The Canada-born Filipino actress talks to us about her family, being on Broadway, and representing people of color in theater.
Filipina actress and singer, Andrea Macasaet grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, belting out Whitney Houston songs at her family’s requests. Like a typical Filipino family, karaoke night was taken seriously.
These days, you can find her channeling the likes of Avril Lavigne and Demi Lovato while she plays the Tudor queen Anne Boleyn, a role she’s had since 2019. She performs eight shows a week, with one day off.
Six:The Musical is a Broadway production based on the wives of Henry VIII. The Tony Award-winning musical, which opened to consistently rave reviews despite having to be momentarily shut down during the height of the pandemic, features a diverse cast that takes their queues from hit pop songs of the early aughts.
Variety says “Long live these broadway queens,” while the Guardian calls it a “viral hit.” It’s opening night was attended by the likes of Lin Manuel-Miranda and Lea Salonga, whose Broadway songs she used to sing as a kid whenever she joined karaoke competitions. Unlike any production before, Six exemplifies how diversity and feminism can enhance stories, not detract from them, and does so with a vibrant and youthful soundtrack.
In an industry that’s still shaking off its traditions, Macasaet is paving the way for broader representation. “People believe in what they see,” Six star Macasaet says, “And for them to see a Filipino woman portraying an English Tudor queen—it opens people’s eyes for them to know that these stories can be told…through a different lens, and still have the same weight.”
Despite being one of the key figures behind the veritable hit, Macasaet was on the verge of quitting musical theater altogether due to the lack of opportunities for people of color, especially Asians. Thanks to a stroke of luck, the 28-year-old is now paving the way for a new generation of aspiring thespians. “We have a long, very long way to go! I am just a sliver of a moment that needs to be bigger.”
At 10 o’clock at night, rising Broadway star Andrea Macasaet has just gotten home after another run of their show, Six: The Musical, to speak with Vogue Philippines about her career on Broadway, championing representation, and her Filipino heritage.
Were you always a Broadway fan?
No! Well… Yes, I did love musical theater, I loved singing and karaoke, like all of our families. Growing up, karaoke competitions were a huge thing to use my energy on. My mom would enter me in contests whenever she could. From an early age, I was singing.
The Whitney Houston songs, the Celine Dion songs, and every once in a while she would bring in a musical theater song. She knew Lea Salonga was Eponine, so she was like, “go sing ‘On My Own.’”
From middle school to high school, I would join local theater productions [and] do the children’s chorus growing up. And then I found that as an adult, and while I was in college, the roles for me were limited.
I didn’t feel like I could be Belle in Beauty and the Beast, it didn’t feel like I could play big ingenue [roles] or big tracks unless it was Miss Saigon or an Asian musical.
Was that because you weren’t seeing yourself represented or just because they really weren’t taking Asian cast members?
Both. In my hometown, there were a handful of people that wanted to pursue musical theater and within that handful was the one Asian girl who got everything. During that time it was tough! It was hard to break into anything. At one point I gave it all up. I didn’t want to do it anymore. What was I doing by putting myself through this trauma over and over again, being insecure about myself, and questioning my worth and talent? So I left musical theater for a hot second. I was like “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
And [then] I found myself auditioning for Six. At the time, I didn’t have any representation. I just showed up to this open call. I flew myself from Winnipeg to Toronto and took a chance on myself, spent the $1,000 on my flight. And then I landed my broadway debut! Now, the opportunities are presenting themselves and it’s very exciting.
What about the character of Anne Boleyn resonated with you?
When she first fell into my lap, the biggest thing she taught me was to be bold and speak up for myself. Her anthem is to be “sorry, not sorry.” And to take that piece of her and apply it to my own life, it meant that, no, I didn’t have to be the model minority Filipino girl. Where I obey, and I do this, I don’t say anything, and I keep it quiet, because you don’t know when things are going to get taken away from you.
It was actually just stepping into my own confidence and realizing my worth. that applied into every aspect of my life. To be brave to stand up for myself and actually be okay with disagreeing and having my own opinion about things, and sharing my own thoughts, and doing what I thought was good for me. To be unapologetic about it, and if I’m wrong then I learn.
And be a fierce, strong Filipino woman who can break those barriers and create change. I mean, the Church of England was created because of her. That just creates more [possibilities] for me and for every seven-year-old Filipino girl who walks through Sixth Broadway and sees that I’m doing it so she can do it too.
I read that Six is pop-centered, with influences like Avril. How did pop elements influence your sound and character?
My take on my queen leans more toward the Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Avril world. The reason why I fell in love with the show in the first place was because all the songs sounded like pop radio hits.
It didn’t sound like musical theater. It sounded like, oh this is Demi Lovato, oh this is Ariana Grande, oh this is Alicia Keys. It was so different from anything I’d ever heard and grown up with, which is why I was so drawn to it. Because this is the music that I love to listen to and sing. I love contemporary pop songs. These were all songs that showcase us vocally. We can make these songs our own and have fun with them. They feel so good to sing. They don’t get old.
Are you close to your Filipino heritage and culture?
I am! The thing that’s carried me through this contract—I’ve been away from my family since the start of this. The only time I got to be with my family was when everything shut down [during the pandemic]. A part of why I love our culture is because we’re so family-based, we do so much for our families.
I remember my parents, my tita, my tito came to opening night. And my sister and her boyfriend, and the most important part of that entire night for me was that my family got to see me on stage. I didn’t care about the reviews, I didn’t care who else was there. To me, it just meant that everything that my parents had worked hard for and paid for, just so that I could be where I was, paid off.
After opening night in their hotel room, they were like, “I never thought I would be in an audience watching you with Jimmy Fallon there, with Lin Manuel-Miranda there, and with Lea Salonga in the fourth row.” And I said, ‘does this make you happy, are you happy?’ And they were like, “Of course!” and I was like phew. They’re happy, I’m happy.
And I know that everything that they have done is to make sure that I was okay. And I understand that now that I’m 28.
You mentioned earlier that your mom would take you to karaoke competitions. What was your favorite to sing?
What’s always requested of me is Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” Sometimes I get a good “And I’m Telling You, I’m Not Going,” but that’s [toward] the end of the night. When the night is always over they’ll always go, “one more, one really good one.”
Do you come from a family of singers?
I’m the only performer in the family, but my mom’s side; they can carry a tune. They really can.
I really love the concept of Six. You just have this diverse cast, playing Tudor queens.
I know. Maybe one day I’ll come and direct it over in the Philippines.
What advice do you have for Filipinos hoping to break into theater?
Just continue to be yourself. We have to be proud of the skin we’re in. Really be proud of what we are, what we’ve gone through, and how we’ve been influenced. Honor that and honor ourselves. Don’t try to be anything you’re not. We have so much to offer and the world will only change if we show up as authentically as we can.