by Don Tagala, ABS-CBN News
Three-time Tony winner Jhett Tolentino, a Pinoy producer, is among this year’s first-time winners at the 59th Grammy awards.
Tolentino is one of the producers for “The Color Purple” – which won the Grammy award for Best Musical Theater album.
The Filipino Broadway producer was instrumental in raising the funds needed to record the winning album, which he gets a Grammy award for his efforts.
“It’s an honor to be nominated — but of course, to win is a totally different ballgame,” Tolentino says. “Coming from the slums, of course, not in a million years I thought about this…”
Tolentino has co-produced 3 Tony-winning plays and musicals, and two other drama-desk winning productions.
It’s a world away from his old life in the slums of Ilo-Ilo, growing up poor in the Philippines.
Today, Jhett is finishing up a documentary about chasing his American dream, called “Life Is What You Make It.”
“I’ll use it as a tool for inspiring young kids that poverty is not a death sentence,” he said. “Just look at me, I’m a living example for that.”
Tolentino’s next dream project is to produce the first truly Filipino musical on Broadway.
“I’m reserving all my resources and contacts,” he said. “I’ve been going in and out of the Philippines to bring a big, big musical on Broadway — and I’m hoping to collaborate with Filipino businessmen. I will need the support of the 4 million Filipinos.”
There are about 15,000 equity actors in New York City, and lots of Filipino-Americans fighting for acting jobs on the Great White Way.
Tolentino says he is hoping he can inspire other kababayans to take a different route when it comes to jobs on broadway.
“Unfortunately as Asians, we’re always typecast to a certain show, so we’re very limited,” he said. “So I’m trying to open up the other side of the industry. We could do this. There’s design, there’s stage management, there’s producing…”
With Tony award-winning Filipinos on Broadway (including actress/singer Lea Salonga), a Tony-winning costume designer (Clint Ramos), and multi-awarded producer like Jhett – mounting the first-ever Filipino musical on the Great White Way stage seems not a far-fetched idea after all.