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MiG Will Rock You!

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migmanilaCONVERSATIONS With Ricky Lo
The Philippine Star, June 3, 2012

Barely 24 hours after he flew in from London, MiG Ayesa plunged right into the rehearsal for Rock Of Ages which will be staged from June 15 to July 8 at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater as part of Atlantis Productions’ 2012 season. He reprises the lead role as Stacee Jaxx, which is played by Tom Cruise in the movie version (showing anytime now nationwide).

Directed by Chari Arespacochaga, the musical also stars Nyoy Volante, Vina Morales, Jett Pangan, Aiza Seguerra, Jinky Llamanzares, Calvin Millado, Jamie Wilson and Bibo Reyes. (For ticket inquiries, call 892-7078.)

Rock Of Ages is a hit Broadway musical featuring such rock songs from the ‘80s as We Built This City, Can’t Fight This Feeling, Wanted Dead Or Alive, Don’t Stop Believin’, More Than Words and Every Rose Has Its Thorn. It tells the story of two young people, Drew and Sherrie, who hit the Sunset Strip armed with nothing but their dreams. Along the way, they meet a colorful array of wild and raunchy characters and find their blossoming love threatened by the rock star, Stacee Jaxx.

migchariEven if MiG (Miguel Alfonso Ramon Legarda Ayesa) was born in Manila (on Jan. 12, 1970), Filipino audiences came to know him presumably only during his turn as one of the finalists for Rockstar INXS. Raised in Australia, MiG has three-fourths Spanish blood from his mother’s side and one-fourth Ilonggo blood from his paternal/maternal ancestry.(Celebrity lawyer Katrina Legarda is his cousin.) He’s married to dancer-actress Simone De La Rue.

“I always look forward to coming home,” MiG said during a one-on-one just after his first rehearsal, hardly showing any sign of jetlag even if he flew halfway around the world. He had just performed in Thriller Live in London’s West End.

It’s your third visit in barely six years, isn’t it? (The first was solo and the second time was with the INXS band.)

“Actually, not just the third. I used to come here all the time as a kid. My grandparents would fly me over for Christmas and New Year’s. So I spent most of my Christmases here. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Philippines; it feels like my real home.”

How much of you is Filipino, how much is Australian and how much is American?

(Laughs) “You know, I don’t know if I can make a division. I think it’s all mix-mix now. I’m a halu-halo of the three. People tell me that I look Australian or American. It’s funny because my parents are both Filipino, from the Ayesa and Legarda clans. Mga mestizo. I’ve been in London for the last seven months and before that I was in New York and Los Angeles, but no matter what city I am in, when I come to the Philippines I feel that this is home. Everywhere else is secondary home.”

Do you reunite with your relatives when you are here?

“My folks are in Sydney. Oh yes, I see to it that I reunite with them. We’re having a big family reunion sometime this month. My brother is flying in from Perth. Some relatives are flying in from New York and Hong Kong. It’s going to be a big family reunion.”

And you are the only one from the clans who is in showbiz?

“Yeah!” (Adding in jest) “I’m the only black sheep in the family.”

By the way, whatever happened to INXS?

“I am not in touch with the band at all, not like before just after our show. I mean, the Rockstar INXS which launched a search for the band’s new member. But I’m in touch with most of the contestants; we’re e-mailing each other all the time, although we rarely see each other now.”

It’s the first time you are performing for a Filipino audience as an actor. How does it feel?

“You know, I must admit that I’m a little nervous actually because this is a show that I love and I’ve done on Broadway and on a US tour. This is the first time that a Filipino audience is going to watch the show. And even if I know that they’re gonna love it, there’s always the element of like, ‘Gosh, I hope they’ll love it!’ It’s our job to make sure that they’re gonna love it. The cast is amazing. We had our first rehearsal today and they are all beautiful people. They are all very funny and very warm. They’re very spontaneous as well which is great. We’re reinventing the show for the Philippines.”

(From Chari: “The Philippine version is quite different from those on Broadway and London. The look is different, the staging is different, how we’re attacking the numbers and certain characters is also different. A lot of the humor relies on the input of the actors, so a lot of that comes out from the contributions of the actors. We have a great mix, like Jett Pangan who is really a rock star; Nyoy Volante who has been in the industry for quite a time; and Vina Morales who is having her stage debut, she’s so sincere and so spontaneous. There’s a lot of craziness in the show.”)

How was it working with Chari and the cast?

