The thrill of seeing stars in the makingBy Lea Salonga
Philippine Daily Inquirer
So, how did my daughter (Nicole) do at her school’s show?
This was a school musical, where children of various ages, from kindergarten to high school, would get up to sing in front of a few hundred people (mostly parents, grandparents, close friends and caretakers). This was an audience that was not the least bit objective.
I do understand the thrill of seeing one’s child up on stage, bathed in a bright spotlight and backlit by ambers, cyans and magentas. Or, in the case of one number from “Wicked,” emerald green. My parents were no different—never mind that I was performing professionally. They were still thrilled. (I think to a degree, my mother still is.)
The show was 100-percent musical theater songs. This surprised me, as I wouldn’t have thought that such a program would appeal to the kids. Even more surprising was the span that this show covered.
We are talking as far back as Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel,” to the contemporary Stephen Schwartz megahit “Wicked.”
There was comedy, from “A Chorus Line” (“Sing!” and “Nothing”); a bit of drama, from Frank Wildhorn’s “Jekyll and Hyde” (“Facade” and “The Confrontation”); and cinematic flair, from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Sunset Boulevard” (“With One Look”). To be sure, this was an ambitious undertaking, something not lost on any of the folks who watched the two performances.
I caught both shows (of course I did, Nicole was singing solo in both of them!), and it was a lot of fun, as I saw quite a bit of role-switching—one kid would sing the opening number one day, and another would sing that same number at the next show. It was cool to see two different young women tackle the same song; it piqued my curiosity to watch how each saw the same thing, but from different perspectives. All manner of musicality aside, I was curious to see just how into their characters the kids were.
There were kids who, although they were having fun, weren’t exactly comfortable in the limelight, while others were bathing in it like it was second nature.
It was really funny; in a group number, there was one kid all the way in the back row whom Rob and I couldn’t take our eyes off. This child was committed to each step, each movement, each word from the song he was singing. As far as we were concerned, he was the star of that number. He was, as we coined it, “in it to win it.” As my husband would say whenever such a kid caught our attention, “I think he’s just chosen his career.” Golly, I hope so.
And there amongst all the children able to carry a tune (and there were many creditable performances at both shows), there will be this one amazing, stellar talent whose gifts just couldn’t be ignored. It was at the first performance, and my family and I had settled into our seats. The show opened with a Rodgers and Hammerstein medley.
At the introduction, a young man named Kris Gonzales appeared, moved by the sound of whatever instrument was playing. And then, without warning, he opened his mouth, and our jaws fell to the floor.
Rob and I looked at each other … a lot. Oh my God, I thought, who is this kid?
I got a little information from Deedee Garcia-Agustines (Atlantis Productions’ Bobby Garcia’s older sister; her kids attend the same school), who said that Kris has been trained since he was very, very young. Hence, that degree of control and a firm grasp of his instrument.
I sure hope he continues singing (while still doing well academically) because he really has an incredible voice. Kris and another young man, Marcus Corporal, did a gender-bending version of “Defying Gravity” that made it seem like they were levitating in midair. It was, for me, a showstopper, one that made the house erupt into crazy applause at both performances.
I have to give credit to the director, Nazer Salcedo, and the musical director (also the school’s music teacher) Jomar de Jesus, for not just putting together a pretty darn good show, but for instilling a love and appreciation of musical theater.
It makes me, as one who does it for a living, extremely proud and happy to be a member of this incredible performing community, and that there are young people, at least in this one school, who absolutely get it.
Now, back to my first question: How did my daughter do? She was, in a word, wonderful. Totally in tune, never once forgot a lyric, and, even with a cough, kept on barreling forward, never stopping even once. She had no fear of the audience, remained completely focused and seemed to enjoy every moment on stage.
She was tasked with singing “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie,” a song that is closely identified with me. Because I was away working, my mother and husband were the ones in charge of making sure that Nicole practiced her song at home.
When she arrived in Singapore during my last weekend there, she practiced for me, her Ninang Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, and our costars in “God of Carnage,” Adrian Pang and Art Acuña. Not once did we ever ask her to sing for us; she volunteered. This wee little girl was not at all shy about opening her mouth and showing what she can do.
After we heaped our praises and told her how proud we were of her, she then made this declaration: “OK, Mommy, now I’m ready to sing in one of your shows.”
That statement made me sweat. But truly, I was very, very proud of her.
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