BWW Review: Gerald Santos Comes Full Circle in Homecoming Concert
Manila, Philippines--Back in Manila from his two-year stint as Thuy in the UK/Ireland and International tour of "Miss Saigon," Gerald Santos is now a certified crossover artist. In his homecoming concert last Saturday, May 4, at the Theatre at Solaire, Santos filled his repertoire with songs from musical theater and from movie musicals that have also crossed over to the pop charts.
As if he were reintroducing himself to the Manila audience, Santos never for one moment talked about how he first started as a pop singer in 2006. Conceptualized by Santos, together with creative director-scriptwriter Rommel Ramilo, he began the show with a soothing rendition of "Home" from the musical "The Wiz," while a footage of his arrival at the Manila airport was being projected on a large screen at the back of the stage, put together by visual director Jun Fausto. Right at that moment, we immediately noticed how relaxed he has become as a performer and as a singer.
During his second and third numbers, "How Far I'll Go" from Disney's "Moana" and "Climb Every Mountain" from "The Sound of Music," Santos expressed his willingness to shift gears and try out a new career path. This drive to break new ground at this stage of his career is probably the reason why he has decided to sing songs known mostly to be sung by women, which we also learned was inspired by the "Miscast" cabaret in New York City, where Broadway stars perform songs from roles in which they would never be cast.
As much as we enjoyed the thrill of figuring out what song he would do next, some of these performances did not do well as we had hoped. Case in point, his take on the songs "Defying Gravity" from "Wicked" and "On My Own" from "Les Miserables." We recognized the effort (put in by his musical director, Jason Cabato) to make these songs work for a male singer/character, but we guess (and we're speaking as musical theater fans), the changes in the lyrics (usually the pronouns) made the songs less appealing.
Santos, however, made up for those two underwhelming numbers by way of his satisfying covers of the songs from hit movie musicals: "Never Enough" from "The Greatest Showman" and "I'll Never Love Again" from "A Star is Born." We particularly enjoyed his rendition of the latter since the song--a hauntingly beautiful love song whose melody reminded us of Santos' roots as a pop balladeer--perfectly represents the genre that's best suited for his tone.
In the concert's most anticipated production number, which was the "Miss Saigon" medley, Santos temporarily took a step back from the center spot and happily gave his fellow castmates a well-deserved moment. There were three guest performers from the "Miss Saigon" touring company: Leo Valdez, Aicelle Santos, and Joreen Bautista. (The fourth guest that evening was Jake Zyrus who sang a "Josh Groban"
duet with Santos). The three artists first performed solo numbers, all of which were remarkable. Valdez sang his signature hit "Magsimula Ka" from "Magsimula Ka" while [Aicelle] Santos gave a stirring rendition of "Minsan Ang Minahal ay Ako" from "Katy!". Newcomer Joreen Bautista (who was cast as the Kim alternate in the touring company) also did not disappoint in all the song numbers she was a part of. She was effortlessly hitting those high notes in her solo number, "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" from "The Phantom of the Opera" and in her duet with [Aicelle] Santos (who played Gigi in the "Miss Saigon" tour), "Movie in My Mind."
Santos, not for long, closed the show with two song numbers, each manifesting his current state of mind. "Why God Why?" from "Miss Saigon" was an appropriate song choice for two reasons: one, as Santos' homage to the show that changed the trajectory of his career and, second, as a recognition of his disbelief for having been blessed with such an incredible life experience as a working actor. But to us, his simple and honest rendition of the song "The Winner Takes it All" (originally sung by Abba but was also featured in the jukebox musical "Mamma Mia!") best exemplified Santos' full-circle moment. With all the ups-and-downs in his career and after recognizing all the lessons he has learned from those experiences, he is once again feeling like a true winner.
Photos: Japs Ramiscal