Karylle, Sam Concepcion and Morissette during the Disney's "Tale as Old as Time" concert last weekend. Photos by Leo Katigbak provided by Gian Carlo Vizcarra of Stages
We all grew up on Disney films. From the first Mickey Mouse shorts in the 1930s to its first full-length film "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" (1937), followed by "Pinocchio," "Cinderella," and "Sleeping Beauty," Disney films were a child's fantasy world come alive. After a slump in the 1970s and most of the 1980s, Disney experienced a great resurgence in its popularity in 1989 with "The Little Mermaid," which continues up to the present with its latest hit, "Big Hero 6."
The musical soundtrack of Disney films are just as special. These are among the first songs we learn as kids. Songs from Disney films are also staples in the Best Original Song category in the Oscars, as nominees and as winners. Twelve Disney songs have won the Academy Award -- from "When You Wish Upon a Star" ("Pinocchio," 1940) to "Let It Go" ("Frozen," 2013).
In the '90s, songs from Disney films began hitting on the pop charts as well. In 1993, "A Whole New World" became the first song from a Disney film to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Beauty and the Beast" (No. 9, 1992), "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (No. 4, 1994), "Circle of Life" (No. 18, 1994), "Colors of the Wind" (No. 4, 1995), "Someday" (No. 30, 1996), "Go the Distance" (No. 27, 1997) and "You'll Be in My Heart" (No. 21, 1999) all had pop versions that reached the Top 40 as well. "Let It Go" (2013) had BOTH its pop version by Demi Lovato (No. 38) and its original version by Idina Menzel (No. 5) reaching the Top 40.
This list does not even include songs from live action Disney films. No. 1 song "All for One" by Bryan Adams/Rod Stewart/Sting is from "Three Musketeers" (1994). Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" (No. 6, 2004) is from "Princess Diaries 2." Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" (No. 4, 2009) is from "Hannah Montana: The Movie."
Trivia: Before all this, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" by Julie Andrews and DickVan Dyke from "Mary Poppins" actually reached No. 66 on the Hot 100 in 1965.
The concert proper
There were two dates for this special concert on Disney music, Nov. 8 and Nov. 9. My kids and I watched the second show on Nov. 9, which was set at 2 p.m. at the CCP Main Theater. The show started promptly at 2 p.m., even when the seats in the orchestra around us were not yet filled up.
The ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra played the National Anthem live onstage, which was already quite a thrill in itself. Then conductor Gerard Salonga made his entrance and proceeded to conduct the orchestra through an overture of beloved Disney tunes. At the same time, we were watching a perfectly edited, high definition video montage from the original animated films (like "Peter Pan," "Lady and the Tramp," "Alice in Wonderland," and "Fantasia") playing on the screen behind them.
The first singer introduced was Caisa Borromeo who led us through the songs from the Rapunzel-inspired film "Tangled." She would be joined by Sam Concepcion, Red Concepcion and a singing group called Vocal Synergy through songs like "When Will My Life Begin," "I've Got a Dream" and the love ballad "I See the Light."
Morissette (it seems she has dropped her surname Amon from her stage name) came out in a red gown and sang a beautiful pop (a la Christina Aguilera) version of "Reflection" from "Mulan." Her voice was really something else -- solid and oh so clear. This would only be the first of so many memorable songs from her today. I knew she would go far when I first heard her sing in "Camp Rock the Musical" and then her stint on "The Voice."
The next singer up was Antonio Ferrer, and man, he came up with a big revelatory performance I totally did not expect. I knew him as a classical tenor from serious musical plays like "Noli Me Tangere: The Opera" and "Walang Sugat." But there he was matching Robin Williams' very animated multi-inflection rendition of "Friend Like Me" from "Aladdin"! This would be only the first surprise of many more he had in store for us.
Next up was a Villains Medley to pay tribute to the more memorable baddies in Disney lore. There were three songs in this segment. First was "Trust in Me," which was python Kaa's song from "The Jungle Book" sung for us by Sam Concepcion. Next was a spectacular version of Sea Witch Ursula's "Poor Unfortunate Souls" by the always smashing Carla Guevara-Laforteza. Finally, it was Scar's menacing "Be Prepared" from "The Lion King" by Antonio Ferrer. Again this low growling baritone was the last thing I expected from him, and this he nailed it up to the evil laugh after the song.
