Is it Jasmine or Mulan?

I don’t think there could be enough earthly description for the kind of impact Lea Salonga and her music has on me. Broadway Superstar and Singing Voice of the two Disney Princesses mentioned in the title, Lea made her fabulous and fierce debut at the Sydney Opera House, Friday night, February 3rd, along with her brother, the magnificent Maestro Gerard Salonga who conducted the astonishing Sydney Symphony Orchestra (That is like too many good things combined already!).

Heads up: there will be no performance snapshots displayed on this blogpost because I simply was not able to take any. Basically, I couldn’t bring my camera (a mirrorless one) out without the security guys assuming that I was recording the performance, as video recordings were not allowed at all. And so I just didn’t bother sneaking it out, not even taking a single photo.  Moreover, I do happen to know of Lea’s strong distaste for mobile devices being in use during a performance, whether in a theatre environment or a concert event (especially camera flashes). And this time, I was sitting right in front of the freakin’ stage! First row, ladies and gents! I thought I didn’t wanna ruin someone’s night. So, yep. No phones. But it turns out to be the rightest decision I’ve ever made in a concert setting.

Lea’s performance as always is brilliant and flawless. Her calibre has not ever languished. Her inimitable ability to connect with her audience through song and stories, and her scintillating wit just makes her audience love her more. Her pitch―just impeccable. Her voice―let’s just say that it has the power and the colour that you will never get enough of.

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She had a fantastic repertoire, which spans from musical theatre favourites, her Disney classics, of course; and some newly fashioned pop tunes, that once you hear them you’d probably utter, “I never thought that song could sound like that!” She always does this. Last time, she brought Bruno Mars some new flavour. This time, she took a tune from One Direction and a Cyndi Lauper classic, and plainly made them hers.

One of my favourites would be “Another Hundred People” from Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.” Her phrasing and intonation were fastidiously on point as she moves through a very complex melodic trajectory.  And man, this was a good opener for a SOH concert, I tell you that.

“I Enjoy Being A Girl” from Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s “Flower Drum Song” is something I’ve always dreamed of hearing live. I have always adored her rendition ever since I saw it on the Broadway Concert DVD. Lots of fun. This song is simply hers.

Her Disney classics have also never failed to grace any occasion. She sang “Reflection” from Mulan, and of course “A Whole New World” from Aladdin, with a very lucky audience member (unfortunately, it wasn’t me). Lea said that she’s oftentimes asked, “Are you more like Princess Jasmine or Fa Mulan?” to which the answer is seemingly obvious according to her. I remember her funny commentaries a few years back in one of her shows I got to see on YouTube somewhere about Mulan’s character identity and bravery, and the fact that she doesn’t need to “have big boobs to save China.”

“Miss Saigon” would never be MIA. She brought her impassioned rendition of “I’d Give My Life For You” and “Too Much For One Heart.” This was shortly followed by a medley of Michel Legrand’s renowned classics, which was ended with “A Piece of Sky” from “Yentl.” It was breathtaking!

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Photo by Robert Catto

One of the “new” songs I heard from her (“new” because I’ve actually never heard this piece before, nor have I heard her do it) was “Burn” from Lin Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton.” This has left me dumbfounded. She gave the song and the character who sings it, Eliza, a bit of a background at the beginning, which was pretty dark and dangerous. Then, in a flick, she threw me into that dimension and I was hardly breathing. And I promised myself I’m watching Hamilton after this night!

“Send in the Clowns” did not need any introduction. The mini melodic riff was enough to preface the melody, and emancipate the poignant spirit of the piece. Needless to say, it was a very moving rendition.

Furthermore, her iconic Les Miz pieces would always show up and show out. “I Dreamed A Dream” and “On My Own” sounded as though she was merely breathing through it, but certainly without losing the weight of their respective characterisation. Absolutely phenomenal.

A couple more hits from musicals got the audience euphoric and singing nonstop such as her supposed finale number “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked”, and the unstoppable-unrelenting-unsinkable “Let It Go” from Frozen. She made some funny comments on how parents go through the horror of their kids’ perpetual fondness of this song. Apparently, a lot of people could relate.

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Photo by Robert Catto

What I am very happy to witness upfront with my eyes barely blinking, was the way Lea would transform into the different characters each song belongs to, from head to toe. Man, she does it in seconds. And there is so much honesty, so much rawness, so much truthfulness in each one. Aaand she would do it one after the other. How do you become 5 different women on the same stage, in one succession, in one go, with no take twos, in front of an Opera House-sized crowd? Explain that to me.

I mean, she’s all experienced and a master of it by this time, I’m sure. But I still see it as simply “supernatural.” I really got no more to say about that. And I’m sure it’s only one of the many special reasons why she’s considered phenomenal in the world stage.

Also, may I just note that the two overtures were just tremendously remarkable. Kudos to the genius musical arrangements of Maestro Gerard Salonga. Plus, the SSO was truly world-class. I’ve not much more to say, really. So much power. So much artistry.

