February 25, 2015 — While everyone was worrying about how they would get to work on time, I was excited to end the day and go straight to Aicelle Santos‘ first major concert at the PETA Theatre. I was skeptical at first if I would make it on time but, through God’s grace, everything just went unexpectedly smooth. I found a friend that carpooled me from Megamall to Cubao. Passing through the Ortigas station, we could see that the queue was a hot mess. Whew! Really dodged a bullet there. My friends and I have followed Aicelle’s career since she was a runner-up in the 2nd season of GMA7‘s Pinoy Pop Superstar (PPS). She became a regular in the now defunct show SOP, eventually being grouped with Jonalyn Viray (PPS Grand Champion Season 1) and Maricris Garcia (PPS Grand Champion Season 3) as the sorely missed girl group La Diva. After the group disbanded, each diva pursued their careers as solo artists. In 2013, Aicelle bagged the title role in Katy! the Musical and, later that year, made a deeper mark in the theater world as Aileen, the biritera of Barangay Venizia, in Rak of Aegis.
Finally, it has happened to me.
Aicelle in a gold jumpsuit opened the two and a half hour (correct me if I’m wrong) show with Finally by CeCe Peniston, which was only fitting. In her 9 years in showbiz, it is a wonder why she still hasn’t done a major solo concert. Then again, like what I felt in her performance, this was the right moment for her to shine. This was the exact time her stars aligned to make this happen and even in spite of the very tragic traffic in EDSA. The past couple of years helped Aicelle find her own place in showbiz (as her mentor/nanay Regine Velasquez-Alcasid said). All her hard work since she started during her college years has finally started paying off. She was undoubtedly blessed and the concert was a celebration of her journey, her talent, and whatever is in store for her future. I was smiling all throughout this number (all night actually) because I felt proud of Aicelle. I don’t know her personally but I do think she deserves to be recognized in the industry, locally and internationally. She then lightened up the mood with Treasure by Bruno Mars. Her backup dancers also brought life to the upbeat performances spearheaded by choreographer Gio Gahol. A funny thing also happened while Aicelle was dancing. Her hair pins fell off. She felt it and asked the audience if something did fall. She was a such a sport about it and even asked the backstage people if her hair could be fixed on stage. The young singer then followed with a couple of Disney classics (Part of Your World and Reflection, from The Little Mermaid and Mulan, respectively). She said she grew up singing these songs. This could hint that at an early age, she already had the chops to be a musical theater actress. Aicelle brought the audience back to where her career actually started. Not many people know that she was part of an acoustic band called Dream Sequence. Too bad, the two other members did not appear as guests, but she did perform songs they usually cover during the acoustic era, or the Moonlight Over Paris days namely Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers, Give Me One Reason by Tracy Chapman and Don’t Worry About a Thing by Stevie Wonder.
Her first guest was fresh from Hong Kong: singer, theater actor and rumored boyfriend, Gian Magdangal. I also just got back from Hong Kong two weeks ago and I saw Gian’s show Golden Mickeys in Disneyland so I was very excited. Gian sang Stay with Me by Sam Smith. This was arguably the best cover I have ever heard of this song. He then sang a duet with Aicelle who now wore a black lace over nude lining top matched with a feathery and sequined skirt. They sang I’ll Never Go originally by Nexus but the arrangement was from the original soundtrack of GMA Films‘ My Lady Boss. Fantastic! I was surprised to hear that Aicelle was part of the singing competition Star in a Million. I’m guessing as a contestant when it aired as a segment on ASAP. She then joined Pinoy Pop Superstar Season 2. I was seated beside Harry Santos by the way, one of the early favorites of that season. She covered a couple of her PPS pieces. First was A Song for You by The Carpenters and, a personal favorite of my friends and I, All the Man That I Need by Whitney Houston. Just Wow.
One of the things I was looking forward to was seeing La Diva reunited on that stage. Three mic stands were put out and the crowd was teased about the possibility of the trio gracing us with a surprise performance. Unfortunately, according to Aicelle, Jonalyn (who was in Solaire at that time, I checked her Twitter) and Maricris (who was in the audience) were too busy to rehearse but she made a new group called La Peta (as in the Philippine Educational Theater Association) with Gold Villar (Manhid, Rak of Aegis) and Gabriela Pangilinan (Friction, Rak of Aegis). They sang La Diva’s most memorable songs: the theme to the Filipino adaptation of Mexican telenovela Marimar and Angels Brought Me Here. Of course, Aicelle also sang her original song composed by Janno Gibbs. I vividly remember the music video where she played with dried leaves in a forest in Bohol (correct me if I’m wrong). I absolutely love Ikaw Pa Rin.
Sobrang salamat sa dulot Mong pagmamahal. (Thank you very much for the love You give.)
