Lea reveals her lucky charm
Theater folk can be quite a superstitious bunch. Some refrain from eating peanuts backstage; others believe that saying “good luck” instead of “break a leg” would actually lead to mishaps. Whistling on- or offstage is generally frowned upon, and mentioning the title of “that Scottish play”—or well, “MacBeth”—is likely to draw gasps of horror from the more dramatic actors.
But for Tony Award-winning singer-actress Lea Salonga, preparing for a performance is as simple as warming up her voice properly, making sure all the costumes fit and staying calm inside the dressing room. According to Lea, she’s not the superstitious type, though she does bring with her a lucky charm: an elephant figure.
When she was 9, on the opening night of Repertory Philippines’ “Annie,” an aunt gave Lea an elephant charm for good luck. She placed it on her dressing room table and turned its face to the direction of the stage. It worked, somehow. By the time she headlined “Miss Saigon,” Lea had amassed enough elephant figures to assemble a small herd.
“Now in every theater show that I do, there’s an elephant on my table,” she told the Inquirer in a recent interview. “I have some that came from India, China; some are made of brass, jade, or wood.”
For some reason, Lea said, the elephants gave her positive vibes and put her mind at ease before she went onstage. “It’s been said that elephants have very good memory and that they never forget. So, I have an elephant so I wouldn’t forget my lines, lyrics, blockings and quick changes,” mused the 42-year-old artist.
Elephants are known to have long life spans; perhaps they can also bring longevity. If she had her way, Lea—who’s celebrating her 35th year in the industry with a concert titled “Playlist” on Dec. 6 and 7 at the Philippine International Convention Center’s Plenary Hall—said she would keep going for another 35 years.
(Tickets for “Playlist,” directed by Bobby Garcia with musical direction by Gerard Salonga, are available at Ticketworld outlets; call 891-9999.)
Excerpts from our interview:
How’s your coming concert different from your 30th anniversary show?
My 30th was a celebration of my career, so there was a lot of “Miss Saigon” and other stuff from musical theater. For “Playlist,” I am preparing to perform songs that I grew up listening to, or haven’t performed publicly.
The show will also benefit “Yolanda” survivors?
Part of the proceeds will be donated to them. I’ve also announced that if people want to bring relief goods to the concert venue, they can. The Red Cross will collect the donations.
Will you be returning to “The Voice of the Philippines”?
I hope everyone from Season 1 comes back. As far as desire and interest go, it’s definitely a yes. We all had so much fun.
How has “The Voice PH” helped your career?
My fan base has opened up. I think this is the most exposure I’ve ever had as a performer. Being surrounded by many different kinds of voices in the show has also opened my repertoire to many other possibilities.
How about the movie with Aga Muhlach?
He needs to lose 20 more pounds! I’m looking good in skinny jeans now—siya na lang. But when Aga’s fit and at his best, no one can touch him—not Piolo (Pascual), Sam (Milby) or John Lloyd (Cruz).
Tony Bennett is well in his 80s and still touring. Do you see yourself performing in your 60s, 70s?
If I happen to be one of those lucky artists who could continue performing till they die, then I would love that.
What are your thoughts about growing old?
I’m kind of looking forward to it. The aging process has been kind to me so far.
But aren’t you afraid of what aging will eventually do to your voice?
I know that once I hit a certain age, I would have to face the fact that I wouldn’t be able to hit the high notes anymore, my vibrato wouldn’t be as fast, and that singing in general will be a little more difficult.
Have you ever gotten sick of performing?
No, thankfully. But I do reach those certain points where I feel like my brain just starts shutting down and that I need to just rest and not think about work for three or more days. And I do give myself that luxury.
What do you do to get the energy back?
If I happen to be in New York, for instance, I would watch a play or a musical. Things like those recharge my batteries and enrich my soul.
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