Yes, Lea, we hear the people singing!?

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - January 24, 2014 - 12:00am

In one of the heart-rending highlights of Les Misérables, the angry crowd is shown on a street of Paris singing of revolution. What a stirring singing it is!

From the places hard-hit by Supertyphoon Yolanda, we hear survivors singing sad songs — don’t we? — piercing our hearts with cries of desperation over members of families who perished in the wink of an eye, with their homes wiped out and facing a future that is so empty and so bleak.

It is for the Yolanda victims that Do You Hear The People Sing? (DYHTPS) will be staged for two nights, Jan. 29 (Wednesday) and Jan. 30 (Thursday), at the Newport Performing Arts Theater of Resorts World Manila. Beneficiary is the Habitat For Humanity which is involved in the rehabilitation of Yolanda-hit areas. DYHTPS is a celebration of the works of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, the tandem that created such hit musicals as Miss Saigon, Les Misérables, Martin Guerre and The Pirate Queen.

Lea Salonga is topbilled on the show together with David Harris (who played Chris in Miss Saigon) and Marie Zamora (the French actress wife of Boublil, who played Cosette in Les Misérables). Other soloists include Cocoy Laurel (who played The Engineer in Miss Saigon), Carla Guevarra-Laforteza, Jed Madela, Jon Joven, Michael Williams, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Leo Tavarro Valdez and Rachelle Ann Go (who is set to fly to London anytime soon to rehearse for the revival of Miss Saigon on West End, cast as Gigi).

Funfare did an exclusive e-mail interview with Lea (who’s home), along with Boublil, Schonberg, Zamora and Harris who are arriving on Sunday, Jan. 26.

Here’s what they have to say:

Schonberg on Lea: Very recently, I wrote something for Lea for an album she’s going to release soon. I was asked before, “Have you ever been on a runway, looking at a 747 and thinking of what’s in front of you?” I said yes, I’ve done it once in my life, at the O2 when Lea sang I Dreamed a Dream (in Les Miz). That’s what she is. She’s such a power, a beautiful singer and I will never thank her enough for everything she gave us.

Boublil on Harris: I met David recently when he came to perform in the concert of Do You Hear the People Sing? in Shanghai; he was wonderful. He gave one of the most beautiful renditions of Bring Him Home that I’ve ever heard. I want to thank you, David, for coming to Manila and giving your time and your talent for free for this charity concert. David wanted to be part of it the first minute he heard about it when we spoke about it in Shanghai while we were still trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Boublil on DYHTPS: It is a show of all our shows. It’s an evening of telling people how the shows Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, Martin Guerre and La Révolution Française (which is our very first show) came to life, how they came into our lives and how we gave them life. It tells nice stories about how every show was written, along with the interventions of all the people who had to do these shows, the directors, the producer and how we put them together. All this makes the backbone of the evening. But it also includes anecdotes and nice stories from all the people who played in the shows.

This Do You Hear the People Sing? concert is performed by five soloists, a symphonic orchestra of 72 musicians and a choir which varies between 70 to 100 people, depending on whether or not there are children in that special version of the show.

Please, everyone, come and see Do You Hear the People Sing? in Manila. This is probably the most beautiful version of the concert you will ever see. There will never be as many talented people on the same stage all singing, all giving their time, their energy and their talent for free for a wonderful cause. The concert aims to give, all the people who have suffered from the horrible typhoon, money, as much as possible, pleasure and the will to rebuild their homes in the place that has been devastated by a horrible event. We are all bringing our time, our hearts, our money to this event and we need you to be part of it.

Schonberg on DYHTPS: In a world where information is going so fast, the emotion is still there 24 to 48 hours, or even one or two weeks after the disaster. But the pain, the suffering, the destruction is still there many months after. So the right moment to rebuild for the devastated countries is now. Please come see the concert, bring your money, you will have a good time. At the same time, remember what you felt two months ago when we heard this horrible news about destruction of some of the poorest people. They have nowhere to go, nowhere to live, no food and no water. Please don’t forget those emotions, even if it’s more than two months ago. We’ll all see you there in Manila.

As soon as we heard that there was a catastrophic disaster in the Philippines, that was my reaction because I have a very special relationship with the Philippines professionally and personally. I thought that’s the best thing we could do for a country that we owe so many things to, mainly because Filipinos were part of the first cast of Miss Saigon. Since the musical began running in 1989, the Philippines has provided us a lot of members and stars which is an important thing in the world of theatrical business. So, my first reaction was to call Alain and we agreed that we had to do it. We have the concert of our music Do You Hear The People Sing? and we thought it was a good opportunity to have this concert in Manila for the survivors of Yolanda. It’s a concert by the Filipino for the Filipinos.

