Flying high | Inquirer Entertainment

Flying high

By: - Columnist
/ 12:50 AM March 02, 2017

lea salonga nicole chien

The author (left) with daughter Nicole Chien

We’re all still on cloud nine, feeling the euphoria from our “Songs from the Stage” weekend. To everyone who came to see us, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

From the get-go, we knew that we would be performing an all-musical theater repertoire, since “The Broadway Concert,” our last concert that exclusively featured songs from musicals, happened 15 years ago. It was a look back into older Broadway musicals that have become part of the classic canon.


For this year’s show, we decided to take a slightly different direction, focusing mainly on the newer musicals: “Hamilton,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Beautiful,” “Close to You: Bacharach Reimagined,” “Waitress,” “The Boy from Oz,” and yes, “Fun Home.” And we intentionally left out “Miss Saigon” and “Les Misérables,” save for a brand-new version of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” orchestrated masterfully by JD Villanueva.


We did do some material from older shows like “Broadway Baby” (from “Follies”) and “Move On” (from “Sunday in the Park with George”). These two weren’t the only Stephen Sondheim bits; we also did a mash-up of “So Many People” (“Saturday Night”) and “Loving You” (“Passion”). Credit for that goes to Lawrence Yurman, current musical director of the soon-to-open Broadway musical, “War Paint,” starring Patti LuPone. Oh, to be in the room where it happens!

With only two exceptions in Waynehart Claire Geonzon and (my daughter) Nicole Chien, every single singer in the concert has been in a musical.

Jett Pangan is a veteran of many shows (“Jekyll & Hyde,” “Rock of Ages”). Esang de Torres played Little Cosette in the Asian touring production of “Les Miz.” Krystal Brimner and Isabeli Elizalde both played the title role in “Annie” and, finally, Andee Achacoso and Katie Bradshaw alternated as Small Alison in “Fun Home.”

Our first rehearsal at Dolphy Theater came on the heels of our recent Sydney and Melbourne concerts, so Gerard and I were still coming off of that high while preparing for this set of Manila shows.

No matter, this high would be perfect in powering us through a lot of the more difficult stuff we had to do. And boy, did we power through, indeed! We had around 23 musical numbers.

There were things I had down pat, but a lot of stuff caused me some confusion with intros and instrumentals. That’s OK, we still had a few days left to go.


At our technical dress rehearsal, we decided to have every single element in the show working as if it was a performance, including costumes, makeup and hair.

The orchestra was dressed in working blacks (not tuxedoes or suits, which would be for the actual performances) since we would be working lights and some cameras.

After I sang my first number, I announced to the rehearsal audience (mostly friends were in attendance … director Bobby Garcia told me I would immediately recognize those seated in the front row) that this was still a work in progress. We might make mistakes (and actually did … yup, I’m guilty of quite a few), stop, restart things, play around. I got some lyrics mixed up, and my mouth had a tough time negotiating some of the quicker wordplay. But all in all, this was the perfect time for everyone to adjust and err. Better at the TDR in relative privacy than in front of a paying audience.

Also, we couldn’t do the tribute to my mother (Ligaya Salonga, who also produced the concert) in full, so we had to do a little fake-out. Sure, we performed “Wind Beneath My Wings,” but didn’t elaborate why. Everyone was in on this surprise, and the full tribute was only performed at the actual shows. She was totally surprised, and in tears. Mission accomplished.

Following the rehearsal, adjustment to some technical elements had to be made. A few costume touch-ups needed to also be taken care of (Rajo Laurel and his team did such a wonderful job), as well as sundry elements here and there. Once that was over, everyone headed home for a well-deserved night’s sleep.

As for the shows themselves … well, everything turned out just fantastic—and, as I said, we’re still riding that high.

To all our performers, thank you for generously sharing yourselves and your talent with us; to our orchestrators and arrangers Gerard, Marvin, Ria, Saunder, JC, JD, Jed, Ryan, Lorrie and Larry for glorious music that was such a joy to sing to; to Bobby, Victor, Mickey, Butch, GA, Grace, Manman, Cecile, Edmu, Glendfford, Rards, Jun, Aji, Maro and everyone on the production team for going above and beyond the call of duty; to Will, Tin and GA, and everyone in charge of the programs and merchandise, your beautiful work is more than merely appreciated; to our musicians from ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, and backup singers Eugene, Tanya and Elke, you’re all unbelievable; to everyone at the PICC for graciously hosting us once again; to Rajo, Juan on makeup, Kusie on hair, and Mia with your baubles, you sure know how to make this girl feel pretty; and to Raymund for those gorgeous poster and program photos!

To Gerard, thank you for always being such a rock for me to hang on to, so I can fly and do my thing.

To Mom, thank you for … everything.

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And lastly, to the fans who filled the PICC to the rafters, we cannot thank you enough for your unwavering support.

TAGS: concert, Entertainment, Lea Salonga, performance, Songs from the Stage

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