And to introduce her latest single, Aicelle narrated the obstacles her family went through in 2012. Her sister was diagnosed with cancer and her brother suffered a heart attack. She emphasized how prayer and faith in God and His love factored into how they overcame their problems. She sang the soulful religious song Kapangyarihan ng Pag-ibig by Jungee Marcelo. The song reminded me much of Kyla‘s Salbabida (by the same composer). It was hard not to tear up during this number. This single can be downloaded on iTunes and streamed on Spotify. Speaking of Kyla, I forgot that she was a guest in the concert. She is one of my favorite singers since I was in high school but I’ve never seen her live. Imagine how overwhelmed I felt during her number. The night just kept getting better and better. Kyla and Aicelle sang His Eye Is On The Sparrow by Civilla Martin & Charles Gabriel. Kyla also sang her first hit Hanggang Ngayon while Aicelle was changing for her next outfit.
In a white Marilyn Monroe-inspired dress, Aicelle joyfully came out and sang a couple of songs from Katy! the Musical. I wasn’t familiar with the play but I still enjoyed the set. She brought the house down as she transformed into Katy and told a pinch of her story through songs beautifully crafted by Ryan Cayabyab. The surprise guest that put the crowd on their feet was no other than Ms. Celeste Legaspi. She and Aicelle sang Minsan Ang Minahal Ay Ako. This number was just magical especially with Ms. Celeste’s icy white hair. It was beautiful.
The concert would not have been complete without the appearance of Aicelle’s Rak family. While changing for her next outfit, Kakai Bautista, Jerald Napoles, Pepe Herrera and Poppert Bernadas amped up the crowd by reenacting their Rak characters and their laugh-out-loud jokes and antics. Here are some of the funny moments I remember (Warning: Not verbatim):
Kakai: “Nakita ko si Songbird sa backstage. Diba magaling sumayaw ‘yun?” (I saw Songbird [Regine Velasquez] backstage. She’s a great dancer, right?)
Pepe: “‘Di ba kapatid mo ‘yun?” (Isn’t she your sister?)
Kakai: “Hindi noh! Hindi naman ako kalbo.” (Not! I’m not even bald. — referring to Cacai Velasquez-Mitra, Regine’s sister who once sported a semi-kalbo [shaved] hair.)
Joking about Poppert’s The Voice journey:
Kakai: “Hanggang 2020 ang Rak of Aegis!” (Rak of Aegis will run until 2020!)
Jerald: “Hanggang manalo si Poppert sa The Voice!” (Until Poppert wins The Voice! — Poppert joined the 2nd season of the contest’s Philippine edition)
Aicelle enchantingly came out in a red jumpsuit with a detachable trail. She and Kakai sang Basang-Basa sa Ulan. Then, with the boys, she sang Mahal na Mahal Kita. As always, they were outstanding. My hands felt so sore from all my clapping. Just outstanding.
The final guest was Regine. It was also my first time to watch Ate Reg live. The concert felt like I was watching SOP or Party Pilipinas live! Regine sang That’s All I Ask of You (The Phantom of the Opera). Before she and Aicelle performed For Good (Wicked), Ate Reg jokingly asked her if she was already having sex. WOAH. That was so funny.
And nothing’s gonna stop me now.
For her last birit song, Aicelle did I Am Changing (Dreamgirls). This was the perfect song to end her night. She is indeed changing and nothing will stop her from reaching further. Paging GMA7! Aicelle has proven ( as if she hasn’t already did) that she was truly Class A.
Class A Setlist
- Finally – CeCe Peniston
- Treasure – Bruno Mars
- Part Of Your World – Disney
- Reflection – Disney
- Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers
- Give Me One Reason – Tracy Chapman
- Don’t You Worry About A Thing – Stevie Wonder
- Stay with Me – Sam Smith (performed by Gian Magdangal)
- I’ll Never Go – Nexus (duet with Gian Magdangal)
- A Song for You – The Carpenters
- All the Man that I Need – Whitney Houston
- Marimar (La Diva version, with Gold Villar and Gabriela Pangilinan)
- Angels Brought Me Here (La Diva version)
- Ikaw Pa Rin
- Kapangyarihan ng Pag-ibig
- His Eye Is on the Sparrow – Civilla Martin and Charles Gabriel (duet with Kyla)
- Hanggang Ngayon (performed by Kyla)
- Balut from Katy! the Musical
- Aba, Ba, Ba, Boogie from Katy! the Musical
- Minsan Ang Minahal Ay Ako from Katy! the Musical (duet with Celeste Legaspi)
- Basang-basa sa Ulan from Rak of Aegis (duet with Kakai Bautista)
- Mahal na Mahal Kita from Rak of Aegis (with Jerald Napoles, Pepe Herrera and Poppert Bernadas)
- That’s All I Ask of You from The Phantom of the Opera (performed by Regine Velasquez)
- For Good from Wicked (duet with Regine Velasquez)
- I Am Changing from Dreamgirls
- Encore: Happy – Pharrell Williams; All About the Bass – Meghan Trainor; Love Never Felt So Good – Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake; Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars