1982.

Gian said, "Unang-una, nasabi ko, ‘Kaya ko ba 'yan?' Ang hirap niyan, e. Napanood ko 'yong movie, talagang sabi ko, parang ano, e, basta mahirap siya. 'Tapos the fact na si Tito Audie pa ang gumanap dati, e, alam ko ang kakayahan ni Tito Audie. Sabi ko, ‘Ganun na ba? Ganun na ba 'yong level na kailangang gawin?'"

He was even more pressured when Audie told the press during the Q&A segment that he has always believed in Gian's talents. The veteran stage actor said, "I've always believed that he has a great potential to be a leading man. Kokonti lang mga leading men natin sa theater na guwapo, matangkad, at magaling kumanta."

After hearing this, Gian said, "Talagang na-pressure ako. Sabi ko, na-pressure ako kasi alam ko kung gaano kagaling talaga si Tito Audie lalo na noong prime niya. This was [shown in] 1981, the time he was my age, 26, 25, di ba? So sabi ko, kailangan mapantayan ko 'yong standards niya. I also ask him constantly kung tama ba 'yong ginagawa."

Aside from this, Gian was also stunned by the performances of his co-actors—West End-based Filipina actress Joanna Ampil, who will alternately play the role of Maria with Karylle; and Australian-born Filipina stage actress Rowena Vilar, who will alternately play the role of Anita with Pam G.—during their rehearsals.

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The Idol alumnus said, "Ako, medyo starstruck ako kay Joanna Ampil and Rowena Vilar dahil sa rehearsal pa lang... Lahat ng mga nakatrabaho ko sa industriya, sila 'yong mga tipong, ‘Hindi pa ako nakarinig ng ganito. Hindi pa ako nakakakita nang ganitong sumayaw sa buong buhay ko.' Talagang international 'yong level nila pati 'yong professionalism nila.

"It made me feel... Kumbaga, alam n'yo iyon, 'pag pupunta ka ng rehearsal, kailangan prepared ka, 'yong hindi lang basta-basta. Kailangan alam ko 'yong ginagawa ko kasi sila alam na alam nila 'yong ginagawa nila."

ON BEING A FAMILY MAN. Last May, Gian's girlfriend Sheree gave birth to their first son named Gian Haley. Since their son came, Gian said, he set his mind on being a family man.

"Sa pagiging family man, talagang it [became] my priority. Talagang 'yong oras ko, bilang na bilang, family man na ako. Kumbaga, kung dati after the rehearsal puwedeng gumimik, ngayon hindi na puwede talaga.

"Talagang mayroon kaming understanding ni Sheree na pagkatapos ng rehearsal, kapag walang trabaho, dapat may time kay baby, you know, may time din kay Sheree. So, sabi ko, talagang priority siya, talagang halos nakasulat na talaga. And it's something that I'm really enjoying kasi ibang buhay, e."

Since he and Sheree already have a baby, some are already asking when will the wedding bells ring for them? Gian said that it would happen but not anytime soon.

He explained, "Matagal na rin naming napag-usapan ang kasal, even before the baby. But sa ngayon, talagang it's something that we indefinitely postpone and something na kailangan naming pag-ipunan.

"Not na hindi namin gustong magpakasal yet, pero I want her to give naman something na gift, 'yong grand siya. For me, minsan lang kinakasal, di ba? So for me, I see it as something precious, you know, talagang malaking regalo sa isang tao."

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The couple may not be focused on the wedding, but they're getting themselves busy with the christening of their child. "Bibinyagan pa lang within this month. Nausog pa nga yung binyag because of West Side Story, e," said Gian.

Who are the chosen godparents?

"Ang mga ninong, ninang, ang confirmed na: sina KC Concepcion, Dennis Trillo, Jolina Magdangal, my sister, and some of my cousins."

Aside from West Side Story, Gian is also preparing for his first solo album. "The concept is still secret, pero I'm working on that. Baka lumabas siya after West Side Story," ended Gian.


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