On the move again | Inquirer Entertainment

On the move again

By: - Columnist
/ 12:20 AM September 28, 2017

Gerard Salonga (left) and the author, onstage in Dubai—PHOTO COURTESY OF JOSH PULTZ

As soon as I returned home, it wasn’t long before it was time to pack and leave again. Less than a week after arriving from Honolulu, my brother Gerard and I flew off to Dubai for a two-concert gig at the gorgeous Dubai Opera House.

We would be bringing along a few of our favorite musicians, as well: Cezar Aguas (guitar) Nikko Rivera (keyboards), Jorge San Jose (drums), Meong Pacana (bass) and Jay Agustin (keyboards). And, of course, manager Josh Pultz and makeup artist Kusie Ho, who turned this work trip into a family visit with his mom to see his older brother and sister-in-law.


The journey itself wasn’t a long one, only eight hours on a straight flight via Philippine Airlines. We left Manila quite late in the evening, so after the first meal, I totally passed out. It was around 3:30 a.m. when we touched down, which meant the normally oppressive desert heat would be far more tame and kind.

Upon entering the terminal building, we couldn’t help noticing that many of the Dubai Airport’s employees on the floor were fellow Filipinos, always helpful and smiling. And yes, right away, we were all spotted. Both Gerard and I posed for a few selfies while waiting for our transportation to our hotel.


We were billeted at the JW Marriott Marquis, a gorgeous hotel not too far away from the actual performance venue. Josh, who had jet lag battles of his own to conquer, helped us check into our rooms. Gerard and I were both assigned rooms on the 65th floor, which meant breathtaking views of the Burj Khalifa and other surrounding structures. I would have a nice, relaxing day off before my full day of work at the performance venue.

On the first performance day, it came time to head to the Dubai Opera House. Gerard and Josh headed over early to check things out and for the former to get a little practice time in.

I headed over at around 3:30 p.m. for the sound check. It was at this point that I started salivating at the marvel of this venue’s acoustics and customizable options.

The Dubai Opera House’s concert hall can be configured in different ways: a traditional proscenium theater stage with an orchestra pit, which itself can be set to either one of two sizes; the entire orchestra section can be raised to stage level and all the box seats turned around for a banquet; and the concert stage with all rows of seats placed.

Speaking of the seats, each one has its own air conditioning vent under it, and the bottom of each seat is a baffle, which means that the empty house during sound check sounds like a full one, as if each seat was occupied. The area behind the stage is so spacious it seems a whole B747 could fit in there. Pretty cool!

For two straight nights, we performed in front of full houses, the audience comprised mostly of expat Filipinos working and living in Dubai. Many of them are fans of “The Voice of the Philippines,” watching faithfully every week. (Cezar and Nikko are the TV show’s musical directors, so I introduced them as such to the audience.) Gerard also had his share of admirers, who cheered at his entrance. There are over 450,000 Filipinos in Dubai, and it surely felt like many of them joined us for the weekend.

It was quite the rush performing for what felt like a hometown crowd. We gave them a generous helping of musical theater, Disney and pop music, plus a smattering of OPM, including “Sana Maulit Muli.” Everyone was so appreciative and generous, and we felt so much love from that audience.


Thank you to everyone from the Dubai Opera who hosted us, our friends at the Marriott (especially the staff at the Izakaya Japanese Restaurant), and the audiences who joined us! We are grateful and our hearts are full.


Straight from the airport on Sunday, I headed to the “Matilda” rehearsals to pick up Nicole. We hung out near the entrance to the rehearsal hall and listened to the cast singing. Wow, the kids sounded really good for their first day!

The CompanY’s Sweet Plantado (whose son, Gabo Tiongson, will play Nigel) and I had our own ears trained on the sound.

Once we were allowed to enter [the room], I took one look at Nic’s face. She was really, really tired. She had spent the better part of the afternoon and evening learning the music for the show, one song right after the other.

If their rehearsals with vocal coach Manman Angsico were anything like ours for “Fun Home” and “Baby,” they were definitely put through their paces. Good! Perhaps these children will now understand what the professionals have to go through.

I’m hoping her enjoyment of the process continues, and that she isn’t put off by how much hard work there is behind putting on a show.

Break a leg, my little one! Break all the legs in the world.

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TAGS: concert gig, Dubai Opera House, Gerard Salonga, Lea Salonga
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