Jhett Tolentino wins Grammy for Color Purple musical

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Jhett Tolentino
Jhett Tolentino [via Internet Broadway Database]

Filipino-born Jhett Tolentino who left the Philippines for the American dream has won his first Grammy as album producer for the broadway musical “The Color Purple.”

Tolentino and his fellow producers received the American music industry award for “Best Musical Theater Album” during the 59 th Grammy Awards.

“I still can’t believe it. Nobody thought this could happen. When ‘The Color Purple’ was called, my mind went on a rewind and I remembered everything that I had to go through. I take pride in the award and it is an honor. I’m inspired to deliver more great work,” Tolentino said in an Asian Journal interview.

“It’s an honor to be nominated but, of course, to win is a totally different ballgame. Coming from the slums, of course not in a million years that I thought about this,” Tolentino was quoted in an ABS-CBN article.

He raised funds as a producer for the musical’s original cast recording.

The Filipino Broadway producer adds the Grammy to his 3 Tony Awards, the third Filipino to receive a Tony after Lea Salonga and Bobby Lopez.

The theatre enthusiast first came to the United States in 2004 as an accountant. Since then he has produced more than 10 Broadway plays and has received 2 Drama Desk Awards, 2 Drama League Awards, 3 Outer Critics, a Lucille Lortel Award, an Off-Broadway Alliance Award, and in 2014 recognized as The Outstanding Filipino American in New York.

Born, raised in Philippine slums, and educated in Iloilo City, Tolentino proudly talks about his roots on social media and interviews.

He has taken on a personal mission to inspire people about his journey to the American dream through “Life is What You Make It,” a film bio that documents how a child from a slum in the Philippines became a producer on Broadway.

Tolentino is currently crowdfunding to finish the editing of the documentary film which took his team back to the Philippines, Singapore, and Japan.

“I am hoping to find Filipino editors who can work with me to finish the film. And hopefully we can bring it to international film festivals. If not, then we can screen it in the Philippines and I wish that young children there will be inspired and think that poverty is not a death sentence. Just look at me, I’m a living example. Just be resourceful and stick with it, you don’t have to rely on your parents,” he in the AJ interview.

Tolentino hopes to inspire Filipinos coming to Broadway for jobs to try other routes such as stage management and producing.

“The competition there is very tough. Unfortunately, as Asians, we’re always type cast, so we’re very limited 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,” he said.

In his donation page, Tolentino writes the appeal: “It is important that we finish this film as we believe this story is inspirational. This film may be able to open minds of both poor children to be resourceful and be educated; and for the well-to- do to do more in helping educating indigenous children.”

Tolentino says he is also on a crusade to produce a Filipino musical in Broadway.

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