Monday, November 30, 2009

Lea Salonga is Grizzabella in the Musical "Cats"

Andrew Lloyd Webber was absolutely delighted when told that Filipino international singer/actress Lea Salonga would play Grizzabella in the musical Cats. This is according to Tim McFarlane, producer of The Really Useful Company Asia Pacific Pty Ltd. McFarlane was in town for the launching of Cats in Manila.

Lea, who will get to sing Memory, once again captivated the audience when she sang the song during the media launch. "This is my first time to sing Memory in public. I have not done it, not even in previous concerts," Lea declared.

"We have long wanted to bring Cats to Manila," McFarlane said. The musical which first opened in London in May 11, 1981 to rave reviews, went on to win record-breaking number of awards worldwide including two Olivier Awards for Musical of the Year and Outstanding Achievement of the Year in Musicals and seven Tony Awards. It will be staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theater in July 2010.

James Cundall, CEO of Lunchbox Productions and who also served as moderator of the launch said that Lea�s appearance is a triple treat as the actress/singer would be acting, singing and dancing.

Fiz Shapur, the musical supervisor of Cats, played on the piano some excerpts from the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber including Don�t Cry for Me Argentina, Phantom of the Opera and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Cats tells the imaginative tale of a tribe of Jellicle Cats as they gather together for the annual Jellicle Ball. Each cat tells his story for the entertainment of Old Deuteronomy who must choose one of the Cats to journey to the Heavyside layer to be reborn into a new life.

It is based on T.S. Elliot�s book of poems, Old Possum�s Book of Practical Cats which was first published in 1939. Andrew Lloyd Webber used Elliot�s poems as lyrics and set them to music to create a musical. Some elements from Elliot�s other unpublished writings brought to life the glamour Cat Grizabella who provides the pivotal storyline for the musical.

Cats held the record for the longest-running musical in the history of West End Theater, a position it held until October 2006 when it was surpassed by Le Miserables. It closed in London in May 11, 2002 with 8,950 performances. Cats opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theater in Oct. 7, 1982 and continued to play until Sept. 10, 2000 after 7,485 performances. It was one of the longest-running musicals on Broadway surpassed only by Phantom of the Opera.

Memory, the most popular song in the musical has been recorded by over 150 artists including Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis and Liberace. Barry Manilow�s rendition became a Top 40 hit in the US, while I consider Barbra�s version to be the most heart-wrenching.

Undoubtedly one of the most popular musicals in history, Cats has played in 26 countries and over a hundred cities and has been translated into 10 languages including German, Spanish, Japanese, French, and Swedish, among others.

But why is Cats so popular? McFarlane explained, "It is because of its music, the highlight of which is the song Memory. Second, the show is great and appeals to people of all ages and all cultures."

Cats Now and Forever in Manila is produced by Lunch Box Theatrical Productions, David Atkins Enterprises, Concertus and All Youth Channels in association with The Really Useful Company Asia Pacific.

Lea rose to international fame via Miss Saigon where she won the Tony Award for Outstanding Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Drama Desk Award and the Laurence Olivier Award. She played Eponine as well as Fantine in Les Miserables, Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, the Witch in Into The Woods, Cinderella, among others. She has several recordings to her name and is the singing voice behind Princess Jasmine in the blockbuster Disney hit Aladdin, and in Mulan and Mulan 2.

I am certainly not going to miss this musical even if it plays at midnight, when there is no sound at the pavement. How can you miss the great Lea Salonga singing this song, not in a thousand midnights.

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