Wednesday, January 29, 2014

DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING?

(Photograph from the facebook account of Mickey Muñoz)

OK. So my friend chats me up near midnight and offers me a ticket to DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING?Didn’t say yes right away, for a few reasons: Resorts World is not my favorite theater show venue, the mall allows smoking, I’ve seen MISS SAIGON thrice, LES MISERABLES twice, a lot of the performers are friends anyway, and I will just feel bad during and after the show out of inggit that I’m not one of the performers onstage (ha!).

Thank God I went to watch.

First, Lea Salonga still wows. Even I was surprised she still wowed me, and I am not saying that as some arrogant idiot who thinks he knows better, but as a fan. Having worked with her when she was a young girl, then later just before she became the international star that she is now, I was always amazed by her pure voice and far-reaching talent. The latter impression was cemented when I watched her first foray into cabaret at the Carlyle in New York, in 2009. Didn’t know she’d do well in such an intimate setting. And last night was further affirmation that whether the venue is big or small, Lea Salonga still packs ‘em in and floors ‘em.

Second, the show itself is glorious on two levels: it features the works of Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil. The show begins with the stirring BUI DOI and the ends with, naturally, the moving DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING. In between, the show seamlessly moves from one work to the next, including two of the duo’s lesser-known works, MARTIN GUERRE and THE PIRATE QUEEN. The performances were top-notch, and the show was especially affecting for the audience because it featured a good number of MISS SAIGON alumni who had performed the show in many parts of the world. But the more amazing part of the show is that everyone involved in the show – from the technicians to the stars – donated their time, talent and energies to raise P24,000,000 to rebuild 200 homes for Typhoon Yolanda survivors. Even Resorts World donated the venue.

The show came about last December when M. Schönberg suggested the project to Lea and her brother Gerard, who immediately signed on. The logistics that went into the production must be daunting, not least because artists, gear and technicians had to be flown in. (After the show, Robbie Guevara said that so many things went wrong that evening – but no one noticed).

Perhaps it was because everyone – the audience, the performers onstage and the technicians behind the scenes – knew that the show was more than just a showcase that the emotional tug of the show was just so strong. The performances were flawless, especially Lea’s rendition of a MISS SAIGON discard, TOO MUCH FOR ONE HEART, and her duet with Marie Zamora on MON HISTOIRE/ON MY OWN, and her other duet with future MISS SAIGON cast member RACHELLE ANN GO, who showed off her top pop pipes with their own version of I DREAMED A DREAM. Not to be outdone was CARLA GUEVARA-LAFORTEZA, whom I have seen on stage and at lounge shows, but never as a vulnerable Ellen in STILL or a feisty PIRATE QUEEN. What a revelation. David Harris had the enviable position of singing the songs of all the male lead parts in the Schönberg-Boublil book, and kissing all the female but Marie. (I squirmed in my seat when some members of the audience went, OOOOYYYYYYYY!!! each time there was kissing onstage. Why? Another source of annoyance was this buffoon two seats away who was on his Android phone, texting and surfing throughout the show. Why?) Leo Valdez pulled all stops singing the demented Engineer’s THE AMERICAN DREAM. It’s something else when an actor performs with artistic abandon and reels you in with him. Another highlight of the show was the Valjean chestnut THE PRAYER done as a quartet, with the surprise appearance of Cocoy Laurel, who should have sung a song of his own.

Before the finale, M. Schönberg narrated how this show came to be, and began his speech with, “This show is for the Filipinos, by the Filipinos. Thank you for giving us your talent. The world gave us Lea Salonga. And thank you for giving me a Filipina daughter, who is now 21 years old.” M. Boublil went on to share his and M. Schönberg’s love for the Philippines, manifested in many ways, including the establishment of the Sun and Moon Orphanage.

So if you are a theater buff, and/or want to help Yolanda, rush to Resorts World tonight and watch DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING. It’s one hell of a show, but heavenly.

Thanks again, Ampy for the ticket!

EATERSHIP

If you like to eat well, live well, listen well and have the patience to go through my kilometric but hopefully entertaining blogs, then this is the page for you. I chose EATERSHIP because it sounds like "leadership," and because if you jumble it up, it could also read "hip eaters." Eat and read on!