In case you didn’t see him in Caribbean Theatre Production’s Phantom of the Opera back in 2014, Rondell Mungal; who I have never seen before then, was phenomenal. To quote a ‘review’ I wrote on one of the Phantom performances,
“I absolutely loved the dynamics between the new owners of the Opéra Populaire; Andre [Joshua Gouveia] and Firmin [Rondell Mungal] and the impeccable timing in delivering the comedic lines that was wrote….*written* (phantom joke).”
To this day his acting and vocals remain etched in my memory and I have really been looking forward to see more of him in the theatre in the years that followed but then; much like the phantom, he seemingly vanished from public performances. He has emerged yet again and this time is hosting his first solo concert ‘Make Them Hear You’ on Friday 9th December 2016 at Naparima Girls’ High School, and I definitely will be attending.
Still curious about where this promising talent came from; ‘What is his story?’, ‘What was his performing arts background?’ And ‘Where did he vanish to for all these years? I caught up with Rondell earlier this week for this Break The Proscenium Interview.
Rondell Mungal, now 19 years old, and pursuing a Practitioner’s Certificate in theatre at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus has had a long history with music. “Like most singers,” he says “I started singing from small” but only started taking it seriously after being invited by a school friend, Joshua Ramjohn, to music lessons with Miss Bernadette Roberts – the music teacher at Naparima Girls. Since then, he explained, he became increasingly more involved in the choir at his own school – Naparima College, under the direction of Miss Natalie Persad and Miss Marilyn Lalla.
In form two or three, he recalled entering the vocal solo category at the Trinidad and Tobago Music Festival but only made it past the first round and has an interesting way of recounting the experience.
“That was a bad year, I was going through puberty and my voice was changing. Tragic times!”
In the years to follow Rondell never lost his competitive spirit and would enter and win the Mr. SanFest competition in 2013, enter and win the Scholarship Competition Of Talented Teenagers –SCOTT in 2015, and once again faced the adjudicators at the T&T Music Festival in 2016, placing in the top three for all of the 11 categories that he entered and won four championship trophies and the prestigious Myers Shield for Excellence in over 10 classes.
Rondell’s favourite musical of all time is and has always been “The Phantom of the Opera.” He even confessed that Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s signature and haunting theme song has remained his ring tone till this very day. Naturally, as any Phantom fanboy would be, he was “super excited” when Caribbean Theatre Production announced auditions for this iconic piece of theatre, and instantly knew that it was something he “had had had to do”. Performing for something that big outside of an affiliation with his school was something he had never done, and being a “south boy” he admitted to barely been up north till then. Still he braved the unfamiliar landscape and circumstance and auditioned for what became his stage debut as an actor.
He admitted that he was initially disappointed in the role he was cast. Like many newcomers, Rondell went into the audition with sights set on the leading role. In retrospect he says,
“I was so young and so naive. There were more experienced persons who auditioned for this production so of course they would get the part, so I understand… but a boy can dream can’t he?”
Little did he know that the role for which he was cast would make such a huge impact on my experience as a theatre patron. I can’t impress enough how much justice he gave to that role. And… in an interesting circumstance of breaking the proscenium, he and Joshua Gouveia were invited to host the Christmas dinner of Methanex Corporation later that year… as their characters… the new owners of the Opéra Populaire. How awesome is that?!
With Music Festival, San Fest and SCOTT, Rondell realised that he has been taking on one major project every year since 2013 and to date, Phantom of the Opera has remained the highlight of his experience and maintains a close relationship with his fellow cast mates.
Hearing Rondell’s recount of his experiences makes it clear that the performing arts is what he was born to do. It is interesting to discover however that the subjects he pursued in Science subjects at the high school would lead you to believe otherwise.
“In terms of my subjects I studied pure sciences at CSEC and CAPE LEVEL. There was and still is the perception in Naps that the arts are just a side thing. It is encouraged but not as a main thing. But I think from maybe Form four or five my perception had definitely shifted and I knew that the arts was the place for me although my subjects weren’t in alignment with that.”
Having already chosen his subjects, his plan was continue with the sciences, win a scholarship and use the scholarship to study the arts. When the conversation came with his parents he discloses that they weren’t fully supportive but over time they warmed up to the idea and now support him fully. It also helps that he did indeed win that scholarship and would like to study Musical Theatre abroad. His concert this weekis an extension of that plan.
The title of the concert -‘Make Them Hear You’ was inspired by a number of the same name form the musical ‘Ragtime.’ Rondell reveals that he first sang the song for his UWI auditions but really connected to the words when asked to perform it for UWI’s Graduation ceremony in 2016 and has performed it a number of times since then. He reveals that the lyrics; “Go out and tell your story, let it echo far and wide, make them hear you…” holds significant meaning to him and has been a source of empowerment as he comes into his own, in his personal life and prepares to launch himself as a professional singer. In the first half Rondell will share more of his favorite songs that have been significant in his life and the second half would be a celebration of Christmas featuring Joel John, Arianna Rodas Laing, Racquel Winchester, Marina Mohan and more.
Don’t miss Rondell Mungal’s coming of age concert ‘Make Them Hear You’ on Friday 9th December 2016, 6:45PM at Naparima Girls Auditorium. Admission: $100. For further information contact: 328-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to look out for Rondell in the role of Captain Von Trapp in the Sound of Music coming in 2017