On the scene: Lea Salonga, Adam Jacobs and Ali Ewoldt perform at Suites By Sondheim concert
PhilDev’s Suites By Sondheim benefit concert at Lincoln Center was like reaching into a cereal box of Stephen Sondheim’s Lucky Charms and scooping out a handful of marshmallows. The concert, held at Alice Tully Hall on November 7 to benefit the Philippine Development Foundation, featured songs only among the composer’s biggest hits. Performing the sweeping
numbers were 36 Broadway actors of Filipino descent, including concert headliner Lea Salonga (Miss Saigon), Adam Jacobs (The Lion King), T.V. Carpio (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark), and Ali Ewoldt (Les Miserables).
Jose Llana led a lively ensemble opener with the title song to Company, followed by a cutesy “You Could Drive A Person Crazy” by Carpio, Liz Casola, and Jaygee Macapugay. Llana closed out the Company set with a solid “Being Alive.”
The West Side Story segment was among the strongest of the night, reuniting Jacobs and Ewoldt, who played Marius and Cosette in the 2006 revival of Les Miserables. They sang a shiver-inducing “One Hand, One Heart,” which exemplified their pitch-perfect chemistry. Joan Almedilla joined Ewoldt for a ferocious “A Boy Like That,” which they beautifully juxtaposed with a haunting “I Have A Love.”
A standout from the 2006 Company revival, Angel Desai smoldered during the sexy “Sooner Or Later” from the film Dick Tracy. Deedee Magno Hall followed up with a thoughtful rendition of “Losing My Mind” from Follies.
The second strongest suite of the evening came from the Sweeney Todd catalogue. Diane Phelan kicked it off with clear-voiced, controlled “Green Finch and Linnet Bird,” which was a home-run performance and among the night’s most memorable. Carpio soloed on “Johanna,” followed by Jacobs and Alan Ariano’s gorgeous and haunting duet, “Pretty Women.” Adam Marcelo and Almedilla joined for “Not While I’m Around,” which lacked umph, and Almedilla followed up with “There Won’t Be Trumpets” from Anyone Can Whistle, which sounded strong, if out of place.
The concert’s second act kicked off with songs from A Little Night Music, which began with Rona Figueroa, singing a less sexed-up version of “The Miller’s Son.” (Needless to say, Leigh Ann Larkin was sorely missed.) Salonga made her much-awaited first appearance, closing out the Night Music suite with “Send In The Clowns,” which was surprisingly soft. Salonga kicked it up a notch with “What Can You Lose” from Dick Tracy and “Not A Day Goes By” from Merrily We Roll Along.
For the final set of the night, Jacobs delivered a moving, heartfelt “Finishing The Hat” from Sunday in the Park with George, which was eclipsed by “Move On” from Salonga. The full company then came on stage and closed the show with a rousing “Sunday.”
Closing the show involved presenting The Book of Mormon and Avenue Q Tony-winning composer Robert Lopez with an award for excellence. Lopez recalled that when Avenue Q was playing at the Vineyard Theatre, prior to any Broadway plans, one of the theater’s creative directors told him he would be the first Filipino Tony winner for Best Score one day. Lopez said that at the time, his brain shut down when he heard the word “Tony,” but that on stage at the PhilDev benefit, “Filipino” suddenly meant more than the award.
Were you at the Suites By Sondheim concert, Rushers? What was your favorite performance of the night? Which of the actors have you previously seen in shows? Any Sondheim song you wish had been performed that wasn’t? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!