Filipino actor to play drag queen on S'pore stage

Filipino actor to play drag queen on S'pore stage
Actor Guy Pearce dressed as his character Felicia from the 1994 movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the Madame Tussauds Sydney attraction.

It will be "raining men" at Resorts World Sentosa this month. Well, kind of.

A pink bus carrying two drag queens and a transsexual will be rolling in for the Tony- winning musical Priscilla - Queen Of The Desert, which will be staged there from Thursday to Oct 26.

The Weather Girls' hit, It's Raining Men, is one of the songs that make up the soundtrack of the show, along with other pop songs such as Boogie Wonderland by funk band Earth, Wind & Fire.

According to Filipino thespian Michael Williams - who takes the lead role of drag queen Anthony "Tick" Belrose, who goes on a journey across the Australian desert with two of his friends - the play seems offbeat, but it is something everyone can relate to.

"It's about the family that we have, and the family that we choose," he explains.

Based in Manila, Williams is a veteran with more than 30 years' experience and 100 roles to his name, including a stint in the West End from 1989 to 1991, playing roles in Miss Saigon and The King And I.

The 51-year-old bachelor currently holds two portfolios - as the artistic director of Fullhouse Theater Productions of Resorts World Manila and the founder of Theatre Down South, a community theatre in Southern Metro Manila.

Life! spoke to him in the midst of his preparations for a cultural concert that sees him acting, dancing and singing. But Williams is not just a triple-threat talent.

"Yes, I have a fourth threat. I paint pastels, oils and charcoals," he quips.

8 questions with Michael Williams

1. How did you get started in theatre?

Before karaoke was in, my friends and I would go to someone's house and we would sit around the piano and sing.

Once, the piano player happened to be doing a production of Annie at that time with the Repertory Philippines starring Lea Salonga.

He asked me to audition for a show and I got into the ensemble of a big musical called Woman Of The Year. That was in 1982, I was 18.

2. How was your time in the West End?

It was a great time. They took care of us so well. Our pictures were on London buses and billboards. We were the people that they wanted in their clubs. We were invited everywhere.

3. If you were not in theatre, what could you do for a living?

When I was 15, I went to cooking school. I can't cook now, so you can imagine how I did there. I'm very good at pastries and nothing else.

After that, everything was turning towards IT, so I went to study computer science at a technical institute. I'm still a techie. I love gadgets and reading up on IT.

4. How does it feel playing the main character for this show?

It's actually very challenging but interesting to me because he is such a conflicted character. He needs to express himself in a different way from most people, and yet he has a son.

So what he does is not the usual things one would expect from a man and a father.

5. What do you think of the costumes?

The costumes are a whole universe unto themselves. Everybody has at least six or seven costumes. There're a lot of beads, sequins, feathers - they are very colourful.

Also, I have a newfound respect for women who wear heels. It's a difficult piece of costume to wear.

6. In the show at Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore actor Jonathan Lim is playing the Tina Turner-inspired Miss Understanding, a character you took on in the Manila staging of the same show. Are you going to give him any tips about playing the role?

Only if he asks me to. It would be inappropriate for me to give him unsolicited advice. I'm sure Jonathan will bring his own style and flair to the role.

7. What are some funny incidents that have happened during the show?

It's surreal, what goes on backstage. There's a whole bunch of people running around the back changing costumes. It's difficult to tell who's who - a lot of men have full-on make-up and are running around in the wigs. This is not a usual life.

8. How would you like to be remembered?

I would like to be remembered as a dedicated performer, and a good actor and singer. I would also like to be someone my students can look up to. Hopefully, my work can be a legacy for them to build upon for the Manila theatre industry.

This article was first published on Oct 13, 2014.
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