Live events, concerts, and performances are making a comeback amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s how they did it.
Live concerts, stage plays, and performances are a big part of my life. Through my production company, Culturtain Musicat Productions, my partners Celeste Legaspi, Rachel Alejandro and I have produced seven original Filipino stage musicals: “Katy,” “Kenkoy Loves Rosing,” “Alikabok,” “Sino Ka Ba, Jose Rizal?” “Saranggola ni Pepe,” “Fire Water Woman,” and “Ang Larawan.” And since the 1980s, I have also produced several memorable concerts such as “Komiks Konsyerto,” “Sine Sine”, along with “Tunog PPO” for Celeste, “Perfect Time” for Rachel, and many more.
All the concerts and shows I’ve produced are my “babies.” They are my children. I love them all and I can’t single out a favorite.
Of All-star Guests and Live Events
Producing live events may be very tedious, time-consuming, and challenging—not to mention expensive, too. But it is one of the most rewarding endeavors of my career as a talent manager and creative professional. Collaborating with fellow artists and creatives on a show or concert is also very enjoyable and fulfilling.
Whenever we pull off a great idea, I feel very satisfied. Imagine—we were able to get the action king Fernando Poe, Jr., superstar Nora Aunor, and iconic villain Max Alvarado (among others) as guests at Celeste’s “Sine Sine” concert. That was a casting coup, if I may say so, myself.
And for the opening night of “Katy,” we had The Queen of Philippine Vaudeville and Jazz, Ms. Katy dela Cruz arrive in a vintage car. To this day, I feel proud of that big feat.
For the Audience
For the performers and the makers, all the effort we put in is worth it—especially when we see the audience’s response. That’s why a live audience is simply the best! They give the performers energy through their reactions—be it applause, laughter, and shrieks.
I too enjoy a good show, myself. Before COVID-19, I was watching a live event almost every week in Manila. I am such a theater freak that whenever I go to New York, I try to catch a couple of shows on Broadway—most especially those that get good reviews.
The last Broadway musical I watched live was 2020’s “Jagged Little Pill” featuring the songs of Alanis Morisette. I thought it was wonderful. The ticket for this musical was a birthday treat from Rachel who, along with her sister Nicky, saw it with me. We had a blast. We left the theater happily humming Alanis’ tunes.
But who would think that the day after, Broadway would go dark?
Live Events in the Pandemic
The live entertainment industry is one of the most adversely affected by COVID-19. While other businesses such as food and logistics have persisted, and other industries such as retail and even television have done successful pivots, the live performance industry is still far from recovery.
So many talented performers, production, and creative workers continue to be sidelined. I am gutted by this reality.
Nevertheless, the show must go on. This adage may sound cliché, but I think it really sums up the spirit of what creatives and artists are trying to do amid the pandemic. We, from the entertainment industry, cannot sit and just wait for the time when mass gatherings will be allowed. Artists are wired to create. That is our nature.
The Show Must Go On
With the ongoing pandemic came the rise of virtual events, where the audience watches a show on their computers or gadgets—from the safety of their homes. We know of awards ceremonies with stars walking down a “virtual red carpet,” hosts in a studio saying their spiels, and winners giving thank you speeches via Zoom.
Singers have also started going the online route. Fans buy tickets online and receive a link or password to gain exclusive access to see and hear their idols sing. Performers like Regine Velasquez and Sarah Geronimo have done very successful digital concerts. Other artists even go live on Facebook and Kumu!
Press conferences—a staple in promoting events and projects—have also continued. In the past, these were held in restaurants, where members of the media go and interview the stars. For us in showbiz, these press cons were also opportunities for colleagues in media to chat, catch up, and exchange stories with each other while enjoying a delicious meal. The atmosphere here is usually warm and friendly. Mother Lily Monteverde, for instance, liked hosting press cons; sometimes she even played the piano and danced.
Virtual Press Conferences
We still have press cons these days, but this time on Zoom. The advantage of this set-up is that attendees can join from anywhere, as long as they have a decent Internet connection. Last March, Rachel had a press conference via Zoom to promote her latest single “Takipsilim.”
The event was literally a virtual reunion for Rachel (who was in New York) and writers from the music and showbiz industry whom she had not spoken to probably since the press con of the film, “Quezon’s Game.” They were able to ask questions and even got to eat a hearty merienda from The Sexy Chef—delivered to everyone that same afternoon.
So we do our best with what we can. I wouldn’t say I truly enjoy virtual events but I am adapting. At the moment, this is the new normal, but I am still praying that we will go back to doing live events someday.
Live Entertainment, Reimagined
With the rollout of vaccination programs in several countries, there is a glimmer of hope for the live performance scene. Live shows, for example, are starting to reopen in the UK. I even heard that Broadway is making a comeback soon! A number of artists in the US are also going to push through with their concert tours this 2021.
And that’s good news for the artists and producers! But whether these new productions would be patronized by the audience or not remains to be seen.
With the new normal, I can only say that we need to find exciting ways to balance the idea of live in-person events with social distancing and online events or to include interaction with the audience outside of plain texting or commenting on social media. Plus, venues will have to convince the audience that their safety and health are protected.
But whatever happens, the industry needs to reimagine entertainment platforms. We really don’t know whether we will ever go back to the way things used to be. That’s why live entertainment will just need to get more creative.
The only constant in life is “change,” so we must adapt. After all, our survival greatly depends on our desire to learn and the openness to rediscovery.
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