They sang their hearts out for ‘Yolanda’ survivors
MANILA, Philippines–Speaking to an audience on its feet in a packed 1,500-seat theater, French musical theater composer Claude-Michel Schonberg thanked the Philippines for singer Lea Salonga, “your national treasure,” who, he said helped him and lyricist/librettist Alain Boublil put together a two-night fundraiser for “Yolanda” survivors that opened last night.
“I am happy to say that, with this, all of us together have raised P24 million to build 200 houses,” Schonberg announced, prompting wild applause. (The houses will be built through Habitat for Humanity Philippines.)
It was as though the well-heeled crowd that had gathered at the Newport Theater in Resorts World Manila was caught in the spell of one long, standing ovation that was hard to break at the end of the concert, “Do You Hear The People Sing” (DYHTPS).
Salonga led the multi-layered cast of the benefit show whose title was borrowed from the rousing finale of “Les Miserables,” world-renowned musical (based on one of the greatest novels of the 19th century) by the awarded Boublil-Schonberg tandem. DYHTPS featured hits and highlights from their best-known works, most notably “Les Mis” and “Miss Saigon.”
“It took us all of two and a half minutes,” Schonberg said, “to convince Lea and Gerard (Salonga’s brother, who conducted the ABS-CBN orchestra for the two-hour production) to do this.”
Salonga was the most likely collaborator. Schonberg and Boublil both said they owed the Philippines for their “Kim” in the very first “Miss Saigon” in 1988. (Schonberg said he was thankful as well “for my Filipino daughter; she is 21 now.”)
Monday night, at the end of the fundraiser that was punctuated with vigorous applause and cheering, she stood on center stage with Schonberg and Boublil, guest vocalists David Harris from Australia and Marie Zamora from France, and Resorts World Manila president Kingson Sian. Around and behind them, apart from the ABS-CBN Orchestra (and 17 volunteer musicians from other orchestra groups), Filipinos who have performed in various Schonberg-Boublil productions around the world— led by Leo Tavarro Valdez, Jon Joven, Carla Guevara-Laforteza; guest soloists Rachelle Ann Go, Michael Williams, Jed Madela, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Cocoy Laurel; a star-studded ensemble that included Pinky Amador, Analin Bantug, Robbie Guevara and Jake Macapagal; the choirs—Ateneo Chamber Singers, Mass Appeal, Aleron, San Miguel Chorale, International School Manila Middle School Honor Choir.
Not one of these performers collected talent fees. But watching them in DYHTPS, it seemed they had been paid the equivalent of their weight in gold.
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