With her immense success, both on local and global stages, Lea Salonga is always the first name that comes to mind when talking about theater in the country.
From playing Annie at nine, landing the original role of Miss Saigon’s Kim when she was just 18-years-old; to winning the Tony, Laurence Olivier and Drama Desk awards among many others, Salonga is both a Philippine pride and international star.
For those who do not know, all these achievements—including every character, song, and concert in between—span a total of 37 years in the spotlight for Salonga. These days, she is very much in the position to give back and happy to use this well of experience to encourage and guide new talents in pursuing a career in music.
For the singer, every new artist should be given the chance at the spotlight no matter how different their singing style from others. In fact, as a judge in The Voice Kids, she discourages parents who force their children to become belters—a style many Filipinos mistakenly think, according to Salonga, to be the best.
“When people say you’re great when you belt out a song, that’s not fair. Singers are not all created to be trumpets, or to have this homogenous belting sound. If you’re created to belt, do it because that’s how you’re created and how your body was put together. But if you’re not, don’t do it,” Salonga advised in a tete-a-tete with media for an upcoming concert.
“You’ll have people who sing in different genres, like classical or pop, but it doesn’t mean their talent is less than those who belt. It’s just that they’re different and we should celebrate how singers are different,” she explained.
“So for parents, please don’t be misled by the notion that if let your child belt, it will be good for them. There’s so much more to singing than just belting out,” she added.
According to Salonga she feels fortunate that even as her voice is “different” from those of belting legends, she found a place in the industry where she continues to thrive.
“I was in an environment where there were a lot of singers were celebrated for being belters. That made me ask myself back then, ‘Where do I fit in because I don’t really do this—my voice quality is really different.’ Do I have a place in music? But then Miss Saigon happened and that was where my voice found its fit,” the 45-year-old opened up.
‘Songs from the Stage’
Looking back at her worldwide conquests as an artist—performing sold out shows at the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Singapore’s Esplanade, Carnegie Hall in New York, and very soon, the Sydney Opera House—continues to excites Salonga to this very day. She pointed out, however, that despite the amazing experience, nothing can ever beat performing for Filipinos, in the Philippines.
“It’s home. I get to sing in front of the home crowd and nothing else can compare to it,” she enthused.
She is therefore very excited for February 17 and 18 to come around when she returns to Manila’s concert scene with Songs from the Stage at the PICC’s Plenary Hall.
“This is the first exclusively musical theater concert we’re done since 2002, which is quite a long time—15 years to be exact. So many new shows have been produced since then and this will definitely be a great opportunity to pay those new musicals a visit. At the same time, we’ll do older shows that we’ve not really visited yet,” shared Salonga.
She added that music by Sondheim, Lloyd-Webber, Miranda, Bareilles, King, plus songs that the public never knew came from musicals will all highlight this much-awaited concert.
“I’m just excited to be sharing a lot of musical theater with the audience. It’s not always thought of as a hip art form until a the show called Hamilton,” she cited the big winner in theater awards for 2016. “But this unique art form is always a great entry into learning one’s history and culture, and to be a practitioner of it, in whatever way, is always enjoyable and exciting,” she ended.
Songs from the Stage is directed by Bobby Garcia with musical direction by Gerard Salonga, featuring the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra.