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  • A Tale of Two Annies: Get To Know Krystal and Isabeli, Theater's Next Big Stars

    Both young and promising, these bright stars are all set to conquer Philippine theater
    by SmartParenting Staff .
  • IMAGE Lai de Guzman

    This September, the country’s premier entertainment and tourism destination Resorts World Manila (RWM) presents its seventh major stage production—the beloved family musical Annie.

    After the first successful staging in the country in 1980 with no less than Lea Salonga playing the title role, Annie promises to rekindle its love affair with older Filipino audiences and charm new generations with its inspirational story about a charismatic orphan’s optimistic outlook in life against all odds.   

    Playing the role of Annie are Krystal Brimner and Isabeli Araneta Elizalde, who both bested hundreds of other hopefuls auditioning for the role.

    Half-Filipina and half-Scottish, 9-year-old Krystal was born in San Diego, California and moved to the Philippines in 2009. Since the age of 3, Krystal found her niche as a performer and the spotlight finally illuminated her flair last year when she took on the role of Angel in Erik Matti’s controversial indie film “Honor Thy Father.” In the film, Krystal’s role required her to shave her adorable curly locks, and though the move may seem overwhelming for a young girl like Krystal, she readily obliged seeing the scene’s merit to the film and eventually to her career as well.

    When awards season came, Krystal won several best child actress awards for the role from award-giving bodies Metro Manila Film Festival, the Trinity University of Asia Platinum Stallion Media Awards, and Gawad Guro Awards.

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    This year, Krystal pursues a new challenge: the stage. The young multi-awarded star shared how her audition for the role went. “I was a little bit nervous when I went in the room,” Krystal said as she saw hundreds of other hopefuls for the role.  “Then they told me to sing songs (from the musical).  After that, they told me to come back on Monday and I was so happy then I told mom, and she was also very happy,” she said. "Then they told me that I was part of Annie and I was super excited that I got the role,” she beamed.

    Krystal is as optimistic as her character in venturing to theater roles despite starting out in film. “It’s different because in (making) movies, Direk always says, “cut!”, while in this stage play, it’s all straight -- there’s no stopping, it’s all going to flow straight,” she said.

    Besides being a print and TV model, a G-Force Kids scholar, and a member of ABS-CBN’s 2nd i-Shine Talent Camp, Krystal was also a consistent honor student in school which all makes for a promising talent in the industry.

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    Spunky 10-year-old Isabeli is a go getter. It showed when she went through a difficult audition process to bag the lead role of Annie. “I was a bit nervous when I was about to perform because there was a line. When it was my turn to audition, I was like, “Oh my gosh, it’s me next!” Isabeli shared. Jitters aside, she took the challenge head on and similar to the character she’s about to portray, Isabeli kept her spirits up throughout the process and spent her time well.

    Coming from a prominent family, this little girl is, in every sense, a modern day princess. With her father Juan Elizalde’s side involved in business, and her mother Bianca Araneta’s side stock full of talented artists, it was not a question of how, but when Isabeli would finally find her way into the industry.

    Although big things are expected of Isabeli, she’s still just a kid enjoying what she loves doing most. “I like my music subject because we get to play different musical instruments. Right now we’re singing, so I like that a lot.” Apparently, it was at school where teachers took notice of Isabeli’s gift. Multi-awarded thespian Caisa Borromeo, who is also part of the production, went out of her way to take Isabeli under her wing.

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    The mentorship paid off as Isabeli ended up earning the lead part of Mary Lennox in Repertory Philippines’ "The Secret Garden" (2015), a role she unfortunately had to turn down because of her priorities in school.

    But that setback simply polished and poised Isabeli for an even better opportunity, to debut with a bigger stage and a role that fits perfectly with her personality. “I love that I got to be Annie because she’s always happy, she’s always hopeful… I just like her. I like her songs, I like her role,” Isabeli shared.

    It’s hard not to be smitten by this cute mestiza. With her bright eyes and infectious smile, Isabeli simply radiates with a positive charm. She can no doubt light up a room with her presence.


    IMAGE Lai de Guzman

    During the press conference last May 31, we caught up with the two Annies for a quick conversation:

    Smart Parenting: How did you prepare for the auditions? What song(s) did you rehearse to sing?

    Isabeli: Well, we were required to memorize four songs, "You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile," "Maybe," "It's The Hard-knock Life," and "Tomorrow". I prepared by taking voice lessons and tried to memorize [the songs]. I took [the lessons] when I was three years old, and then I stopped, and when I heard that I was gonna audition for Annie I took them again.

    Krystal: I prepared by watching the movie, and looking at how Annie moves and talks and how nice she is to people.

    SP: What tips did your parents give you regarding the audition?

    Isabeli: My mom told me to always smile and to always think positive. and she always reminded me, 'You're gonna get the role!'

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    SP: You've been practicing for a while now (almost a month). What have you learned so far?

    Isabeli: That it's not that easy to be someone, you can't just act like them because you really need to know their characteristics and be them.

    Krystal: I learned to be nicer. I always fight with my sisters but I think the workshop helped me to be nicer.  

    IMAGE Lai de Guzman

    SP: How are you able to internalize the character?

    Isabeli: Just think that you're the person. I watched the movie a lot of times and tried to memorize her characteristics. So that's how I try to be like her.

    Krystal: "Honor Thy Father" helped me to improve, and I also joined iShine before.

    SP: How do you plan to do both acting and studying at the same time?

    Krystal: I stopped school [for the moment].

    Isabeli: My mom is talking to the Grade 5 teacher and she's asking if I could have less homework so I don't struggle with schoolwork, and so I could focus more on the play.

    SP: What do you think are the qualities of a good Annie?

    Isabeli: Positivity, hopefulness and optimism.

    Krystal: Annie is very positive -- which is me. I always like being positive and Annie is nice, she cares, and she’s careful.

    SP: What is your message to your parents?

    Isabeli: Thank you for supporting me.

    Krystal: Thank you, mom, for always being proud of me.

    ANNIE opens on September 30, 2016 at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila, featuring Krystal and Isabeli with Michael De Mesa, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Jill Peña, Red Concepcion and Mako Alonso.

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