This week, Jessica Sanchez gave us two more emphatic reasons why she should be the next American Idol. If her well-received standout performances of “Proud Mary” and “You Are So Beautiful” are any indication, it doesn’t look like she’s going to be eliminated at all tomorrow or anytime soon for that matter.
Regardless of how far her powerhouse voice will take her in the competition, it’s pretty much safe to say that the 16-year old Filipino-Mexican warbler has a promising career ahead of her. Record executive and Idol mentor Jimmy Iovine has all but assured everyone that Jessica is a shoo-in for a contract with his own record label, Interscope.
Another guest mentor of the show, Senegalese R & B sensation Akon was also quoted as saying that he wants Jessica eliminated now so he can sign her in his own label, Kon Live Distribution.
But perhaps an even bigger opportunity for Jessica is a shot at no less than the coveted role of Kim in the long delayed film version of the long-running stage musicale, Miss Saigon. In development hell since 2009, not much has been known about the project except for the the attachment of Lee Daniels (“Precious”) fame as possible director and the involvement of original stage producer Cameron Mackintosh who is set to co-produce it with longtime Tom Cruise associate Paula Wagner.
The tragic romance between an American GI and a Vietnamese bar girl, Miss Saigon brought fame and worldwide acclaim to Lea Salonga who originally played the lead character. If Jessica becomes the next and first big screen Kim, she will join Lea and many other distinguish Filipinas such as Monique Wilson, Joanna Ampil, Jamie Rivera and Ima Castro who have essayed the role.
Note, however, that Jessica is not the first and only name to be floated around as the next Kim. Three other singers, all of Filipino descent, are also reportedly being eyed to play lead in the project. Let’s see how they stack up with the Idol sensation.
Anna Maria Perez De Tagle. The granddaughter of legendary singer Sylvia La Torre is a familiar face to Disney fans, having appeared on Hanna Montana and the Camp Rock series. She recorded the popular Little Mermaid song, “Part of Your World” for the compilation album, Disneymania 7 and can now add theater exposure to her resume with her stint in the ongoing revival of Godspell in New York. Showbiz columnist Ricky Lo reported in The Philippine Star last year that Anna, now 21, is considered as a frontrunner for the role after Mckintosh himself flew her in to London. Given that she is identified with villainous supporting roles in her Disney projects, Anna’s suitability for Miss Saigon lies not in playing Kim but for taking on the more challenging role of Gigi, a jaded stripper originally nailed by Isay Alvarez.
Thia Megia. Another Idol alum, she is also based in California just like Anna and Jessica. A quarterfinalist in America’s Got Talent, the 17-year old singer left an indelible impression on Idol with her interpretation of Irene Cara’s “Out Here On My Own,” Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” and Vanessa Williams’ “Colors of The Wind.” Her Top 11 finish was good enough to be part of the American Idols LIVE! Tour, which included a final stop here in the Philippines. She was also asked the US national anthem during the blockbuster bout of Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. Thia’s very Asian features make her an ideal Kim but Jessica’s emergence on Idol (and with a higher finish at that) may have also somewhat dimmed her chances. There is no report if Thia was actually invited to audition for Miss Saigon or has publicly expressed her interest in the role.
Charice Pempengco. Or simply Charice nowadays, the 19-year old chanteuse from Laguna has been joining singing contests since she was five. But it wasn’t until videos of her performance was posted in YouTube that she became an internet sensation. An invitation by Ellen Degeneres to appear in her daily talk show triggered a further surge in popularity. Subsequent performances at The Oprah Winfrey Show; live concerts singing side-by-side with David Foster, NeYo, Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion; recording collaborations with Diane Warren and David Archuleta; and a recurring guest role in the hit series, Glee, had all but cemented her status as a world-class talent. In a radical makeover, however, she has drastically changed her appearance and now sports short chestnut brown hair, a tattoo that says “Love Eternally” on her left forearm and a devil-may-care attitude that she insists is an expression of her individuality, not a rebellious phase. As talented as she is, I can’t imagine her being the next Miss Saigon now.
That means Jessica Sanchez has my vote to play Kim, if the rumor mill is true and if and when the cameras will finally start rolling for the long overdue film adaptation. Of course, given that there is no official word on the producers if they’ve even started auditions for the project, it may still be possible that a Filipina may not end up with the role. See, there’s a reason why the lead character is called Miss Saigon. She is Vietnamese, after all.