By Lea Salonga
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:43:00 08/18/2010
MANILA, Philippines—My Facebook status update last weekend: “Only eight more ‘Cats’ to go! Waaaaaaaaaaaah!” My brother, the smart aleck and corny joke expert, quipped, “Don’t you mean eight more lives? Har har har!”
The end of any run, regardless of length, is always emotional, oftentimes lachrymose. This final week of “Cats” is most assuredly no exception, especially for those leaving this current Asian tour. Five of us are saying goodbye on Aug. 22—Shaun Rennie, Alyse Davies, Michael-John Hurney, Lisa-Marie Parker and me. The company heads to Taiwan for 15 performances (with different and/or new cast members) before the junkyard is put away for a long hiatus.
The occasion is often bittersweet. On the one hand, the eight-show weekly grind (especially the grueling five-show weekend) will be over. On the other, it means bidding farewell to people you’ve grown to love during the run (for many in the cast, this means two, three, even four years). It’s the uncertainty of finding one another again, and whether these seemingly solid friendships survive, or if you’ll find another opportunity to work in a show as special as this.
As I say goodbye to a musical that went from one I never thought I’d do, to one that profoundly changed me as a human being, allow me to list some things I’ll miss about “Cats.”
1) Daily ballet barre with Sharyn. There are days when even the simplest plie feels like hell on earth, not to mention that I still can’t pirouette properly. That said, warming up in the various ballet positions with my hand on that horizontal rod transports me back to being a little kid in leotard, tights and ballet shoes. Many of the basics have thankfully remained in my system. (Thank you, Maniya Barredo, for existing, which sent most of us cousins and nieces of yours to dance classes.) I wonder if my old tutus would fit Nicole. Probably not; I was a pretty chubby child.
2) Green eyes. I don’t see how anyone wouldn’t find this exciting. I was as giddy as a kid on the first day of school when I first put them on over my basic cat wig. It hasn’t lost its initial charm; I look forward to rushing from the back of the house during the overture, hoping to freak out unsuspecting audience members.
3) Dancing. Only my closest friends and colleagues with a sharp ear for my voice have found me in the opening number. By the end of this seven-minute wonder, sweat is pouring down my face and drenching my unitard…my heart is racing and I can barely breathe…it is totally awesome. I can’t contain my joy at having completed it, though it’s nothing compared to what the rest of the company have to accomplish.
4) “Memory”. To be honest, I gave a few questionable performances of the song in the first two weeks of the run. Though I would warm up just after intermission for this pivotal moment, “Touch me” was a hit-or-miss…until one fine night when, in a moment of good-natured tomfoolery backstage with a few of the other guys, we started singing songs from “Miss Saigon.” “Memory” sits in the same keys and vocal place that I once sang in and used for “Saigon,” but up until this night it didn’t dawn on me to use that show to vocally wake things up. I started singing some lines from two emotional (read: loud) moments of that show…I felt my muscles wake up. That night was the first time I was actually happy with “Memory,” and “Touch me” hasn’t given me any trouble since. Singing it for the last time will most certainly hit me hard.
5) The cast and crew. This very special cast, 29 different personalities, many of them almost mirroring their feline counterparts, hit the stage every night, while even more crew members keep it running. I will miss their humor, laughter, wisdom, outrageousness, talent, work ethic, and single-minded focus and passion in putting this show up on its feet night after night. They are all beautiful.
Thank you, “Cats,” for coming into my life.
Fabulous feline partay
The most fabulous woman on earth, Tessa Prieto-Valdes, threw “Cats” a party that none of us will soon forget. Just think: Many of the guests dressed in animal prints (except for us who actually have to be animals for most of the week)…pole dancing…fire-juggling (if that’s what it’s called)…free massages…amazing food…tons of Filipino hospitality. Sighted were super stylists Jenni Epperson and Ferdi Salvador, Hello Kitty maven Virgie Ramos (how appropriate!), doc to the stars Vicki Belo and her companion Hayden Kho, artist manager Girlie Rodis, Tatler head Anton San Diego, and Tessa’s friends and family.
Thanks, Tessa, for welcoming us into your lovely home! You are indeed amazing! The “Cats” cast and crew will never forget you.