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25 February 2024

‘Miss Saigon’ veteran Isay leads ‘Katy’ cast


We all know somehow where Lea Salonga and Monique Wilson are now—and how they’ve been doing. But what about Isay Alvarez, one of their Filipino co-stars in the original cast of Miss Saigon?

She has never disappeared from the cultural scene, of course, but somehow her works have not been as well publicised as those of Mesdames Salonga’s and Wilson’s.

But on January 17 to 27, Ms Alvarez will again dazzle her fans with her world-class singing and acting ability as she leads the cast in a revival production of ‘Katy’, an original Filipino musical, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), in Pasay City.

Based on the life of vaudeville queen Katy de la Cruz, the Philippines’ highest-paid singer and a famous performer in the jazz clubs in the United States during her time, also features the very talented singer Dulce, the movie actor Tirso Cruz III, and the comedian Lou Veloso, among others.

Ms Alvarez played the role of Gigi in ‘Miss Saigon’ for four years in Europe and, afterwards, was asked to be a part of the TV program titled ‘Jute City’, in England. Then, except for having gone on to marry Robert Seña, a Filipino singer, and doing gigs in hotels, nothing much have been heard of her since.

In the meantime, Ms Salonga, who played the lead role of Kim in ‘Miss Saigon’, has continued to conquer the world further by winning the most coveted theatre awards in New York and London, and providing the singing voice to two Walt Disney princesses—Jasmine in ‘Aladdin’ (1992) and Fa Mulan in ‘Mulan’ (2004).

Ms Wilson, who also played Kim as an understudy, stayed in London and went to school, then came back to the Philippines and built a theatre company, where she also held classes for children and young adults who wanted to build careers in theatre or on stage. She has now slowed down in her work, as she is suffering a serious illness.

Playing Ms de la Cruz (who died in 2004 at age 97) in ‘Katy’ is a dream role for Ms Alvarez, who was part of a number of musical productions in Manila, such as ‘West Side Story’, ‘A Chorus Line’, ‘One for the Soul’, ‘Once on This Island’, and ‘They’re Playing Our Song’.

Ms Alvarez is also happy to be working with veteran stage director and entertainment columnist Nestor Torre, who directs this revival of ‘Katy’, whose music is by the country’s top musician Ryan Cayabyab and libretto by award-winning movie director and screenwriter Jose Javier Reyes.