Filipina actresses

Vina Morales realizes Broadway dream with ‘Here Lies Love’

Jannelle So Productions

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Vina Morales realizes Broadway dream with ‘Here Lies Love’

BROADWAY DEBUT. Vina Morales talks to Janelle So about her Broadway debut through 'Here Lies Love.'

Screengrab from Janelle So Productions

'I’m still in awe until now,' says the actress, when asked to recall her debut night on Broadway

This story is published in partnership with SoJannelleTV, a magazine show about Filipinos in North America.

Vina Morales has done almost everything there is to do in the world of entertainment. After getting her start as an eight-year-old prodigy, the Cebu native has been a singer and actress, performing in concerts around the world, releasing albums and starring in teleseryes and movies. While she had done some theater, performing in the local production of Rock of Ages in Manila, she had never gotten to appear on Broadway.

That was, until last month, when she made her debut in Here Lies Love, portraying the role of Aurora Aquino for a limited engagement from September 22 through October 22, at the Broadway Theatre.

Morales sat down with FilAm media pioneer Jannelle So-Perkins in New York for an interview with So Jannelle TV, a Filipino-American lifestyle magazine show which airs US-wide on cable channels The Filipino Channel (TFC) and ANC; as well as on local Southern CA digital channel KNET 25.1; and is also available on social media platforms.

“I’m still in awe until now. It was a night to remember and everyone was just so loving,” said Morales, when asked to recall her debut night on Broadway, which was attended by Nobel Peace Prize winner and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, plus Academy Award winning director Spike Lee. “I felt all the positive energy from everybody, especially at the lobby when everyone was toasting for me and welcoming me. Then when I did my bow I was teary-eyed because of tears of joy.”

Vina Morales realizes Broadway dream with ‘Here Lies Love’

For Morales, the journey to Broadway began 11 years ago, when she first auditioned for a role in Here Lies Love, a disco musical which tells the story of the rise and fall of former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos during Martial Law. Morales got a call back but didn’t get the role.

Eleven years later, while on a concert tour of Australia, her phone rang. It was Here Lies Love Director Bobby Garcia and producer Lea Salonga, informing her they’d like her to audition for the role of Aurora Aquino, the late mother of former Philippine senator Ninoy Aquino. Morales did a self-taped video and then a few weeks later got another call from Salonga with a very simple question: “Madam…are you ready for your Broadway debut?”

Vina Morales realizes Broadway dream with ‘Here Lies Love’

Accepting the role meant filling in the big shoes left by Salonga, a Tony and Olivier Award winner who originated the Aurora Aquino role when the show premiered on Broadway earlier this year. Despite the potential for pressure of carrying that burden, Morales says she never felt the pressure because of Salonga’s supportive guidance.

“It never came to my mind na ‘Wow’ because Lea never made me feel that way. She was there to guide me,” said Morales.

“I felt the love and the welcome from Lea and the whole family of Here Lies Love.”

Still, there was a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. Morales had a limited amount of time to rehearse, though the timing of the Broadway engagement worked out also as she was already in America for her concert dates alongside David Pomeranz. After arriving in New York, Morales had two days of rehearsals, as well as fittings, voice coaching, table work and blocking. 

Vina Morales realizes Broadway dream with ‘Here Lies Love’

Though the veteran is used to traveling the world for work, she says spending a month in New York is new to her. She enjoys a level of anonymity which she wouldn’t be afforded in the Philippines, where she is a household name, but says she still gets photo requests from Filipinos in New York.

When she returns to the Philippines after her Broadway stint, Morales will return to work on a Viva Films movie titled Sunny, an adaptation of a Korean movie about a reunion of high school best friends.

After nearly four decades in entertainment, Morales says she is content with where her career has taken her.

“As an artist I am actually happy where I am now. I’m just enjoying each moment that was given to me. If there are more opportunities, why not? I’m just enjoying each moment of my life because you’ll never know when our lives will be taken away from us.”  –

Rappler is partnering with Jannelle So Productions Inc (JSP), founded by Filipino-American pioneer and Los Angeles-based journalist Jannelle So, to publish video and written stories from SoJannelleTV about the journeys, successes, and challenges of Filipinos living in America.

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Mondays, 6:00 pm on KNET Channel 25.1 Southern California
Replay on Saturdays, 7:30 pm PT / 10:30 pm ET on ANC North America
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