Because musical theater is the genre Mr. Magdangal is most identified with, the pressure is greater for him to outclass the competition at this point. I have high hopes he will. This guy has been giving it his all every week on "Philippine Idol," and many agree that he's one of the best, if not the best, of the lot. Ryan Cayabyab himself has said so, and as things stand, he's the only judge in that show who seems to know what he's talking about.
People from theater have known for a while that Mr. Magdangal is a talent to watch. His years with Trumpets, under Audie Gemora and Freddie Santos' guidance, have resulted in a focused, hardworking and energetic young performer whose triple whammy of skills--singing, dancing and acting--has been on display on Manila's stages for some time, but is getting widespread attention (at least the singing and dancing parts) only now via "Philippine Idol."
One would have to see Mr. Magdangal in a musical to appreciate his third gift, which is acting. He is a natural on stage. In "Joseph the Dreamer," "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast," he learned his paces by being part of the ensemble. But by the time he played Willard Hewitt in last year's "Footloose, the Musical," staged by Trumpets' sister company Stages under Chari Arespacochaga's direction, he was ready for a breakthrough. And he got one, with a performance that was one of the best things in that show, especially his winning "Mama Says" number with lead star Jay-R and three other fresh-faced kids.
(For this performance, I counted him as a nominee for Best Featured Actor in a musical in my "2005 Best of Theater" roundup, along with Mr. Gemora ["Footloose"], Leo Rialp ["St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos"], Jett Pangan and Bodjie Pascua ["Once on This Island"], and Nazer Salcedo and Rody Vera ["Noli Me Tangere"], theater veterans all.)
Early this year, Mr. Magdangal stepped into the shoes vacated by Jeffrey Hidalgo in the brief restaging of "Once On This Island," directed by Bart Guingona, and held his own against stage heavyweights such as Mr. Pangan, Michael De Mesa, Menchu Lauchengco Yulo, Michael Williams and Bituin Escalante. Better yet, his co-stars spoke highly not only of what he could do onstage but also of how he was off it.
Clearly, with his good work in theater and the by-now improbably classic story of his entry into "Philippine Idol" (borrowed money from friends to catch auditions in Cebu, was booted out early, got himself back in as a wild card, still comes close to being voted out from time to time to Mr. C's consternation, sings his guts out every time and through it all), the guy is destined for bigger things.
I, for one, am glad that more Pinoy TV viewers, many of them otherwise unfamiliar with local theater names--especially upcoming ones like Mr. Magdangal's--are now savoring his talent right in their living rooms.
Go get that prize, Gian. Happy birthday, and break a leg this Sunday!
[To vote, text GIAN to 2339 or dial 190854365-0_(the number of his performance slot) on the night of the competition. To know more about Gian, check out his Friendster and Multiply accounts.]
[photo 1: Rudy Esperas]