What's so special when a great singer performs in a small venue? It feels so intimate. Such was what I felt listening to Lea Salonga as she sang inside a packed Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Center in New York last night. I've seen her previously perform on two Broadway shows - Flower Drum Song and Les Miserables - but I've never seen her this close onstage. And boy, did I see much of her backside!
Almost two weeks ago, I received an email from a Filipino group announcing a special concert by Lea. Organized on a whim by stage actor Victor Lirio, the concert was meant to raise much-needed money for Typhoon Ondoy's victims. The other typhoon - Pepeng - was yet brewing in the horizon. Lea happened to be in the US on a concert tour and she readily agreed to perform pro bono for such a noble cause. In the end, the concert generated more than one million pesos for the typhoon relief fund coursed through the Ayala Foundation USA.
Accompanied only by a grand piano, Lea's set list was culled from her current US tour. As expected, her rendition was flawless, the words were very clear and she hit the high notes with utmost bravura. She sang only one Tagalog song, Jose Mari Chan's Hahanapin Ko which she dedicated to migrant Pinoys all over the world. To spice things up a bit, audacious volunteers from the audience sang A Whole New World with her onstage. She also rendered classics from two different legends: Michael Jackson's Gone Too Soon and John Lennon's Imagine. And what's a Lea concert without a sampling of her Broadway hits? On My Own (from Les Miserables) and especially the heart-wrenching I'd Give My Life For You (from Miss Saigon) really had the crowd chorus a big bravo.