Lea remains vocal in a time of trolls and fake news
Her mom Ligaya constantly gets anxious whenever singer-actress Lea Salonga fearlessly expresses her views in cyberspace.
Lea, however, remains undaunted: “I try to keep an open mind about everyone and everything, and realize that everybody has a valid point of view, whether or not I agree with it. It is what it is. I’d like to think that we actually live in a democracy, where I can express my worldview and not get murdered for it.”
She trusts that truth, goodness and fairness will prevail in spite of the perils of the Net, particularly in this era of fake news and rampant trolling. She explained, “We don’t live in a perfect democracy, but it’s a democracy. We can celebrate that.”
Lea, who played little orphan Annie as a 9-year-old in 1980, got to revisit the musical, in a Hollywood Bowl production recently, where she played Grace Farrell, Daddy Warbucks’ assistant.
“It was a total throwback situation, but there was also a newness to it because I got to do something different,” she explained. “This is the second show I’ve done where I’ve gotten to portray two different roles years apart (the first was ‘Les Miserables’ as Eponine in 1993 and 1996 and as Fantine in 2007), and it was so much fun getting to look at ‘Annie’ from a different perspective, especially with the current US political climate. There is much cynicism and doubt, so hearing a little girl with a crystal clear voice sing about hope and optimism is probably something we all need right now.”
Speaking of which, what goes on in her mind when she sings Annie’s showstopper “Tomorrow,” which she first performed as a wee kid?
“The innocence is gone, but there’s still much hope that things can still turn out for the best,” she related.
As a mother herself, she has but one wish: “I only hope that we don’t leave a colossal mess for our children to clean up. Seems that with every passing day, there isn’t a lot to be hopeful about.”
Another one of Lea’s signature songs, “The Journey,” resonates strongly for her and other Filipinos who live out of a suitcase.
The first time she heard the song, composed by Julie Gold, was in her apartment in New York, 25 years ago. “I thought it was exactly right for me,” she recounted. “The song was already describing my life as it was happening. Little did I know though that I would be even more of a world traveler over the succeeding years, thanks to my career and my life.”
“The Journey” can also describe the travails and travels of our OFWs. But there is a line in the song, “And the end is not in sight,” that doesn’t sit well with her. “It doesn’t sound so hopeful to me. The OFW phenomenon, which was supposed to be a temporary stopgap solution, has turned into something more permanent due to a lack of real economic opportunity at home. The moment more job opportunities open up here, the more hopeful I will become.”
Pardon us if we are mining Lea’s greatest hits, but this nostalgia trip coincides with “The 40th Anniversary Concert,” set on Oct. 19 and 20, at the PICC Plenary Hall.
She admitted that she still gets nervous, performing for Filipinos. “Terrified. A Pinoy audience can be the toughest crowd to perform for, but also the most generous. It helps when I see my friends sitting in the venue, plus having (brother) Gerard behind me conducting … All that goes through my head is to give as honest a performance as I can, and to put my heart and soul into every song.”
Whenever she performs abroad, she makes sure to be introduced as a Filipino entertainer. “I just have this chip on my shoulder when it comes to being a Filipino. I want us to be identified with all the great things that we are and can be.”
After four decades, who and what are the people and things she is grateful for? “Every employer who ever hired me. Every producer who took a chance. Every audience member who bought a ticket, and every fan who gives all-out support. I’m thankful for my family’s patience and sacrifice. I’m grateful that I still get to do what I love to do, at the level that I’m doing it.”
What’s next after the 40th anniversary concert? “Some sleep will be scheduled,” she quipped. “And then in 2019, I start all over again, with performances in Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK in February, then the US starting in April. That’s all I can reveal right now.”
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