“It so happened that the Broadway version was also directed by a woman. During our rehearsals today, everything felt so natural. I felt that I was allowed to make my input and I felt safe to be able to experiment with things. Sometimes you go to rehearsals and you feel a bit intimidated because, you know, you can’t make suggestions because you get shut down. Chari is different.” (From Chari, joking: “Hmmmm, not now…not yet!)

When did you have your last performance in Rock of Ages?

“On Broadway where I finished the show in September last year.”

During the staging of Rock in L.A., Tom Cruise was in the audience. Did his presence make you nervous?

“Without sounding too weird about it, it was one of the highlights of my career. First of all, I never thought I’d meet someone like Tom Cruise, I never imagined that he would come to see the show. And he was about to play Stacee Jaxx in the movie version. He was with his wife Kati Holmes and the movie’s director, Adam Shankman (Hairspray the movie, etc.). I was told that, ‘Hey, Tom Cruise is coming to check you out, to see what you do with the character!’ It was very surreal and very cool meeting Jerry Maguire in person. He was very humble, very sweet, very laid back and very gracious. It was a great honor and a great pleasure to meet him.”

I heard that he applauded at the end of the play and he saw you backstage.

With Chari Arespacochaga who’s directing the Manila staging of the musical. ‘It was very surreal and very cool meeting Tom whose movie, Jerry Maguire, I love so much.’

“Yeah, yeah! We spoke a little bit about the show and the character. I know that Tom will give an amazing performance. From accounts of people who worked on the movie, I learned that Tom really, totally immersed himself in the Stacee Jaxx character. I can’t wait to see the movie.”

Do you think Tom Cruise is perfect for the role?

migtom“I believe so. Stacee Jaxx is over the crest of his career, at his peak. Tom is just the right age for the character. I think I was a bit too young for it but I’m sure that I nailed it. Tom is perfect for the role. He said that it’s the hardest role that he’s ever had to work for. He’s been taking singing lessons, guitar lessons…he’s been working out and he’s in the best shape of his life.”

Did Tom Cruise ask for any tips on how to attack the role?

“He didn’t really ask for tips or pointers but we did talk about the character. I told him that he could go as outrageously as he wanted. Rock stars are larger than life and they believe in their own hype; they live in a world that is so unrealistic, but as long as you believe that it’s the truth and that it’s right and legitimate, then it’s okay. I know that Tom lives in the truth as far as his character is concerned. I’m sure what will come out is an amazing portrayal of Stacee Jaxx.”

You are good friends with Matt Damon. Has he watched the play?

“Yes, he did. He came with his wife Lucy together with Emily Blunt and a friend. They are a lovely people. Matt told me this story that Tom visited him on the set of his (Matt’s) We Bought A Zoo, directed by Cameron Crowe. I asked Matt, ‘Why, are you friends with Tom?’ He said, ‘I don’t really know Tom very well and I only meet him during awards shows like the Oscars. Tom came to the set because he’s friends with Cameron.’ Matt said that he told Tom, ‘Hey, Tom, I know the guy that you’re playing in your next movie.’ And Tom said to Matt, ‘What? You know MiG?’ That’s it.”

Being a good singer and a good dancer, you probably didn’t have a hard time identifying with Stacee Jaxx.

“Well, Stacee Jaxx is the rock star who is always afraid of being because he lives in a world where he believes in his own hype and he treats people like they are props, just part of his entourage. Stacee Jaxx is a fan of Stacee Jaxx, he’s egoistic. He lives in a world where he tries to explain it so hard to be a rock star…you know, look what I have to put up with! He used to live in a tour bus and he resents people getting into his space. I’m not like that. I’m very open. I feel that it’s such an honor when people spend time with me and talk to me. I never take that for granted.”

So you and Stacee Jaxx are poles apart. In short, you are not like him in any way.

(Laughs) “I hope not! But you know, Stacee Jaxx is a guy looking for love in all the wrong places.”

Have you found love or still looking for it?

“Hmmmm, I ‘m still looking for love, you know. It’s been a very strange and very weird six months for me and I’m picking myself up and looking for love all over again.”

Were you disappointed that you were not tapped to reprise the role in the movie version?

“No, not at all. It’s not even an issue. I was actually quite thrilled when they told me that Tom Cruise was playing the character in the movie. I mean, come on! It’s a fantastic honor to be playing the same role with Tom. It’s awesome! If you were the movie’s producer, who are you gonna pick, MiG Ayesa or Tom Cruise?”

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