When Red Concepcion was a kid, he chanced upon the legendary Gene Kelly, as the affable hoofer Don Lockwood, singing and dancing in the rain for one of the most iconic scenes in the history of cinema. From then on, there was no turning back for him.
"I said to myself, 'I wanna do that!'" Concepcion told ABS-CBN News in an interview as he recounted how the Hollywood great inspired him to take up a career doing musical theater -- a career that can now include "Miss Saigon" as a glimmering milestone.
"I think every theater kid dreams of being given an opportunity like this," he said after being cast as the Engineer. "I'm beyond excited, but I also know that there's a lot of work to be done; I look forward to tackling it and to grow from this experience."
Concepcion's leap from being a starry-eyed fan of Kelly to being included in the upcoming UK touring production of the iconic musical has been a long one. He began working with local theater companies more than a decade ago, starting out his professional career as one of the ducklings in an adaptation based on the fairy tale of "The Ugly Duckling."
Back in 2014, he caught one of his biggest breaks and was cast in one of the lead roles for "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," which had a run in Singapore, alongside veterans Jon Santos, Michael Williams and Leo Valdez.
"I've had the privilege to work with some of the top theater companies in the Philippines and some of the best directors and actors. I'll bring everything I learned from my betters with me on this [new] journey," he said.
Talking about the audition process for "Miss Saigon," Concepcion described it as a week-long "grueling" process.
"I had to come in everyday for a week -- one day to sing and the next day to dance. Luckily, everyone in the creative team was very encouraging so that took the edge off what could've been a very stressful process," he shared. "I hate auditions! I'm always a nervous wreck!"
Did he get his jumpiness from his family? Probably not. Concepcion is the son of Raymond and Gene Concepcion -- resident artists of the Manila Metropolitan Theater during its heyday -- and the brother of actor-singer Sam Concepcion. "You could very well say that this really runs in the blood," he quipped.
Asked whether he received advice from the likes of Lea Salonga prior to him trying out for "Miss Saigon," Concepcion said: "Lea's always been very supportive of this generation of theater artists."
"'Miss Saigon' alumna Carla Guevarra-Laforteza was also very generous with her advice. 'Just tell the story,' she told me."
He then admitted: "Also, even though I had grown up knowing the entire original 'Miss Saigon' score by heart, I had never actually seen the show. So after the first round of callbacks, I called Jo Ampil and she was kind enough to walk me through the story."
The UK tour of Cameron Mackintosh's "Miss Saigon,"which also includes other Filipinos such as Gerald Santos and Joreen Bautista, will kick off in Leicester on July 3.