The author (right) and her brother Gerard Salonga
MANILA—The last many months have been quite the beehive of activity, for which I’m infinitely grateful. The time in isolation and lockdown for much of this COVID-19 pandemic was getting really old.
So, where do I start?
It began in late September with heading to New York for the filming of a new HBO Max series titled “Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin,” which will start streaming on July 28. It continued with a visit to Dubai for a concert at the Dubai Expo on Christmas Day, and finally my “Dream Again” tour (27 dates in the United States and Canada, and nine dates in the United Kingdom).
For the most part, everything went as uneventfully as things could go, given the COVID-19 safety protocols in place, whether on the set of the series or backstage at theaters.
We were consistent with wearing masks everywhere and getting tested. Now in 2022, things have become less strict, but I’ve chosen to keep my mask on regardless of what the rules are (there are other pathogens floating in the air that I need to actively avoid).
I did say, “for the most part,” didn’t I? Well, God does have a sense of humor, and I can attribute the following story to just that.
My UK working visa finally came through on Thursday, June 16. Nic and I headed to the airport to catch our flight into London’s Heathrow Airport the next day, from Newark Airport.
With plenty of time to spare, we got ourselves settled at the gate. The gate agent then announced that there would be a slight delay due to a technical issue with our aircraft, and that we’d be underway soon enough.
A short time later, another announcement came, saying that there would be another delay, which pushed our departure time some more.
A final announcement came through to inform all of us at the gate that we wouldn’t be flying out until 7 the following morning! If I were to wait that long, I wouldn’t make my first concert in Leicester, scheduled for Saturday, June 18.
Josh Pultz, my manager, strongly suggested checking whatever remaining flights there were from this airport. There were three, each leaving at 9 p.m., 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. I put us on standby for the 11 p.m. flight, then we ambled to the lounge to wait things out.
Thankfully, it was quiet and comfortable, but my anxiety was starting to bubble even more strongly. Josh texted me with, “I’m not going to get any sleep tonight, am I?” My reply: “No, you won’t.”
At around 10 p.m., we headed to the gate to check for announcements and wait. We only had a short time until we knew for sure if we’d make this flight or not, but it felt like torturous eternity with each minute that ticked by.
I would keep checking the airline’s app and website to see if there were seats still available, refreshing the web browser to get the latest updates. Adrenaline was coursing through my veins, but I fought to keep a calm exterior.
Finally, the airline texted my phone with good news: WE HAD SEATS ON THE PLANE! I headed to the gate to collect our boarding passes, and texted Josh that we would be taking this flight. After we briefly celebrated, he then asked, “What about the luggage?” I said, “No idea.”
Fast forward to our arrival in Heathrow on Saturday, past immigration (the line was shorter than normal, which was a big win), and on to baggage claim. We headed to the carousel to see if our luggage made it, and … no, they didn’t.
If it was just our personal stuff, that wouldn’t be a big deal, but one of the suitcases was my show trunk, which contains my concert wardrobe (a tuxedo, a gown, and three pairs of custom show shoes), glycerin pastilles for my throat, slippery elm tea, a portable laundry steamer, make-up, hairspray, inner ear monitors, and whatever other necessities were packed.
I alerted Josh immediately, which meant he would send Kusie Ho, my make-up artist who was already in Leicester, to grab options for show clothes (thank heavens for Marks & Spencer).
After conferring with the airline representative regarding our bags and how we would be able to claim them after they arrive, Nic and I then found our driver who’d be driving us straight to Leicester.
The moment we got to the De Montfort Hall, I headed right to work. Once I spotted Gerard, I gave him the hugest hug (we hadn’t seen each other since Christmas), hugged Josh and Kusie as well, then went to the stage to have a quick rehearsal and sound check with the band (Gerard was musical director and on piano; Martin Riley and Graeme Taylor on keyboards; Elliott Henshaw on drums; Chris Allard on guitar; Hugh Richardson on bass; and Steph Parry, Adrian Hansel and Sarah Galbraith singing backup).
I opted to sing only what was necessary for this limited time, so I’d have enough gas in the tank for the actual performance. As I told the audience on this first night, some of my vocals for the show would be a surprise to everyone onstage.
Sam Griffiths and Peter Taylor, two lovely gents from our partners LiveNation and Cuffe & Taylor, were also present and offered serenity and peace with soothing British bath products. Sam also generously handled picking up our suitcases the next day, and drove them to the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton, our next stop.
The rest of the tour went without a hitch.