Singing Sondheim for School
ALL THAT SHNAZZ - Alexei Villaraza () - October 23, 2011 - 12:00am

NEW YORK — It’s not easy to feel homesick when you move out of the country. It’s been three months since I hauled myself over to New York to study and I’m often asked if I miss home. But everywhere I look, there are Filipinos around me. The folks living on my left are Ilonggo, the couple a few houses down are from Quezon province, and the family on the corner used to live in Pasay. When I went to Burberry, the saleslady who assisted me turned out to be Filipino. She said to call her “Ate Glo” as she went to the back to get a wool coat in my size.  

In a way, it’s comforting to see your fellow kababayans either on the subway, walking on the street, or on the bus. It’s heartwarming to know that they work so hard to help their families back home. The Quezon neighbor, for example, works overtime in the hospital to fund his brother’s children’s high school and college education. 

When I asked why he does that, he said he didn’t want his nephews and nieces to be end up like his unemployed and irresponsible black sheep of a brother. “Having a good, solid education is important,” he said.

Being well educated is needed if you want to make it big, be it back home or in any country you decide to work in. Philippine Development (PhilDev and formerly Ayala Foundation USA) is a US-based non-profit organization whose purpose is to develop programs and support initiatives that promote sustainable social and economic growth in the Philippines through science and technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.  

Some of Broadway’s best Filipino-American performers: (Standing) Liz Casasola, Chris-Ian Sanchez, Jake Manabat, Brian Jose, Ariel Estrada; (Seated) are Diane Phelan, Jaygee Macapugay, Melissa Singson, Emy Baysic

To raise funds for scholarships in science and engineering, and to help bring the Philippine Science High School System and the regional science high schools to world-class standards, the organization will be hosting a concert featuring a stellar all-Filipino-American cast. It will be the very first all-Filipino concert presenting the best and brightest Filipino-American talents who have all made marks on Broadway in leading roles

Entitled Philippine Development Celebrates Broadway: Suites by Sondheim, it is a musical extravaganza devoted to the works of internationally celebrated American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, and will be held in New York at in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on Nov. 7.

Top billing this once-in-a-lifetime event is Tony Award winner Lea Salonga.

“We are thrilled to be presenting a one-of-a-kind and historic concert event for our gala this year showcasing the world-class talents of the Filipino-Americans to raise awareness and much-needed funding for PhilDev’s programs,“ said PhilDev trustee Loida Nicolas-Lewis. “There are millions of Filipinos back home who are in dire need of assistance. And the bayanihan spirit among the Filipino-Americans and our American friends is truly moving. We are extremely grateful.”   

Joining Lea on stage are Filipino-American Broadway stars Joan Almedilla (Miss Saigon, Les Miserables); T. V. Carpio (Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, Across the Universe); Ali Ewoldt (Les Miserables, West Side Story); Rona Figueroa (Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Lennon, Nine); Lydia Gaston (The King & I, Miss Saigon, The Red Shoes); Adam Jacobs (Les Miserables, The Lion King); Jose Llana (The King & I, Spelling Bee, The Flower Drum SongWonderland); Deedee Magno Hall (Wicked, Miss Saigon); Orville Mendoza (Pacific Overtures, Miss Saigon); Paolo Montalban (Pacific Overtures, The King & I, Cinderella); Jennifer Paz (Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar); Catherine Ricafort (Mamma Mia!), and more.  

Directed by actor Victor Lirio with musical direction and original orchestrations by Tom Myron, the concert will showcase Sondheim’s creations from musicals like Company, West Side Story, Saturday Night, Sweeney Todd, Anyone Can Whistle, Follies, A Little Night Music, Merrily We Roll Along, and Sunday in the Park with George.

“Sondheim’s works are some of the greatest in the musical theater canon and it is a privilege to breathe life into some of it. I am grateful to him for giving us this tremendous opportunity,” Victor said. “An important part of PhilDev’s mandate is to raise the profile of the Filipinos in the global landscape. This concert will show the contributions Filipino artists have made to America’s rich and diverse theater culture.”

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