By: Maria Girlie Pascual
I met Elizabeth Regacho of all places, at “Not Just Haircuts” salon in Chicago, owned by Robert Chavez who introduced us while I waited for him to finish with her service. We got to talking about what we both did professionally, exchanged cards, but it wasn’t for another six months that she officially became a real estate client. Surprisingly, in the weeks following our chance meeting, we had common friends that resulted in several social occasions where we got to know each other better, and our friendship just seemed to grow organically from the first chance encounter.
That was about four years ago, and now, “Madame Mylab” as I fondly refer to her, has become a close friend. Naturally, when plans for her big 6-0 was just around the corner, I pitched an idea to her since I know now that she and her husband Elbert, loved to sing on their downtime. In fact, Elbert is a most requested Karaoke singer and on his birthday, even performed solo on his own birthday last year. Because of my background in theatre from my days performing in High School musicals, and taking opera voice lessons at the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music, and eventually joining professional bands back int he Philippines, In Los Angeles and Chicago, I felt that I could make a script for Elizabeth, a musical to celebrate her story on stage.
Elizabeth gave me the “green light” to come up with the script, to pick the songs that meant something to both of them, while intertwining it with the hallmark events of their lives–when they met in the 70’s, to their wedding in the 80’s, her migration to Chicago, and finally their collective success as a family in the 90’s, until today. Theirs was not an easy path, in fact, they were separated for four years with Elbert staying behind to take care of their two little boys, John and Michael, while Elizabeth migrated with just a dream and a fervent hope to find the American Dream for her family.
This was all narrated through song, starting with the show opening up to Diana Ross’ anthem “I’m Coming Up” medley with Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love”, two powerful women singing about love and passion, two of Elizabeth’s driving forces in her life. It segued to a 70’s opening scene of Manila in the 70’s, when Elbert and her met, a duet with a mash up of the songs “When I fall in Love” duet with “TL Ako Sa ‘Yo”, a crowd favorite depicting young love and the sounds of that era. From there, the show progressed to show a wedding march with all of her volunteer ladies as accomplished as her, being home health owners themselves. The scenes progressed to Elizabeth leaving for the United States to the tune of “Leaving On a Jet Plane” whole Elbert serenaded her with Lou Rawls “you’ll Never Find” accompanied with backup singers, Mabel and Gemma. It was a fun and bittersweet scene that the audience loved. The scenes progressed to life being apart, their reunion in the late 80’s, and finally, success in the 90’s with another addition to their family, Paul, the youngest of the three boys. Finally, we ended with a photo of the family and the office of ER Home Care n Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago, their dreams coming into fruition after a long journey of hard work and smart planning.
The show would not have been possible without the help and participation of their friends. Kudos to her “girls”, Maria Isabel Turtogo- Sacay, Rose Cordero, Gemma Maroon, Irene Gonzaga, Lalaine Golucan, Sue Buniao, Alma Viudez ,Glenda Ramos and ELizabeth’s sister Alicia Lisowski. Not to be outdone, Elbert also had his “crew” performing. This included the ladies husbands like Joe Sacay, Limuel Cordero, Claro Buniao, Monching Viudez and even Robert Maroon chimed in for one of the songs “That’s What Friends Are For.” Other performers were James Delacruz and show choreographer and Elbert’s nephew, Giancarlo Regacho. It was indeed a performance of love because the practices lasted 3 to 4 hours a session and the dress rehearsals for half a day, all in the name of friendship.
To make it a professional production, Elizabeth agreed to hire Edison Dayao as our Musical Director, and Delfin Masangcay as our sound man. We also asked them to be there in at least two major dress rehearsals prior to the show, and they agreed, adding it to the show package. We also had production assistants, Elizabeth and Elbert’s nieces, Allen Cambay, Natalie Whitt and Anna Lisowski, and we even had an official Playbill called “Dancing Queen Elizabeth” that talked baout the show. The icing on the cake was the appearance of Elizabeth’s Los Angeles based cousin and 70’s singing and movie icon Djhoanna “Giji” Garcia, who wowed the audience with her vocal styling and stage presence.