I also got a list of some songs I was really wishing she would have done (again):

  • “Still Hurting” from “The Last Five Years”
  • “He Touched Me” from “Drat! The Cat”
  • “Nothing” from “A Chorus Line”
  • “Someone Else’s Story” from “Chess”
  • “Someone Like You” from “Jekyll and Hyde”
  • “Two Words”
  • “The Journey”

The show was nothing short of exceptional. No performance photos or recordings were taken for me. But it made me immerse myself in the whole experience, the Lea Salonga experience. No audio recording or video file could ever capture or duplicate the magic and the brilliance one gets to encounter in her shows. I was fortunate to take it all home, one hundred per cent.

She continues to inspire me to nurture my love for musical theatre. She continues to make me proud to be of Filipino descent. She continues to prove that excellence can be truly achieved with hard work, resilience and consistency, and that longevity in this industry she’s chosen is something you really work hard for and commit to.

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Photo at the Intimate M&G after the show.

Photo courtesy: Robert Catto, Theatre People, Limelight Magazine

Face to face with Brandy

This is honestly the most significant 30 seconds of my life so far. And I wish I had more than that.

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30 seconds with Brandy. Photo taken by the theatre staff. We weren’t allowed to take photos with our devices during this time, which I find ridiculous and annoying because primarily they said we could. But anyway.

I did not intend to write a “concert review” or a tell-all anymore because my words would not do justice to how it really felt on the inside. It’s a struggle to put into words. The encounter is almost divine. Pretty elusive. (I should also say that having no photos taken during the show because my camera was considered a professional type somewhat discouraged me to recount things and events in detail like what I’d always do.)

I guess I should keep this experience in the list of things I’d prefer to store in my massive vault of unspeakable treasures. All I know is I’m thankful that I got to watch her perform live, and to witness with my own eyes and ears the brilliance, magnificence, and soul extraordinaire of Brandy. That is just more than enough.

I could absolutely say that this is just one of the best birthday gifts I have gifted to myself. You just gotta spoil yourself every once in a while, you know!

I also almost hyperventilated after she gave me a super tight, sincere hug during the short Meet and Greet. She emanated joy and gratitude. The feeling was indescribable almost. She was just so dang kind! It’s like all the sass and pizzazz she would display each time she performs were stripped away, and she was just an ordinary person humbly thanking her fans for coming out to see her show, which she verbalised in the most profound, soft-spoken fashion.

13465929_10206788204199109_5197471545758489570_nThis experience made me appreciate her more; her artistry, her personality, her appreciation for her fans; especially her receptivity and equanimity because I understand how tired she must have been after the show, but she managed to welcome her fans with open arms and with the sweetest smile.

Hands down, she still reigns in her realm. And this encounter will always be special and treasured in my mind and heart

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R.

Brandy this June!

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Imma put it down, fellas! Brandy is coming to Australia this June! Yes, Brandy! Moesha Brandy, Cinderella Brandy, The Boy is Mine Brandy! Brandy, Brandy, Brandy!

I got all frisky and hysterical when I learned about her Australia and New Zealand tour this 2016. My sister could attest to this. It was a delirium. I was just over the big, round moon.

She is my R&B icon. One of the biggest stars of the 90s and early 21st century. She is also dubbed the “Vocal Bible” by soul fanatics because of her undeniably exceptional vocal prowess and formidable artistry. And her runs—raving mad.

Her music never gets old. Her style and sound are just timeless. It’s the quintessential R&B flavour. She’s like the eccentric spice you need to achieve an exquisite savour. Her voice is the embodiment of a divine, elusive soul. And she delivers all these with vigorous sass and panache.

Of course, I already purchased my ticket. Got it on the very first day of the pre-sale on the first week of May. I cannot and will not miss this for the world! According to the organisers, the pre-sale tickets were sold out! And the Platinum & Gold tickets are nearly gone!

There is also a Meet-and-Greet after the show, which is limited only to 50 people. I’m happy to say I’m one of the 50 to meet her an take photos with her. It’s surely not cheap, but given that this could only be once in a lifetime, I just gotta do it! I’m making this my birthday gift to myself for this year, and as a reward for all my hard work and toiling the past year. Gosh, am I worthy.

For more and current info about the concert, visit the production’s Facebook page.

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Typhoon Haiyan Appeal Official Website

United.2.jpg.opt824x796o0,0s824x796Typhoon Haiyan Appeal Official Website

Check out the official website of the Typhoon Haiyan Appeal. Get to know the people behind the cause by navigating to the “Our Team and Partners” page.

The concert is on Sunday, the 12th of January. For more information, check out the poster on the website or send me a private message. Thanks!

TYPHOON HAIYAN FUNDRAISING CONCERT

TYPHOON HAIYAN FUNDRAISING CONCERT

Love doing charity and participating in projects created for a good cause. By good fortune, I have been privileged to be taking part in yet another charity event, a post NY fundraising concert for the typhoon Haiyan survivors. The ONE … Continue reading