They met at the Village Theatre in Issaquah when he was the Music Director for “Evita” and she performed the leading role. Last summer he played piano at her wedding and now he’s got her “beat boxing” (voice percussion) at the 5th Avenue Theatre.
Over late lunch a fortnight before “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” opened, music director/conductor R.J. Tancioco and Musical Theater star Jennifer Paz agreed that “Joseph” had brought them full circle as friends and colleagues.
Judging by the pasta filled plate in front of him you’d think the slender Tancioco was getting ready for an endurance bicycle tour. And he might as well have been. As music director/conductor, the physical workout he submits himself to eight times a week can easily be compared to that of a top athlete. He plays the piano (and is known to sneak a snack) while conducting orchestra and performers. That he needs the nourishment Tancioco knows from experience, for this is the fourth time that he is working on “Joseph.” The first time, he played the title role at the Village Theatre.
“I was attending Seattle Prep and a friend who was involved with the Village Theatre’s KIDSTAGE suggested I’d join.”
The second time was as Musical Director for KIDSTAGE, and the third he worked as Musical Director for the Main stage production.
“David Armstrong (5th Avenue’s Artistic Director) came to see that show and invited me to be MD for “Hair” at 5th Avenue Theatre.”
Paz, for whom this is the first production of “Joseph”, also showed a good appetite, but where Tancioco chose carbohydrates, she opted for protein rich salmon. As the Narrator of the show, she’s on stage 75 percent of the time. She may be petite but she’s got a big, strong voice that needs to be fed.
“It’s meaningful to me for getting to work with R.J. again. He’s my friend, and I really trust his artistry. He knows how to pull great vocal moments out of you.”
After having expressed his concern that their exchange may start sounding like a love fest, R.J. added his appreciation for Paz.
“Her ease is unique. A lot of Narrators scream the score, but then there’s no variety. The score demands variety. Jen has vocal ease and color. And I noticed today how she processed last night’s run-through notes, and how she navigates through voice. She’s a musical director’s dream.”
After gracefully accepting his compliment, Paz said, “I had a lot of practice. I worked on Miss Saigon a total of 5.5 years. After 1000 performances I stopped counting. In that show I had to sing 80-85 percent, that was my training. That’s how I got my 4-year degree; I went to the University of Saigon. Every show I work on, I technically compare to Ms. Saigon.”
Tancioco is enthusiastic about the orchestration of the show. “One of most exciting things about working at 5th Avenue is that they accommodate Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original score. The music was written for 15 musicians, and they hired them. The music and sound of the show will blow your mind away.”
If not that, it’ll be the presence of 52 children and 25 adults of multiple ethnicities on stage. Fans will be glad to see familiar names such as Heather Apellanes, Marc Dela Cruz, Michael Dela Cruz and Ben Gonio listed.
“Everybody brings something different to the show,” Tancioco said. “It’s great to see Asian-American singers on stage, and when kids look in the orchestra pit, they see me! If I were a 7-year-old boy seeing the show with Jen as Narrator and some of the brothers that would give me something to dream about.”
“You don’t associate Andrew Lloyd Webber with Asian-Americans. Seattle is special, elsewhere you don’t get the same opportunity, other than playing the role of the token Asian-American,” Paz said.
“It’s encouraging,” Tancioco added.
The story is about forgiveness and redemption, but as for the message that audiences may take away from “Joseph”, Paz said: Any dream will work. It’s attainable. You have to have a dream.”
To which Tancioco added: “As the song says.”