Unexpected wondersBy Lea Salonga
Philippine Daily Inquirer
I had the most interesting and fun weekend. I spent Saturday in concert at one of the most breathtakingly beautiful performance spaces that I’ve ever had the pleasure of singing in; and Sunday enjoying the evening in one of the entertainment capitals of the world. These two venues are only a couple of hours apart by car, but worlds away from one another as far as what the eye can see.
When I first visited the state of Utah for my concerts in the city of Provo, I met with the faculty of the theater department at Brigham Young University. They told me about a performance space called the Tuacahn Amphitheater, located in Ivins, Utah. They described the red rocks, tall and majestic, that create a natural acoustic wonder. I nodded and said, “OK” quite a few times, without realizing just how amazing this venue would be.
On Saturday afternoon, I had a sound check scheduled at the amphitheater. My cousin Lou, along with friends Ida and Fletcher, headed there together. From the moment we left our hotel, there was red rock to be seen everywhere, but as we got closer to the venue, that’s when I couldn’t help but take photos.
During the actual sound check, I took in the incredible view. I couldn’t focus on the task at hand in the manner that I am accustomed, but I don’t think anyone in the band held it against me. We all felt this was one really cool place. Hearing a natural echo after a big note was just mind-blowing. The only word I can use to describe how we felt is, “Wow.” During the show, after the show and on the drive away, all I could say was that. Wow.
The next day, our little group drove to Las Vegas. Yes, the hotels and casinos lining the strip were a far cry from Tuacahn, but a welcome sight nonetheless. My agenda for the day had nothing to do with performing; I was here to relax, eat, drink and see a show.
I didn’t have much time to get settled, as my entertainment evening would begin in earnest not an hour later. My tour guide would be my friend and former “Cinderella” leading man Peter Saide. He had prepared everything and all I would do was roll with it.
First, we paid a visit to a local production of “Cinderella” that was having its last performance in nearby Henderson, Nevada. Thanks to director Louisa and her assistant Armi for letting us say hello! Next on our agenda was a show called “Jubilee,” a follies-style revue with leggy dancers and splendiferous costumes. I remember seeing a similar show the first time I was in Vegas.
Nowadays, the entertainment on the strip consists of stand-up comedians, singers, and theatrical productions like “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Jersey Boys,” and “Blue Man Group,” plus Cirque du Soleil shows like “O” and “Mystere.” I am told that “Jubilee,” a revue, is a novelty in Vegas. This translates to: “Will not close.” I think the fact that many of the dancers are topless adds to the show’s appeal. There is a non-topless version that plays once a week.
The production value is incredibly high. I can’t remember how many times I gawked—at a gorgeous headpiece, a nifty piece of scenery, the glittering costumes, the high kicks, a really great solo, the amazing interim acts (a balancing duet, a pyramid juggler, and an aerialist). Yes, I admit, the show is quite dated, down to the backing track orchestrations and vocal arrangements. But there is a charm to how everything is put together—Gershwin, Porter, even Sondheim—and that made me smile.
To be quite honest, it is easy to forget that the girls on stage are topless. I did like, though, that the girls were “natural,” meaning, no breast augmentations. I was told that anyone who has breast implants need not apply for a slot, as the show is a celebration of the natural woman.
Later we had dinner at Tao, at the Palazzo. The restaurant is a work of art, with beautiful pieces hanging on the walls and the ceiling. The food was very, very good.
Now I’m back in the Big Apple. I am appearing in Scott Alan’s concert on April 30 at Birdland and in solo concerts on May 4 at Town Hall and May 5 in Troy, New York. What’s on my agenda here besides work? I’m hell-bent on seeing as many Broadway shows as I can, and spending time with friends. I am one lucky girl.
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