Reuben happy on his own
DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda () - April 13, 2009 - 12:00am

When singer Reuben Laurente left The Company, it was because he wanted to make it on his own. He loved the group (He still does!) and is grateful for having been a member. The Company honed his musicality and boosted his confidence. “Being in The Company was great but I wanted to leave my comfort zone. It’s always good to be nervous and to go to some place where you don’t know,” says Reuben, dubbed as “Manila’s Pop Virtuoso.”

So three years ago, Reuben went solo. He sang in premiere venues like
the Calesa Bar, Merk’s and Gambrinus and Hard Rock. Reuben recorded three solo albums. He received accolades from the Catholic Mass Media Awards (Best Album Award), Aliw Awards (Best Lounge Singer) and Awit Awards (Best R & B Performer).

He made a good living and was recognized. But the big breaks were still elusive. He began setting his sights elsewhere, like abroad. In April of 2008, he found out that the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s (RCCL) Voyager class was holding auditions for cruise ship performers in Manila. The Royal Caribbean owns several luxury liners, one of them is the 142,000-ton Mariner of the Seas that tours the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Reuben wowed the judges with his versatility and range. Weeks later, he found himself flying to Florida to train for a month at the Royal Caribbean Production Studios. By the way, two other Manila-based singers were chosen from that audition: Anna Fegi who was assigned to the Radiance of the Seas, and Roy Rolloda who was booked on the Majesty of the Seas.

Reuben says, “I felt so lucky because it was the first time that RCCL looked for Asian performers based in Asia. I was the first Filipino singer to sing at the Mariner of the Seas.” Reuben was under the tutelage of Ben Bryant, a respected vocal director and Broadway performer.

More exciting things lay ahead for Reuben when he started working on the ship. The Mariner, hands down, is one impressive ship. It’s a massive leisure and entertainment center on water. It’s got a signature rock climbing wall, an inline skating rink, a full-size basketball court, a miniature golf course, an huge fitness and spa complex (one of the world’s largest at sea), and a shopping, dining and entertainment boulevard called the Royal Promenade. “The ship’s amenities alone convinced me that the Mariner was one of the best performance places in the world,” says Reuben.

But his schedule was backbreaking. He had two shows daily at the 1,350-seater theater called The Savoy. Reuben sang and danced before an international audience. One production review was named Front Row, a tribute to key entertainment venues in the U.S., and the other show was the eighties-inspired, 50-minute Pure Energy. The stints were vocally-taxing,” Reuben recalls. “Ang worry ko lagi ang boses ko. I had to take care of my voice very well.”

Initially, he felt homesick. Reuben confesses, “My contract was for six months. It was my first time to be away from family for that long. To cope, I read the Bible and prayed a lot.” Soon, Reuben was okay. “Besides, I realized that I was living so comfortably. During breaks, I sipped coffee at Seattle’s Best and ate ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s. I had free use of the gym and the spa. At the end of the day, I was smiling, thinking how lucky I was to be working on a luxury ship. I was getting paid doing work I love and having an all-expense paid vacation.”

He “waved the Philippine flag proudly,” so to speak. Reuben says, “There are 62 countries that represent harmony in diversity on the Mariner. Forty percent of these employees are the hardworking, warm and friendly, easy-to-deal with, and fun-loving

Reuben came home last month and showed the press the photos of his stint on the Mariner plus snapshots of him in St. Martin’s beach, Netherlands, Rio de Janeiro and other fabulous places.

In June, he’s singing in another Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship. “It was a great, amazing first contract! That’s why I’m going to Florida to prepare for the Navigator of the Seas,” he reveals.

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