Ima Castro marks 20 years in showbiz with London show

by Patrick Camara Ropeta, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Feb 05 2014 11:41 AM | Updated as of Feb 05 2014 10:49 PM

LONDON - Careers in entertainment come and go quickly, but some are lucky enough to last longer than that first big break. Performer Ima Castro stepped on stage in the early 1990s, and there she still remains over two decades later.

Ima Castro celebrated her career with a special show in London

Recently at a packed independent theatre in London, just a few miles from the glittery West End, the former ‘Miss Saigon’ star celebrated over 20 years in showbiz with a special one-off performance dubbed as ‘Full Circle’.

"I felt very exposed," she told ABS-CBN Europe after the show. "I’m used to doing concerts but not this type of show. This is totally new to me. I’m out of my comfort zone, because I usually act and sing in musicals which have several cast members.”

Castro took center stage with only a small supporting cast of British Filipino talents in scenes inspired by her life, from childhood memories in the Philippines to her foray in international theatre.

Written and directed by LK founder Ronnie del Barrio, the show was co-created by Castro herself under the musical supervision of seasoned performer CJ, known for his collaborations with Filipino drag act Lady Imelda, also a Miss Saigon alumnus.

Together they featured a selection of songs from classic OPM to musicals like ‘Annie’ and ‘Miss Saigon’, each representing moments in Castro's life and career.

"It sounds too much but it's all about me," she joked. “We’ve come up with these songs that would connect really nicely with my life story. I’ve been in the business for 20 years, so this is some sort of a celebration for me.”

Ima Castro released records in the 1990s before gettinginto theater

Fans and peers laughed and cheered as she reminisced about her journey while belting out tunes at Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone.

"She is such a talented singer, actress and performer," said Maya Gowrea, a long-time fan. "Such a beautiful God-given talent, such a pleasure. I’ve seen her way back, years ago in Miss Saigon, and I've always wanted to follow her voice."

She also won over new fans, like health worker Roshmi Boodhun who heard Castro for the first time. "I love her singing," she remarked. "She’s got a brilliant voice and she’s beautiful too."

Former Miss Saigon actor Roman Berry also added: "Wonderful work, really enjoyed it. It’s an autobiographical journey, and it’s interesting to know Ima in that sense. It’s brilliant."

Best known for her stint in Miss Saigon, Castro had her first major break by winning Best Singer at the Panasonic Karaoke Quest in Osaka, Japan. Other awards followed soon after, including Best Interpreter at the first Asian Song Festival in Bali, Indonesia, and bagging second prize in both Musika Manila and MetroPop in the same year.

Her strong vocals led to a recording contract with Polygram and MCA/Universal, releasing two albums and a string of singles under her belt. She also performed duets with international stars Enrique Iglesias and David Pomeranz, and supported tenor Russell Watson for his concerts in Manila and Tokyo.

“I’ve forgotten that side of my career,” she laughs. “But I would love to release another album, more of a pop and musical crossover.”

Castro in 2012 with fellow cast members from the Manila staging of award winning musical Nine presented by Atlantis Productions

Most notably, she was among a handful of Filipinos to star in the hit musical Miss Saigon, where she played the lead role of Kim. She succeeded Lea Salonga a Manila revival of the show over a decade ago, consequently playing the role for four years including tours in Hong Kong, Singapore, Portugal, and the UK.

Since then, she starred in various shows and events in both Manila and London, where she splits most of her time with seasonal engagements, including high profile roles in top musicals like ‘Aida’, ‘In the Heights’ and ‘Nine’.

"Thank you for all the support. I hope you continue to support more projects to come," she told fans.

Castro is currently preparing for the Manila production of 'Ghost' in April 2014, followed by an Asian tour of 'Shrek' later in the year.