Boublil on Lea: Lea has participated in some Do You Hear The People Sing? concerts already in various places like America where the show has been playing now for the last two to three years. Recently, she was doing the concert in Shanghai and that’s when I relayed the intention that Claude-Michel and I had to try to do the charity concert to raise money for the Yolanda project. Through the Habitat for Humanity Philippines, we will try to help people rebuild their homes. Since typhoon has already happened two months ago, now is the time for rebuilding which is really what we’re aiming to do by hopefully helping 200 families to rebuild their houses in Tacloban where the disaster happened.

Schonberg on Zamora: Every time I watch her sing I remember the very first audition I did with her back in Paris for the role of Cossette in Les Misérables. What I saw was a beautiful girl coming in, I think in light pink dress, and singing a song from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Immediately, it was obvious to me that she was the person who we must have in the French show. Everytime, I have that charming image of her when she’s singing on-stage. She’s now part of the family, the family of Les Misérables and the family of the concerts. Thank you very much, merci Marie!

Harris: Kamusta? I’m David Harris. I’m so excited to be coming to your beautiful country. It will be my first time there in the Philippines; I’m thrilled about finally getting there. I have a lot of friends that live there and a lot of friends that I’ve worked with on Miss Saigon in Australia are from the Philippines. Also, these concerts will help raise critical funds for the victims of the recent tragedy there in the Philippines. Our hope is to provide 200 new homes for those victims. I hope you can join myself and the rest of the cast at the end of January for Do You Hear The People Sing? It will be a fantastic night at the theater. So I’ll be looking forward to seeing you there.


And here’s the Q&A with Lea (who originated the role of Kim in Miss Saigon and played both Fantine and Eponine in Les Misérables):

What song (one each) from Miss Saigon and Les Misérables do you find most touching?

“For me, from Miss Saigon, the one that really hits me hard is Please which may have a big re-write for the new production in London. It will kind of incorporate lines from the previous song to the new one. It’s a duet of two people; one is Kim who’s anticipating seeing her lover again and John knowing that Chris is now married and that he cannot tell this woman the truth about this man that she loves so much. So, there are two things that are happening in this song. (John) knows that if (he) tells (Kim) what’s going on, she will be destroyed. It’s sad and so tragic. The whole audience knows the story and that she is in for a world of (hurt). It makes people cry because it is only going to end badly. It’s always heart breaking when that song comes up.

“For Les Miz, all the songs about unrequited love. It’s touching when you hear On My Own, you just go, ‘You poor girl!’ With I Dreamed a Dream, you hear her entire life story in about three or four minutes. You hear about the lover that she had that left her with a child. When you read the book, she basically needs her and you’ll just go, ‘Oh, you poor girl!’ That one is a really hard song to sing when you pour yourself emotionally into it because it’s like ‘stick a knife into me already and kill me now!’”

Your Jan. 29-30 concert is essentially a reunion, what’s your fondest memory about the two musicals?

“For me, it’s the 10th anniversary for Les Miz because, one, I was handpicked to play Eponine for that and I got to meet so many of the people who originally brought life to the musical. I got to meet Colm Wilkinson and Michael Ball and I got to perform with these people. It’s like, I died in Michael Ball’s arms, and it doesn’t get much better than that. I’ve gotten to perform with him in a concert recently in Shanghai, which is always a thrill because he’s a thrilling performer. I’m sad that he couldn’t make it to be part of this one because he’s filming a movie for BBC in the UK.

“For Miss Saigon, my fondest memory was the opening night in London back in 1989. It was Sept. 20, 1989. Once the curtain went down, after three times going up and down, everyone let out a yell and screamed, ‘It’s open!’ It’s like, finally the culmination of months of hard work, those many months of auditioning and trying to get in. It became a dream come true for so many of the theater performers from the Philippines who went to West End. This is West End, this is the big time! We’re here in one of the most storied theaters in London where so many amazing plays went on-stage. My Fair Lady has played in that theater, 42nd Street has just closed in that theater, there are ghosts that supposedly bless you if you see them, and Miss Saigon had an amazing run. It was the start of everything for so many of us. It was like the first day of the rest of our lives.”

Any instance in which music has lifted your spirit or morale during a low moment in your life?

“There haven’t been many low moments in my life but it seems like I normally just gravitate towards some musical thing throughout the day anyway. If I feel like listening to Sarah Mclachlan today it’s because I feel like her music fits today. Or I listen to Michael Jackson, or Bruno Mars, if it’s a Bruno Mars kind of day. So, it’s not as if there has been a low moment in my life when I feel like I need to listen to someone right now, but everyone ebbs and flows. Everybody’s day ebbs and flows. So, depending on how I’m feeling, I’ll pick something that’s most bagay to how I’m feeling that day.”

(E-mail reactions at

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