All set to perform in the fundraising concert Do You Hear The People Sing?, Lea Salonga admitted that she is excited to perform with different cast members of Miss Saigon from all over the world “I'm actually very excited about this one. Number one there's so many alums from Miss Saigon and not just from one production, but from numerous productions. Many of them are the official Cameron Macintosh productions but there's a few coming from regional licensed productions like this girl who played Kim in New Zealand. I think she's here on vacation but she'll be performing with us. So it's a reunion of many people who performed together in Miss Saigon but it's kind of also orientation day because there's a lot of us who have performed in original productions but some did it in German, some did it in Dutch. So it's all these people getting together and sharing stories that we just never heard and it's going to be fun,” she said.
Lea admitted she is also happy to be joined by special guests Jed Madela, the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, and Rachelle Ann Go who is set to play the role of Gigi in the West End play later this year. “We also have [people] who have never done any musicals before but when we thought who can see these songs going through the program one by one, both Gerard (Salonga) and I thought si Jed lang ang makakakaya niyan, of one particular song. Because it's super mataas so it entered our minds that it's only one guy who can sing that. So we invited him the minute we figured it would be him. I texted him, ‘You make sure you're free because I need you for this! (laughs)’ He made himself free and his management made sure he'd be available for us,” she shared. The proceeds of the concert will go to the Habitat for Humanity rehabilitation project for the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda.
The 42-year-old singer-actress said she feels very passionate about visiting areas hit by the typhoon and stresses the need to continually raise funds for them. “Gusto ko sana pero wala pang pagkakataon. I've not been able to find an opportunity for it because I've been working. So the only thing I can do for now is to try and raise as much money and awareness as possible and the danger now is kasi kailan nangyari yung Yolanda? Last year. So sana huwag kalimutan ng tao na kailangan pa magbigay ng tulong, not like one burst and then we forget which is why this show is happening at the end of January and then two months after people still need to raise money. It's not going to be over for a while. At least a year I think in order to get people back on their feet and support themselves again,” she explained.
As the first Pinay to star in the original production of Miss Saigon, Lea said she is confident in Julia Abueva and Tanya Manalang, the two Pinays who recently got cast as alternates for the role of Kim in this year's run of the play. “Well I don't know how much encouragement I need to give them because I think they grew up listening to this music. Tanya may have been a very small child when Miss Saigon first came out so she's familiar enough with it now and Julia is only 18 so she wasn't even born yet when Miss Saigon was first staged in the West End. I'd tell them to count your blessings, take lots of pictures, enjoy the whole process, make friends. And for the Pinoy cast, for the entire Pinoy contingent in particular, support each other. Be each other's best cheerleader, because you're all away from home, you are all embarking on this very similar journey together as a group. The entire cast has to be one unified front to tell this story. Hindi puwedeng mag-baklas baklas yung group. As a group you really have to be a unified unit to tell this story well. It makes for much easier relationships backstage because the show is so heavy, mabigat siyang gawin eh. It's vocally heavy, it's physically demanding. You have to keep it light behind the scenes,” she shared.
This is the first time Do You Hear the People Sing? will be staged in Manila, but Lea says they have been performing in different countries already. “Yes Gerard (Salonga) conducted it with the Shanghai Opera Orchestra and Chorus so we had a big choir, all of whom were theater fans also so they were so excited when we were doing it. I've done this in Shanghai, Indianapolis, and Canada in Ottowa so I've done it a few times. So it makes me happy to get to do it again and to think that it's going to be done here. One it will be bigger and better because one, we're helping our countrymen surviving Yolanda and two, we get to have a really nice reunion of Miss Saigon alums. Three, we get to hear really amazing singers to sing this amazing material. It's very exciting,” she said.
Catch Lea Salonga in Do You Hear the People Sing? on January 29 and 30 at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila. Tickets available at all TicketWorld outlets (891-9999) and the Resorts World Manila Box Office (908-8000 local 7700).