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The Philippine Star Entertainment Section September 22, 2007
AT HOME IN LONDON
by Ricardo F. Lo

Monique in Eve Ensler's
THE GOOD BODY

Not many people know that for six years now, Monique Wilson has been living in London which is not an alien territory to her because it was a second home to her for three years (from 1989 to 1992) during the initial smash run of the Cameron Mackintosh megahit musical Miss Saigon where she alternated with Lea Salonga as Kim, the female lead the two of them originated.

“I come home four times a year,” said Monique in an exclusive interview with Funfare.

She is going back to London Monday night after a three-week working vacation and to visit her mother, Terry, who was rendered comatose by a heart attack seven years ago. Monique’s father, actor Johnny Wilson, died of a stroke three years ago.

Asked why she decided to live in London, Monique said, “Well, I got my residency. In 2001, I went back there to take my masters (in theatre) for two years at the Central School of Speech and Drama. I really wanted to study in that school because that’s where Judi Dench and Vanessa Redgrave also studied. But my mother got sick, so I’ve come back and forth since then. After graduation, the school offered me to teach and I did for about a year. That’s how I got my work visa.”

For a while, according to Monique, she was in a dilemma – you know, should she continue working there or come home for good?

“I reached some kind of a compromise. I work in London and I come home as often as I get the chance. In London, I’m setting up an NVC branch and I’m glad that Filipino talents there are responding.”

These past 13 years, the NVC has been expanding from producing plays to recording albums to producing indie films and, soon, to publishing. For seven years now, Monique has also been staging The Vagina Monologues everywhere – in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong, after its initial run in the Philippines – and she plans to take the Vagina tour to Iloilo and other key cities in the country.

“Did you know that Eric Quizon produced a Filipino version of Vagina Monologues (starring Gina Alajar, Angelu De Leon and Pinky Amador), which is titled Usapang Puke, in Hong Kong? It was a hit! Now, we’re thinking of doing a repeat there and staging it in other Asian countries. Gina is suggesting that we bring Usaping Puke to the States and I said, “Why not?”

In April next year, Monique is going to New Orleans to join Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, in celebrating the 10th anniversary of the hit monologues. Hollywood stars (those who have appeared in it and several others) are expected to grace the event.

While here, Monique completed the preparations for the mounting of Into the Woods in November at the Music Museum. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and book and original Broadway direction by James Lapine, the Tony award-winning musical combines well-loved fairy tales of Cinderella , Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel with the tale of a childless Baker and his Wife who catalyze the action of the story by attempting to reverse a curse on their family in order to have a child.

Today, Monique and company should be in Dumaguete for the staging of The Good Body, also by Ensler, which is also about women empowerment like The Vagina Monologues — “not about the vagina but more on things like Botox, liposuction and other forms of cosmetic surgery that women resort to to be accepted.”

Back in London, Monique will resume work on her Broadway album which she is recording here and launching in London.

“My agent has died of a brain hemorrhage and I have a new one,” said Monique who politely turned down offers to star in other musicals after she finished her stint in Miss Saigon, opting to come home to do an album, TV and movies. Her last movie, shown a few years ago, was Regal Films’ Laro Sa Baga, directed by Chito Rono, where in one of her memorable scenes she cut the organ of her philandering lover played by Carlos Morales. Chito is shooting in London some scenes of the Sharon Cuneta movie he’s doing for Star Cinema and he’s inviting Monique to play a role in it.

Then, she went back to London for one year and studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (where Kuh Ledesma’s daughter, Isabella, also took a crash course, staying with Monique as house guest) and came back in 1994 to set up the New Voice Company. Starting January next year, she said she might start auditioning for other musicals.

Monique has become so attuned to the London lifestyle that she feels like a native.

“People there are so grounded. I can be myself. I take the tube, I bike around the city, I do the chores, I do everything,” she said, adding with glee, “and I watch a lot of theatre. The cultural life is very rich.”

Middle of next year, Monique will be back to resume work at the New Voice Company and, of course, to pay her mom a visit. It was Terry who did all the dirty work for the New Voice Company and Monique had to take over after Terry became ill. Monique is one of four children. Her sister Gina has been in Germany playing Gigi in Miss Saigon for several years now; she lives in Germany with her German husband and they recently had twins. Her other sister, Trixie, also once a member of Repertory Philippines, is in New York, married to an Italian. Brother Jamie Wilson is also into acting.

“Mommy is comatose but I know she can feel my presence,” said Monique, her eyes turning a bit misty. “I whisper to her, ‘Mom, I’m here na!’ and a tear falls down her cheek. That’s how I know she’s listening.”

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