Is there life after ‘Kim’ for Ma-Anne Dionisio?

Ma-Anne Dionisio as Kim in Miss Saigon.

Life moves on for ‘Kim’

By Ted Alcuitas

Richmond, B. C. – After 25 years playing Kim in the classic Miss Saigon, Ma-Anne Dionisio is still not leaving the theatre, ready to tackle other roles that come her way.

After playing the role for so long, she relishes the idea of being part of the ensemble for Closer Than Ever which debuted at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre on Feb. 4 and ends tomorrow, Feb. 20.

“The show’s a beast,” she told The Richmond News in an interview. “It’s definitely one of the most challenging pieces of theatre I have ever decided to take on. ”

“It’s a gift for me to have this,” she added. “I am grateful that I finally get to play my age. Even if it’s for a short bit. For the most part in my career, because of the way I look, people tend to cast me as the romantic ingenue, the younger part. But I am really excited to play something that’s closer to my age.”

She was just a 19- year old immigrant in Winnipeg and no theatre experience when she got the plum role in the Canadian production of Miss Saigon in Toronto in 1993, launching her musical career.

Now 42 and a single mother to three – Niko (17), Cody (11) and Anya (9), she tries to balance the hectic life of a performer and family life.

“It takes an army of people helping me with the children,” she says in an interview on the sidelines of the show at the Gateway Theatre. “It’s not the easiest option to take as a single mom.”

She says the children always travels with her and “this is the first time they’re not with me,” she sighs with a touch of sadness.

“Last night , I called my daughter to tell her I would be home in a few days and she was not very happy.”

Because of the current conversation around the issue of diversity in the entertainment industry, we ask her about her views.

“It’s a sensitive issue and I hope there would be an increase in roles for people like me, “ adding that she’s been lucky and fortunate to have been cast in roles that didn’t particularly slot her into specific types like Miss Saigon where she played a Vietnamese bar girl that feel in love with an American soldier.

In Closer Than Ever, she is the only actress of colour in an all-white cast of four.

She says she was approached a year ago by Gateway’s artistic director, Jovanni Sy, himself a Filipino-Canadian. Sy spent 20 years in Toronto as a professional actor and playwright spending a year with the Filipino theatre – Carlos Bulosan Theatre.

Since assuming the post at Gateway in 2012, Sy is trying to revolutionize the theatre’s repertoire with plays that are not in English or French – the first professional Canadian theatre to do so.

Now that she is middle-aged , Dionisio who speaks fluent Filipino, is optimistic about her career, revealing that she has been offered acting roles in the Philippines.

For now, when she’s not working , she “likes to do nothing..loves food and nature walks…”