The next segment was a showing of the classic Disney short cartoon entitled "The Band Concert." This short released in 1935 was the first Mickey Mouse film produced in color. The music of this short was Rossini's "The William Tell Overture" and it was played live by the ABS-CBN Orchestra in perfect consonance with the film as its soundtrack.
The final number in Act 1 was a Gospel medley by the Muses from the film "Hercules." The Muses were composed by Caisa Borromeo and Carla Laforteza, who were very good. But a lot of attention was being drawn by the third Muse, EJ Pepito of the Vocal Synergy. This girl can wail like the best of them! How good that she was given this golden opportunity to showcase her voice solo. I was not too familiar with the songs like "Zero to Hero" and "A Star is Born," but the girls amazing singing and harmonizing carried the day.
Act II opened with songs from "The Princess and the Frog." Honestly, I was not too familiar with the Creole-flavored Randy Newman songs here "Down in New Orleans" and "Almost There." I was surprised to see Karylle there as Tiana, since she was not in the first act, Sam Concepcion sang the parts of Prince Naveen. But again the thunder was stolen by Antonio Ferrer with his gleefully evil rendition of the sinister "Friends on the Other Side," which incidentally the only song I remember from the film.
The next medley would be love songs entitled "They Finally Meet." The first was "Kiss the Girl" sung by Red Concepcion with Sebastian's calypso flair. The pop version of "Beauty and the Beast" was next sung by Morissette and Sam Concepcion. This pair can really run perfectly with their multiple runs a la Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson. The final duet was "So This is Love" (from "Cinderella") sung by Karylle and Antonio Ferrer. Now this is the tenor voice I know Antonio for.
Next up was an instrumental interlude entitled "Battle with the Forces of Evil." While the screen was showing us the climactic battle of Prince Phillip and Maleficent from "Sleeping Beauty," the ABS-CBN Orchestra regaled us with their rendition of the soundtrack score adapted from Tchaikovsky no less. Watching those memorable scenes unfold with the accompanying music being played live by a full orchestra was really something else.
Finally, it is time for the very popular "Frozen." Adorable 4-year old Julia Concio (grand-daughter of ABS-CBN boss Ms. Charo Santos-Concio!) sang the first verse of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?". The audience supportively clapped as she entered, and again after she sang. Then 11-year old Camille Santos came in to sing the second verse. Another young singer named Jillian Ita-as sang "For the First Time in Forever."
Red Concepcion came in to sing Olaf's song "In Summer." However, there was no doubt that everyone was waiting for "Let It Go" and it was Morissette who delivered it. If it was not blasphemous to say she out-sang Idina Menzel herself, I'd say it. That was positively the BEST LIVE rendition of this ubiquitous and iconic song I have ever heard. Morissette's version was so effortless, flawless and vibrant!
The rest of the cast of singers came out to sing another verse and chorus of "Let It Go" as they did their curtain call and bade their goodbyes. Morissette, Sam Concepcion and Antonio Ferrer drew the loudest applause. (Honestly, I was half expecting the Philippines' own Disney princess Ms. Lea Salonga herself to come out and surprise us with "A Whole New World" but that did not happen. Haha!)
Then, Gerard Salonga stepped down from his dais to address the audience. He told us how this show was a new package program set by Disney itself. Salonga and his director Mickey Munoz had to convince the Disney execs to allow local singers to sing the songs, which were fortunately allowed. They then proceeded to hold an online audition for participants.
Also allowed was to change the gender of the singer who will sing the encore song. Originally it was supposed to have been sung by a male singer, but Salonga wanted, and got Ms. Bituin Escalante to sing it. The song was "Circle of Life" from "The Lion King." The choice was inspired. Ms. Escalante brought the house down as she always did.
My kids and the younger kids around us all enjoyed the songs from the more recent films. The older members of the audience were already very high on nostalgia. Kudos to Munoz, Salonga and everyone else who worked on the production of this special show. Undoubtedly, the Filipino talent for music is really world-class!
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."