Bituin enjoys being a mother
MANILA, Philippines — When one talks about powerhouse singers, the name Bituin Escalante readily comes to mind. With her stratospheric vocal prowess, she can easily belt out a powerful ballad or impress the audience in front of her with her amazing vocal calisthenics.
No wonder, Bituin was the unanimous choice to sing the showstopper in Trumpets’ forthcoming production, Joseph the Dreamer, the reimagined version 31 years after the musical was first staged (in 1989).
Appearing in a dream sequence as Rachel, the mother of Joseph, Bituin gets to render He Opens the Window, the powerful piece that is one of the most awaited numbers in the musical. The song is a showstopper and Bituin can simply be thrilled that she gets to join the new cast.
The role of Rachel was originally not in the first two productions of Joseph the Dreamer — first in 1989 with Audie Gemora in the lead and second in 1999, with Gary Valenciano in the title role. In the latest version, Audie will play Jacob, the father of Joseph.
Bituin was part of the ensemble in the second Joseph the Dreamer, with Gary V. “That was a monster chorus, even with Sweet Plantado,” Bituin beams. When she found out the musical would be restaged, she really wanted to audition. “It’s like a homecoming to me,” she allows. “I remember, every show then felt like praise and worship. Every time we were onstage, we were like in the church.”
Although Rachel is a new character added to the latest production, Bituin never assumed the role was created for her. “Rachel is a new part,” she grants. “The role wasn’t in the first or in the second Joseph the Dreamer. Originally, He Opens the Window was rendered by the warden’s mother. They re-thought the whole thing this time.”
Still, Bituin refuses to think the role of Rachel was made specifically for her. “I don’t want to claim that,” Bituin says. “The role had morphed. That role was actually gone. I wanted to audition for it. I read the auditions, so I knew that song. I wanted to sing that song. But they said the part had been taken out. That’s gone.”
However, during callbacks, the production asked Bituin to come in. “They said there’s no way we can take out that song,” she offers. “We want you to come back. This time, it won’t be the warden’s mother anymore. They created the role of Rachel. I don’t know if they had decided to put it back for me or for the story. But I will claim that song because I love that song.”
As Rachel, Bituin emphasizes she merely comes out in a dream sequence in the musical. “Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin. So she’s a living memory in the play. She gets to spend more time with the baby Joseph.”
Previously directed by Freddie Santos, Joseph the Dreamer has been passed on to young concert director, Paolo Valenciano, who works at the helm of the musical production. “Direk Freddie practically put that thing together,” Bituin asserts. “He wrote it. He knew it like the back of his hand. It was very theatrical. That was the version of Tito Freddie. I love that.
“It was so nice to see Paolo revisit Joseph the Dreamer. It was so nice to watch him. You actually see the ideas occur to him. In rehearsals, he had instantaneous reaction to certain scenes. He knew what’s needed to be done. He gave the musical such a modern tone. It’s a relationship between fathers and sons. You see it. You feel it. It felt so real. The memory recurs.”
Bituin worked with Paolo as her concert director for The Big Big Show, with Frenchie Dy and Radha Cuadrado at Solaire in 2016. “Paolo is a visual director. He will let you do the show the way you want it, but you’ll just be amazed with the industrial light and magic in his head. He has a different touch for concerts. And I want to see how he will make Joseph the Dreamer different onstage.”
She notes about the young cast, led by Sam Concepcion, who plays the title role. “The ensemble is so young. If you’re going with the young Sam, there’s no way I can keep up with the production. I really live for the ensemble songs. So I have to do choreography. But the first four steps, when I saw that, I backed out. I accept my limitations. I need to do a plant-based diet to cope with the young cast. I’m just amazed. I watched them highly energized. I don’t know how they can sing and dance at the same time.
“Sumayaw din naman kami dati. Joseph the Dreamer had songs and dances before. Iba ang choreography today. When we warm up, I know I can move, but I don’t think my brain can process all the steps in the choreography today. To me, it’s an information overload. Even when we warm up, I know I can move, but I don’t think my brain can process all the steps. Iba na ang programming nila. They’re so used to information coming at such a fast pace.”
Although she has quite a number of offers to work on this year, the “most prevalent thing” in Bituin’s life at the moment is motherhood. She has two kids — Tala and Luna. “I so enjoy being a mom. And I know my limitations now.”