It’s been almost two decades since his first lead role in musical theater and this time, Jett Pangan plays the title role in the Atlantis musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. But the powerful vocalist said this is not his first foray into portraying complicated characters. “I liked the movie Sweeney Todd. I’m a fan of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. In 2012, I did Jekyll and Hyde for Repertory Philippines and that was a fun role to do. This is kind of on a similar track. Anti-hero kind of roles are something that I enjoy doing. Iba yung treatment namin eh. Iba iba kami ng styles and imagery. Ours is going to be different and the staging is something so different from what you would expect,” he shared with PUSH.
Even with his character killing people onstage, Jett saidit is not something that will turn the audience off. “We all have a dark side. We all do. We leave it at home or behind a smile but no one is who they are 24 hours a day. We can’t be happy 24 hours a day. There’s always something to push your buttons the wrong way and you’re going to react accordingly. For my role as Mr. Todd, it’s just magnifying that. Of course I’m not going to go out killing people. But we have entertained the thought (laughs). That’s why there’s action movies, that’s why there’s Jekyll and Hyde or Sweeney Todd, because we want to live vicariously through that because we’re really not going to do it. It’s a really a what if thing eh. How do I bring that fantasy into the role of Sweeney Todd? So it’s really that, it’s marrying those two things while being true to how it was written. So it’s really just magnifying what’s already there inside,” he explained.
Unlike his rehearsals for concerts with his band The Dawn, Jett said preparing for Sweeney Todd was so different. “It was very exhausting and very difficult because if you’re familiar with Stephen Sondheim and his music, any theater actor will tell you it’s really a challenge. It’s not something that is typical of musical theater because everything about the arrangement is quite a challenge. But it’s fulfilling once you get it right. Audie Gemora has done this before ten years ago and when I saw that show in Greenbelt, I saw how difficult it was. He starred opposite Menchu Launchengco-Yulo, another veteran, and I said to myself, ‘I would never do this thing.’ And here I am. I respect the material so much that my body really hurts. Nothing prepared me for this and it’s a wonderful experience,” he said.
Headlining the show alongside theater veteran Lea Salonga was a revelation for Jett. “As a co-worker, you’d think that since she’s Lea Salonga, she’d be like, ‘I’ll do my thing, bahala na kayo humabol’ because we know Lea to be a fast learner. She can get the music down in a breath. But she’s the exact opposite. In this production, I’ve seen how generous she is in a sense that she wants everyone to excel. Of course Bobby Garcia is the director so he calls the shots. But Lea is behind that, seeing to it that we all do our parts right. She’s very galante that way, I just don’t want myself to look good, I want everyone to look good and to perform at their best and I think that’s the most surprising thing for any theater actor who gets to work with Lea one day,” he said.
The Sweeney Todd star said Lea helped make the rehearsal process better for everyone in the cast. “She’s very inspiring to work with. If it weren’t for Lea I think our work would be a little bit harder. But she’s there and we know who she is. When she’s there she makes sure that everybody does good. Of course our director Bobby Garcia is also there to do that for us always. But with the added input of Lea, counting for us and making sure I remember our lyrics and it really helped because this musical is not easy,” he added.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street will run from October 11 to 27 at the Theater at Solaire. The musical stars Lea Salonga, Jett Pangan, Ima Castro, and Nyoy Volante. Tickets are available online at Ticketworld.