At the finale, Elizabeth called her sons John, Michael and Paul to join Elbert and her for “Top of the World”, a song that embodied her joy at having her family surrounding her, including the newest addition to their brood, little Ella, Michael and Amy Ione Regacho’s three month old princess who garnered a standing ovation.
Overall, it was a wonderful musical, I was told, and judging by the laughter, the applause and the ovation, a lot of people were able to relate to Elizabeth and Elbert’s immigrant journey, from the homeland, the separation, the loneliness, the hope, the hard work, and finally, the success that came with all their sacrifices. It was the perfect story line for a musical that not only highlighted Elizabeth’s life journey, but it celebrated all of her 60 years with exactly what she has aspired to all her years, that hard work, patience, practice will equal success! Congratulations Madame Mylab, and Lakay Elbert for a memorable show, thank you and good job to all the performers, and “salamat” for trusting me with your birthday musical. Your story was indeed a show worthy of being set to song.
Star of the Musical and her 60th birthday party, Madame Mylab Elizabeth Cambay Regacho
The star and celebrant Elizabeth and her co-star In life and in the show, her hubby Elbert
Heartfelt rendition of the ballad “Nearness of You” by Elbert and Elizabeth Regacho
The Regacho family (L-R) Paul, Michael with wife Amy and baby Ella, Elizabeth, Elbert and John
The family that prays, sings and plays together singing “Top of the World”.
Elizabeth with California cousins who traveled just to see her (L-R) singer and 70’s icon Djhoanna Giji Garcia, Lydia Smith, Elizabeth, Cynthia Mones and sister Alicia Lisowski
Th e Wedding scene with Elizabeth and sister Alicia LISOWSKI in a happy re-enactment with the ladies.
“Tambay sa Kanto” Manila scene in the 70’s had Elbert leading the boys (L-R) James Delacruz, Limuel Cordero, Elbert, Joe Sacay, Claro Buniao and Monching Viudez, in singing “ Katawan” by Hagibis.
Sexy ladies (L-R) Rose Cordero, Glenda Ramos, Lalaine Golucan. Mabel Sacay and Gemma Maroon. Back row Alma Viudez, Alicia Lisowski.
Choreographer extraordinaire Giancarlo Regacho leads the gentlemen in Bruno Mars’ “24 Karat” dance number
Backup singers Irene Gonzaga and Gemma Maroon add beauty to their song
Scene 3 song 3, Elbert tries to convince Elizabeth to stay with “You’ll Never Find”.
A night of beauty and talent with Elizabeth and her sister Alicia Lisowski, and seated from L-R are Mrs Lydia Smith, Alice’s daughter Anna, and guest star cousin Djhoanna “Giji” Garcia from LA
Ladies waiting in the wings, seated in front Lalaine Golucan (L-R) fi rst row Glenda Ramos, Rose Cordero, Alma Viudez, Alice Lisowski, Mabel Sacay, back row (L-R) Gemma Maroon, Madame Elizabeth, Irene Gonzaga and Sue Buniao
Great friends attended and performed (L-R) including Claro and Sue Buniao of Supreme HH who both performed, Ann and Rome Fernandez with Mr and Mrs Richard Felicelda of Starlab
Viatimes CPRTV staff standing (L-R) w Joe Mauricio, Jan Paul Ferrer, Elizabeth, Girlie Pascual and James Delacruz , sitting are publisher Veronica Leighton and friends Dan Gawat and Th om Bierbrodt
Elbert with lively and lovely backup singers and dancers (L-R) Lalaine Golucan, Mabel Sacay, Irene Gonzaga and Gemma Maroon
Out of town classmates and relatives traveled to Chicago to celebrate with Elizabeth