[COLUMN] Lea Salonga: ‘Some artists take time to ripen’

Award-winning theater performer Lea Salonga is a judge, alongside singer-songwriter Michael Buble, for Kumu’s “Sing For The Stars.”Photo from Instagram/@msleasalonga

MULTI-awarded theater performer Lea Salonga will be a judge, along with singer-songwriter Michael Buble, in a new all-digital international singing competition called “Sing For The Stars” which is presented by Kumu.

The social entertainment app’s competition will bring together 15 performers to be part of the show, according to an article in the Philippine Star. The top 11 will be moving on to the final leg of the competition, while the remaining four battle it out for a chance to enter the finals. The champion will earn $10,000, a one-year recording contract with Warner Music and a mini-concert inside the Kumu app, plus a one-one-one coaching session with Michael Buble. The first runner-up takes home $4,000 in cash, while the second runner-up gets $2,000.

“Technical ability and the way you convey emotion have equal weight to me,” Lea said, when asked how she would be looking at the contenders.

However, the former coach for The Voice Philippines, The Voice Kids and The Voice Teens is quick to point out that contests are not the all-important part of one’s musical journey.

“Sometimes, there are artists that take a little bit more time to ripen. And sometimes the bigger star is not even the winner of a competition. That has happened. We’ve seen it before. And so, we might discover someone that may not make it to the absolute very, very end, but again, in that five-year period, all of a sudden, it’s like, oh my gosh, you’re doing stuff that you didn’t do during the competition, and now it’s like kaboom, career has just exploded,” she said.

Salonga believes social media and the online audition process will continue to be strong as the pandemic goes on.

“[It] is going to be one that a lot of, say, casting processes will opt for to keep everyone safe,” Salonga explained, as she added, “I mean, I’m currently filming a TV show. And that’s how I auditioned, I had to do a self tape, I had to send it to the casting director. I was in Manila auditioning for a show that films in New York. So I was thankful for technology.”

It might be different for theater, but Salonga things that both in-person and online auditions will have a place in the entertainment industry.

“Well, 10 years ago, I don’t think this would have been possible. But that said, for something like musical theater, which is very specific, and which is an in-person type of a medium, that’s probably where an in-person audition might be more beneficial. But there is a place for both. I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other. It’s just that, as a matter of necessity, sometimes we have to do the online thing,” she said.

As for “Sing For The Stars,” Salonga said that she is keeping her eyes and ears open while she is in the judging panel.

“I’m not limiting my ear to genre or vocal type. It’s all about finding that special singer who captures the audience from the first note. For me, it happens when I don’t even try to think of something to say as far as a comment or critique. I just shut my brain off and steep myself in the performance. That’s when I can say to myself, oh wow, I think we just saw a star being born,” she stated.

Asked about people who dream about being the next “Lea Salonga” and what performers need in order to succeed in this industry, Lea answered, “First, everyone needs to stop trying to be the next someone. Please, I’d rather you try to be the first YOU! Second, any success story will have hard work… literal blood, sweat and tears… a strong support system is key to keeping your head about you, as this industry is crazy and could eat you alive if you aren’t careful. Know who you can trust.”

The hardest part of being judge, according to Lea, is saying goodbye to competitors.

“[The most challenging part is] saying goodbye. That’s never easy because you know how hard the singer worked to get to that point. So no, it’s never easy telling someone that this might not be the right place for them at this moment. Maybe, for a future moment, things will change, but not for this one,” she said.

Aside from “Sing For the Stars,” Salonga is currently filming a series for HBO Max, a reboot of “Pretty Little Liars” where she plays one of the moms of the liars.

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MMFF best actor winner (“Big Night”) Christian Bables is set to co-star as a villainous character in the new TV adaptation of “Mars Ravelos’ Darna.”
Photo from Instagram/@christiaaan06

A lot of great things are happening for actor Christian Bables, especially after his win for best actor at the last Metro Manila Film Festival. One of them is being reunited with his director from the film “Signal Rock,” Chito Roño, in the new TV adaptation of “Mars Ravelos’ Darna.”

“The set is always fun and easy. It feels good to act, especially because Direk Chito is there to direct everyone. I’m not allowed to talk about my role yet, but I can share that it’s one of the main characters in the series. It’s something I’ve never done before. It’s a villain but it’s not a gay character,” Christian said, according to an Inquirer.net article.

“On the set, Direk Chito is in his usual meticulous and extremely artistic self. He has always demanded a production team that’s professional and efficient with the tasks it is given. I think that makes the project grand – it has Direk Chito’s magical touch in all the aspects of production. He is really something else,” he added.

As part of his research, Bables watched the “Darna” version starring Angel Locsin, although he says this new film is different in terms of its approach. “Our setting is on the present day and our attack on the story is very modern,” he revealed.

Christian has also been working out in preparation for the fight scenes, and has lost a significant amount of weight.

“From 69 kilos, I’m now down to 59 kilograms. This is really exciting for me. I like what I’m doing. I want to be ready when the time to shoot the fight scenes comes. I’ve been seeing progress with my workouts. I plan to keep on doing it even after we’re done with the fight scenes,” he said, while adding that playing his character is quite draining as the villainous persona was created out of great emotional pain.

As for other, upcoming projects, Bables prefers to keep mum about them until the cameras start rolling.


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