December 7, 2013
Ticket says the concert will start at 8 pm. The traffic in Manila en route to PICC would not be so cooperative. Mercifully, the production decided to start the show by 8:30 pm instead, so I was able to make it to the venue before the show. There were still a lot of empty seats where I sat in Level 3 of the Orchestra section even when the show began. Some people were even trickling in past 9 pm already.
To start the concert, Gerard Salonga led the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra in an overture of classic Lea Salonga songs, from "Tomorrow", to "I Am But a Small Voice", from "Sun and Moon" to "Whole New World." There were eight brightly lit panels on the backdrop that spelled the concert title PLAYLIST, which later read "35 Years". Lea Salonga then made her entrance wearing a black suit and pants outfit. Her first song would be "Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To?)". Suddenly she stopped, then roared out Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire". Needless to say, she was in perfect voice this evening and we are definitely in for an excellent concert.
In her first spiel, Lea described this concert to be "the soundtrack of her life, her playlist." She called it a "musical kuwentuhan (story-telling)". From that, she sang Miley Cyrus' "The Climb". Afterwards, an acoustic guitar began to play (by Mr. Cesar Aguas) as Lea took her seat on a stool. Most unexpectedly she began to sing an acoustic version of Robin Thicke's racy hit song "Blurred Lines" to which she gave a life of her own. She would later dedicate this song to Gerald Anderson and Sam Milby, who inspired her to sing it. Then, she sang her own poignant version of Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful".
For the next portion, she began to talk about her recent stint as judge on "The Voice of the Philippines" TV show, and how she is the first judge to mentor the first winner. From there, she introduced Mitoy Yonting. He entered singing Ric Segreto's "Don't Know What to Do", after which Lea answered with Kuh Ledesma's "I Think I'm in Love." Mitoy sang Side A's "Hold On", then Lea countered with Kuh's "Till I Met You." Together they sang Basil Valdez' "You." After a little seemingly awkward chatting between the two, Lea left Mitoy on stage for a while. He regaled the audience with his fabled range singing Air Supply's version of "The Power of Love."
Lea then came back out, wearing a bright blue long gown. She opened this set with Adele's "Chasing Pavements." She then talked about admiring Barbara Streisand's purity and precision as a child which she aims for to this day, and launched into her own version of "Evergreen." Then some funny old photographs of Lea as a teenager flashed on the panels onstage. She described herself as a child on the 1980s and lengthily talked about her hair teasing and Aquanet spraying regimen back then. She then said that the music of the 80s were so good.
Ironically, of the songs she sang after that prolonged intro spiel, only one was really released in the 1980s and that was Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody." "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)" was a duet of Streisand and Donna Summer released in 1979. The others were from Houston's soundtrack album from her 1992 film The Bodyguard, namely "I'm Every Woman," "Run to You" and "I Will Always Love You." Lea's falsetto runs were flawless in those last two ballads, sounding exactly like Whitney.
Suddenly, Ms. Ai Ai delas Alas breathlessly ran in from the orchestra section onto the stage, apparently a surprise appearance. The audience laughed out loud as Ai Ai dished out her self-depreciating humor, saying how Lea's audience were so polite and quiet, while her audiences lacked urbanity and were jologs. The two reprised two duets they did in a past concert, Imelda Papin's "Isang Linggong Pag-ibig" and Aegis' "Halik." Ai Ai was riotous as ever, and trooped on despite her very hoarse voice. Lea maintained her class as she effortlessly sang those local jukebox classics.
Calling Ai Ai "a force of nature" as she exited, Lea started to talk about the natural calamities that just the country had just experienced. From there, she began to sing a most beautiful and meaningful version of Maureen McGovern's "The Morning After" (theme from The Poseidon Adventure). After this, Lea went upbeat as she sang "Love Will Keep Us Together" by the Captain and Tennille.
Lea then began to introduce her next guest, Ms. Rachel Ann Go, who came in wearing a skin tight shiny green gown. The first song they sang together was "For Good" from Wicked. Lea then left Rachel alone on stage, and Rachel sang "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid, her first musical theater role. Lea came back out wearing a red beaded long gown, and together they sang the song that Rachel will sing as Gigi come April of 2014 in London, "The Movie in My Mind." Of course, Lea sang the Kim part, which she says is getting harder to sing each year. The duet was out of this world excellent! It was definitely the highlight of the whole concert for me.
When Rachel Ann left the stage, Lea talked about how the Philippines is now the Broadway of South East Asia. She cited in particular Rama Hari by Ryan Cayabyab, and proceed to sing a song "Magbalik Ka Na Mahal" from this original Filipino musical. Lea then proudly sang "Higher", a song specifically written for her and her character in the new musical Allegiance, which is waiting for its Broadway debut. She ended her regular set with with the brassy "Back to Before" from Ragtime. After that, she bid her goodbyes and left the stage. That was around 10:30 pm.
The orchestra with Gerald Salonga and the backup singers never left the stage, and the spot lights were still spiraling around. We know this concert is not yet done. Even Gerald turned to the audience to encourage everyone to shout for more!
Lea reentered the stage wearing a green flowing gown. When she sat on a stool for her next song, the gown's long slit revealed Lea's leg, which drew whistles from the appreciative audience. She sang a couple of Christmas carols, "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and a jazzed-up version of "Jingle Bells." She then told the audience that she might have a third movie with Aga Muhlach, and then segued to singing a heartfelt acoustic version of "Sana'y Maulit Muli." (** This following video is from the second night when Aga surprised Lea by going up the stage, announcing that their next film together has been greenlit by Star Cinema.)
Finally, she began to sing a string of ABBA songs, "Mamma Mia", "Take a Chance On Me" and "Dancing Queen." Lea tried to encourage the audience to dance along, but too bad, there were very few takers of that invitation. Nevertheless, she was exuberant in her renditions of these dance classics. After the last song, she bid her real goodbye and the show is really over. That was generous 30 minute encore she gave us.
This anniversary concert was another showcase of Lea Salonga's artistry and musicality, as all her past shows had been. She knew how to pick songs to highlight her precious vocal instrument and hers was definitely in tip-top shape even for two and a half hours. Her personality seemed to have loosened up considerably, getting more adventurous in her song choices, knowing fully well how to perform them in her signature way. Congratulations, Ms. Lea Salonga, and looking forward to many more years of hearing and watching you perform beautiful music!