Spotlight On… Musical Theatre Star, Jon Jon Briones

Olivier award nominated and What’s On Stage award winning Jon Jon Briones has played the role of the Engineer in Miss Saigon on numerous tours and until the beginning of this year, he played it again in London’s West End. He’s reprising the role yet again in 2017 on Broadway. I caught up with Jon Jon to find out what his favourite scene from his signature show, is and what led him to a performing career.

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg Review, so tell me about Miss Saigon and revisiting the role of the Engineer. What is your favourite scene from the show?

Not necessarily my favourite but the first 15 minutes of the show is very important and very hard to do because it sets up the whole show. It’s very intense, with so many characters to introduce and you have to show the ugliness of the situation and the ugliness of how people react to that situation. If that is done right then you set up the whole narrative of the show to the end.

What made you decide to become a performer?

I think I decided to become a performer when I realized I’m happiest when I’m on stage. I once wished I was on stage 24 hours a day and then I was cast in Miss Saigon in 1989 and doing 8 shows a week, that was the closest to that wish and I’ll take it.

What career do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a performer?

I can’t be anything else but an actor.

Is there a favourite theatre you’ve performed in?

The Prince Edward Theatre would be up there with some of my favourites but I also love the intimate theatres. You’re not just talking top your scene partner but you also feel like you’re conversing with the audience.

Any particular roles you’d like to play in the future?

There’s a ton of roles I would love to play. Iago in Othello would be one of them.

jon jon
Jon Jon playing the role that he is famous for… The Engineer in Miss Saigon

 

 

Apart from Miss Saigon, what is your favourite musical and why?

The very first Musical I saw was West Side Story on TV when I was growing up in the Philippines and it changed my life. I thought life should always be expressed that way. When you’re happy, sad or angry, one should always be able to break into a song and dance. Now, wouldn’t that be a fabulous world!

If you could invite three famous people (alive or deceased) to a dinner party, who would they be and why?

Maya Angelou, Barack Obama and Lin Mauel Miranda. No explanations needed there because of the awesomeness and their heart.

For more information about Jon Jon, visit: http://www.brionestalent.com/jon_jon

Thanks to Jon Jon for sparing time out of his hectic schedule to chat to Break A Leg.

All Photos credited to: Brionestalent.com

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Spotlight on… Liz Robertson

In the 1990’s I was as regular a theatre goer as ever, thanks to theatre-loving parents – but one production captured my imagination above others, courtesy¬†of one performer whose portrayal of Maria equalled that of Julie Andrews, in my humble opinion.

madame-giry
Photo Credit: Yousearch

Obviously, The Sound of Music was the show in question and the actress? Liz Robertson! I’ve followed her career and watched her play Madame Giry in Phantom of the Opera and Velma Von Tussle in Hairspray, as well as many other roles over the years. So it is with great pleasure that I present my Spotlight On… Liz Robertson!

Recently you’ve played Valerie Hobson, performed your one woman show Songs from My Trunk and taught a master class. How are you enjoying the variety and what have been your highlights over the past twelve months?

One of the great things that comes with age is the knowledge that if you don’t try things now they may never come your way again. Valerie Hobson as a one woman show was very scary, no one to bounce off and no songs to hide behind, but I can honestly say it has been a piece I am very proud of. I am about to take the show to Southwold Festival and revisiting her after a year has been illuminating. I have found different aspects of her character since the first performance over 2 years ago. Performing cabaret is another leap of faith. It has challenged me but the trick is to be yourself up there, and that’s not easy when you hide behind the role you are playing. I am working on a new show called Lerner without Loewe. I start rehearsals in New York in July and will perform it in that great city at 54 Below in October. Master classes are a joy. To see that raw talent in front of you is so exciting. The pupils are like sponges soaking up your ideas and comments.

You are THE Madame Giry for me, what are your memories of appearing in Love Never Dies and how did playing Madame Giry in Phantom compare with playing her in Love Never Dies?

Playing Madam Giry in Love Never Dies was testing. I was the only principal cast after the album had been recorded so the first day of rehearsals was terrifying. We started from the top of the show and ran through to the end and as you know it is all sung through, I just about held my own. However, having said that working with Jack O’Brien was one of the best experiences of my professional life. To be in at the birth of a new show is thrilling and to have a director who is so sympatico was heaven. Playing Madam Giry in Phantom at Her Majesty’s was a completely different experience. I was the, God knows what number take over, so the directorial needs that an actor craves were sadly, lacking. It is completely understandable, as important as a new cast is the finer points are often glossed over due to lack of time, or ennui. Thank goodness for Gillian Lynne who cracked the whip when she came to rehearse us. She opened my eyes to a role I had been playing for at least a month. Performing the role for the 25th Anniversary at the Royal Albert Hall was a highlight in my long life in showbiz. The attention we all received was bar none and, I think it showed.

What has been your favourite role to date and are there any particular roles you still have an ambition to play?

My favourite roles are Eliza and Mrs Anna. Both are feisty ladies and yet each completely different. Where as Higgins is the catalyst to make Eliza bloom she also changes the professor. Anna though is trying to bring the King into the western way of thinking and it doesn’t work.

Do you have a best-loved musical number to sing?

My favourite song is whatever one I am singing at that moment. I am looking to find new ways to present old songs. It’s fun.

What are the main differences you find between working with a company and a one woman show and do you prefer one or the other?

Working in a company you have a ready-made family who you live and depend on. A one woman show, you are on your own but then the only person you can let down is yourself. There are both enjoyable in their own ways.

When you take on a new role, how and where do you start? Do you have a personal process?

Every role starts with the script which I devour trying to get a handle on the character. But with me the wig and costume is the day I hopefully find her. I would love to revisit Eliza, I was 24 when I was cast and very inexperienced in acting. What I would do with her now! But I am too old. Heigho.

If you hadn’t become a performer, where do you think you career might have taken you?

I had briefly toyed with becoming a speech therapist but luckily for any future patients that never happened.

Favourite things (can I have your first reactions to these questions, please?):

Favourite hobby?

Long walks.

Favourite film?

I Know Where I’m Going starring a young Wendy Hiller.

Favourite time of year?

Spring.

Favourite holiday destination?

Well I am loving Italy where I am now

Favourite restaurant?

My husband’s kitchen!

Thanks to Liz for sparing the time to make¬†this blogger’s dream come true! Wishing every success to you with your projects.

 

 

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