FILIPINO producer Jhett Tolentino took home the Grammy Award on Sunday, February 12 for Best Musical Theater Album for “The Color Purple,” the musical based off of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
This is Tolentino’s first Grammy, which he said was unexpected and an “impossible dream.”
“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 told the Asian Journal on Tuesday, February 14.
Tolentino co-produced the album alongside producers Van Dean, Stephen Bray, Roy Furman, Scott Sanders, and Frank Filipetti. Cynthia Erivo, Jennifer Hudson, and Danielle Brooks are the principal soloists of the album, while Stephen Bray, Brenda Russell, and Allee Willis are the composers/lyricists.
“It was such a big category. We were up against Cyndi Lauper, Steve Martin, Sara Bareilles and ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ was a great production as well,” he said. “This is my fifth time attending the Grammys and two of my previous shows were nominated too before. Ours was the first category and it feels like it happened too fast, it was too fast.”
He shared that he raised funds to become a producer for the musical’s original cast recording, which happened over the span of two days.
Last year, “The Color Purple” received the Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Cynthia Erivo).
“Cynthia Erivo is a darling. She’s a great talent,” Tolentino commented.
The Iloilo native is a three-time Tony Award winner for “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” (Best Musical) “A Raisin in the Sun,” (Best Revival) and “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” (Best Play). He is the second Philippine-born Tony Award winner, and the first and only Filipino Tony Awards voter.
He earned a bachelor of science in accountancy from the University of Iloilo in 1997, and made his Broadway debut in 2013 with “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.”
As for what’s next for him, he is looking to start producing Broadway shows in the Philip- pines and is wrapping up his documentary, “Life is What You Make It.”
“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 said.
It is also his dream to have a Filipino show on Broadway.
“It is going to be my crusade to make it happen, to bring something about the Philippines to the Broadway stage,” he added.