Filipina ‘legends’ stage rare collaboration
Filipina 'legends' stage rare collaboration. Filipina "legends" stage rare collaboration
The crowd is silent as a dazzling Lea Salonga appears on stage.
A few lines into Ryan Cayabyab's "Nais Ko," Cecile Licad accompanies Salonga’s voice on piano. Lisa Macuja takes center stage and dances to Licad’s rhythm, this time with the FILharmoniKA orchestra in full force.
After months of anticipation, viewers finally witnessed a rare event in Philippine performing arts history: Three of the most talented Filipina artists together on one stage for only two consecutive nights.
Everyone knew “The Legends and the Classics” at the CCP Main Theater would be an unforgettable show when the demand for tickets was so high that the organizers had to produce two shows instead of the planned ‘one night only’ concert.
And what does one get from putting Broadway singer and actress-slash-Disney princess Lea Salonga, prima ballerina Lisa Macuja and renowned pianist Cecile Licad together in one production? A performance worthy of four standing ovations from a packed theater and applause at the end that wouldn’t have stopped if the red curtain hadn’t come down.
Lea Salonga: Defying Gravity
"When does a song become a song? Is it when words are set to music? Or when the music finds its voice?"
Lea Salonga took us on a journey from Broadway to Disney. Her powerful vocals evoked a different persona in each song. She “dreamed a dream in time gone by” (Les Miserables) even if she was “all alone in the moonlight” (Cats). She faced sadness and despair: “On my own pretending he’s beside me” (Les Miserables). Though she assures us that she had “been changed for good” (Wicked).
As a Disney legend, Salonga embodied Pocahontas, Jasmine and Mulan on stage, even intermeshing and overlapping the song lyrics of “Colors of the Wind,” “A Whole New World” and “Reflection” from the respective Disney movies. Lea Salonga sings her characters to life; one must hang on to her every note to truly see the life behind the lyrics. On this night and stage, she defied gravity.
This night was also “incredibly special” for Lea Salonga as she recalled learning and singing her audition piece for “Miss Saigon” at 17 on that very stage at the CCP. “After 24 years, it hasn’t gotten old and it never will,” she says, and sings “I’d Give My Life for You,” the song that got Salonga her big break on Broadway.
Lisa Macuja: Powering the Pointe
"A dance that is unforgiving as it is beautiful, if it were not for dreams, there would not be such a thing as ballet."
In a previous interview, Lisa Macuja had said that Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet” is one of her favorite roles to dance, and that dancer Augustus F. Damian III choreographed it especially for her. The theatricality of her performance that night was endearing as she, together with Ballet Manila’s Rudy De Dios as Romeo, conveyed the star-crossed lovers’ tragedy with flawless movement.
In her performance with the Ballet Manila dancers for “Paquita Grande Divertissement,” one can see how her grace and fluidity still stands strong even after nearly three decades and how these characteristics are embodied in the dancers that she has mentored. The piece was visually stunning and lively against the bare stage -- the audience clapped to the beat as the prima ballerina did countless pirouettes, surrounded by the other dancers. They all made it look so effortless.
Cecile Licad: Rendering the piano electric
"Music is the balm that fills the gaping sound of silence... it is love that fails to find a single word."
When Cecile Licad entered the stage for her rendition of the classics, she looked meek and reserved. She sat on the chair of the grand piano, depressed some keys… and then she got animated.
“Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante, Op. 22” showed Licad’s range and the brilliance of FILharmoniKA and conductor Gerard Salonga, who also arranged his sister Lea’s Broadway and Disney medley.
Of Flight and Farewell
One highlight of this night was the performance of “Le Carnaval des Animaux (Dying Swan).” Lisa Macuja’s portrayal of this character was bold yet wistful and it brought to mind the first Filipino Prima Ballerina’s own legacy as a dancer and her announced retirement from the stage in 2014 at age 50. Distinguished cellist Wilfredo Pasamba came all the way from the US to perform this extraordinary number alongside Cecile Licad on piano.
When Lea Salonga was singing “A Piece of Sky” from the Michel Legrand Medley, Macuja once again graced the stage. As Salonga sang the final verse that goes “Papa watch me fly” with such gusto, Macuja pirouetted across the stage and finished her routine, her hands raised as if she was the one flying. And in our minds, we knew: she flew!
By the time Salonga sang “Sana’y Wala ng Wakas” in the finale with Licad, Macuja, Ballet Manila and FILharmoniKA, one can’t help but agree with the song title and wish the night would not end.
“The Legends and the Classics” was a celebration of the beauty of art in words and wordlessness, of the individual and collective genius of three Filipinas skilled in their respective artistic disciplines.
“We’re part of history, anak,” a woman said to her daughter after the show. Truly, there might not be another concert like this for a long time. — TJD, GMA News
“The Legends and the Classics” ran from March 17 to 18, 2012 at the main theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
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