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

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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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The Sissums in Sydney!

Please tell me that was a clever title. I’ve learned that ‘sissum’ (pronounced as /siz-‘uhm/, which means “sister”) is what they’d call each other often, and what their fans also regard them as i.e., “the sissums”.

But anyway, two of my most favourite Filipino artists visited their fans down under! They did a couple of shows over the weekend, one in Blacktown (the one I attended), and one in Mt Pritchard. And even after two shows and two M&G sessions, it seems like we still can’t get enough of these two lovely hotshots.

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Fresh from the success of her 15th anniversary concert titled “Celestine” last year at the MOA Arena, Toni Gonzaga, who is dubbed as the Philippines’ Ultimate Multimedia Star has graced the Australian concert stage for the second time since her last visit, which was apparently more or less than eight years ago (now, I’m not very sure if I got the number right). And this time around, she’s brought her amazing sister with her—star on the rise, Alex Gonzaga, who has also been having a prolific career after wrapping up a very successful TV series last year; publishing a bestseller book, then releasing a studio album recently. Now she’s set to conquer the concert scene as she stages her very first major one at the Big Dome this April entitled “AG from the East: The Unexpected Concert.” She also stars in a TV remake of the iconic “Inday Bote.” Wow, this girl ain’t busy.

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I’ve always known and loved Toni even before she moved to Kapamilya. I’ve always admired Alex ever since she was Alex on “Let’s Go!” back in 2006. They’re not only talented artists, they’re also faith-driven, practicing Christians who have always stood behind their values and principles, and have not compromised their faith for the sake of work. This is just admirable.

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I swear, I just die every time Toni flicks her hair. And oh, the Ari pose by Alex.

I was just flippin’ excited when I first heard the news about their show. I probably was one of the first people to purchase tickets, which I booked mid last year. All I can say really is what an amazing experience! I just love them heaps. They’re probably the only celebrities I look out for on TFC. I’m always on the qui vive for their shows, TV appearances and what not. It was hard to believe that I was gonna see their faces in person.

It was July last year when I posted this mini article about Alex called “My Sassy Señorita.” I wrote in that blogpost how much I admire her and how much I want to meet her and stuff. Who knew that in the less than year, I actually would meet her even if it’s just merely for 30 seconds? Or probably more.

The sisters opened the show with a showstopping song, which I believe is called “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea (featuring Chari XCX). Look, I’m not even sure if that’s actually correct because I do not really know the song and I do not listen to a lot of rap music to be honest. I might have actually confused it with “Black Widow” (featuring Rita Ora), which they performed as well.

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Alex becomes a completely different person every time she raps. Her moves are ostentatious, her hands and hips are everywhere.

One of the best parts of the show was during the gaps, when they basically just talked with each other on stage. They have a funny and interesting relationship, and it shows when they chat and make fun of each other. I just loved and enjoyed the mini banters happening here and there. They’d slag each other off from time to time while everybody would have a good laugh about it.

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I have found the chit-chat’s in between songs very special because you just realise that they’re just right there, that they’re real!

What really astonished me was Alex’ sui generis persona—her highly diverting nature that incredibly blends singing and uproarious comedy. She is a cogent mix of charm, charisma, and chaos (Wow, dang that alliteration. LOL). Her voice has a lot of promise—she’s got the tone and the range. My Mum was bemused to know and hear that Alex can actually sing as she’s normally used to seeing Alex trifling with a microphone in the karaoke segment on ASAP every Sunday on TFC. Well, I’ve always known that she’s had it all along.

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Her humour knocks the stuffing out of me. My laugh was uncontrollable, and my friends know how I laugh—it’s pretty diaphragmatic. I laughed even at her lamest jokes. She blows my mind. She knows how to put up a good and lively show without even trying.

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Alex singing “Break Free” by Ariana Grande. Wow, she CAN sing Ariana stuff! I am well convinced.

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This is AG from the East channelling AG from Hollywood.

Alex got to perform a couple of her tracks from her first record called “I Am Alex G.” such as “Panaginip Lang”, and “‘Di Ko Akalain”. They’re very tasteful tunes. Also, I must say that both songs showed her sweet side and that she does have vocal abilities.

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Getting into the belting parts!

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With some guy from the audience. If only I were fast enough.

With some guy from the audience. If only I were fast enough.

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Transitions.

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The punas-pawis scene. Ate Toni being an Ate to her bunso. What a beautiful and amusing sight!

The punas-pawis scene. Ate Toni being an Ate to her bunso. What a beautiful and amusing sight!

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The sisters singing "Put It in a Love Song" by Alicia Keys (featuring Beyoncé). I was waiting for this!

The sisters singing “Put It in a Love Song” by Alicia Keys (featuring Beyoncé). I was waiting for this!

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I remember this conversation. It's Alex warning her Ate to keep the energy up as she started it skyrocket high.

I remember this conversation. It’s Alex warning her Ate to keep the energy up as she started it skyrocket high.

Oh, Toni Gonzaga. Her presence overawed the crap in me. She has a formidable aura that gently scuffles with her ravishing, angelic face. In other words, she is drop-dead gorgeous! She has a delightful personality that everybody loves. Her voice is sensational. It has that deep and warm resonance, and a sweet, silver-toned quality that her fans have loved ever since. Like all other singers, she sounds so much better live.

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Simply stunning.

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“We’re beautiful like diamonds in the sky…”

She performed some of her best-loved hits including her very first single, “We Belong” (which just got me nuts!!!), “Catch Me I’m Falling” (this would have to be my fav), and my sister’s favourite, “Kasalan Ko Ba?” These have really thrilled the audience and got them wanting for more. I was a little sad that she didn’t perform her latest tracks from her album “Celestine” like “This Love is Like”, and her original composition, “Awit ni Ginny.” I’ll hear them live one day. She also performed her rendition of “Starting Over Again” (originally by Natalie Cole), which was the theme song of her hit movie with the same title.

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Finally got to witness her awesome singing prowess. I’ve always been a fan of her vocals and style.

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Is there ever a female counterpart for a “balladeer/balladist”? Because if there’s one, then that’s Toni.

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For a fleeting moment, Toni flashed her engagement ring leading up to singing “Diamonds” by Rihanna. A little heartbroken and devastated, I do know and believe that she deserves the joy and happiness that this engagement is giving her right now, plus, the excitement of her forthcoming wedding with his betrothed. Toni also mentioned that it was probably her last big show or concert as a single woman, as she and Paul Soriano are finally tying the knot later this year.

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At some point, I was waiting for them to sing their popular rendition of “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” by Celine Dion, which they had already done in the past. Again, maybe someday.

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More funny conversations.

The sister capped off the show with Katy Perry’s “Roar”. But because the audience have clamoured for one more song, they sang “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift (They obviously garnered more cheers after the audience realised it’s a Swiftie song). And then finally, they took their last bow.

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Oh, this number.

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For someone who has poor eyesight like me, they would look like twins!

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I failed to capture what Alex was exactly trying to do here. But she was trying to creep through her Ate’s legs. You just can never know enough what she is capable of.

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Certainly working that pose.

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My last photo of the sissums on stage on my camera.

I could keep writing about how I admire these two women and how I have enjoyed and appreciated their live performance here in Sydney. I really wish that they’d come back to do another show soon. It was genuinely fun. My smile was just indefatigable. I wish the sissums all the best for their future endeavours, future projects and milestones.

Autograph signing! I got all flustered when as I came closer to them.

Autograph signing! I got all flustered as I came closer to them. Why are these people so pretty? Seriously, what do they eat?

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A glimpse of super short encounter with them. They were very kind to even write my name on the stuff!

A glimpse of my super short encounter with them. They were very kind to even write my name on the stuff! Also, I remember telling Toni, “Gosh, you smell so good!” She freaking does though!

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Probably the only decent photo we have with them. I don't understand why people always fail to take decent photos every time it's needed regardless of the kind of camera in use. But I guess this photo's good enough.

Taken from my iPhone by a friend. Probably the only decent photo we have with them. My dad had the good camera but failed to capture a good one. I still don’t understand why he didn’t manage to capture this on the DSLR.

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I literally squealed when I saw this in the captured photos!

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Boo-yah! Finally! This has been sitting in my collection for months.

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Again, boo-yah! Wow, I’m still head over heels for this woman.

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Follow them on Instagram @celestinegonzaga @cathygonzaga. And on Twitter @PBBToniG @Mscathygonzaga

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This May!

This May!

It is just staggering to realise that it’s only a few weeks ’til the concert. Plus, it’s mothers’ month. My siblings’ birthday month. Also, my assessment month. I can’t even begin to describe how packed it’s going to be. But … Continue reading

Two months away!

Two months away!

The Carol Banawa show is about two months away! Time is flying like a scorching arrow. And the concert team has started to gear up for the performances and the staging stuff as rehearsals will be starting in a few … Continue reading

EARLY PLUG: CAROL BANAWA’S SHOW IN SYDNEY THIS 2014!

EARLY PLUG: CAROL BANAWA’S SHOW IN SYDNEY THIS 2014!

Can I just say that 2014 is definitely my year? After the success of the charity project that took place only yesterday, and a play in-the-making that’s due later this year; not to mention it’s also my Master’s year in uni, … Continue reading