James Marino and Matt Tamanini talk with Lea Salonga about her Broadway career and new album “Bahaghari” (traditional songs of the Philippines)
Guest: Lea Salonga
Known across the world for her powerful voice and perfect pitch, Lea Salonga is a singer and actress who is best known for her Tony Award winning role in Miss Saigon. In addition to the Tony, she has won the Olivier, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Theatre World Awards, in the field of musical theatre. She was also the first Asian to play Eponine in the musical Les Misérables on Broadway and returned to the beloved show as Fantine in the 2006 revival.
Lea is currently appearing in the Broadway revival of “Once on This Island” as the Goddess of Love, Erzulie.
Earlier this spring, Lea released her electrifying live album “Blurred Lines.” The album was recorded during her sold-out run at Feinstein’s / 54Below in 2016. The six date showcase was received with overwhelming accolades from fans and critics alike. So well received in fact that Lea returned to the famed venue for a record-setting 15-show encore performance that wrapped up her latest North American tour in the late spring (2017).
Lea also serves as a judge on the Philippines hit version of “The Voice.” Mitoy Yonting, a member of Team Lea, was named the first season winner. She recently wrapped the third season of “The Voice Kids.”
She began 2015 with a sold-out concert at New York’s Town Hall titled “Kaleidoscope” as well as performed on tour in the United States, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.
In the fall of 2015 Lea began her celebrated run as Kei Kimura in the Broadway production of Allegiance. The musical, inspired and developed by legendary actor George Takei, tells the story of a Japanese American family forced into an internment camp during World War II. Lea garnered a Craig Noel nomination for Outstanding Featured Performance in a Musical for her performance in the Old Globe production of Allegiance, and can be heard on the show’s original cast album
Following this, Lea made a guest appearance on the acclaimed CW television show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Later that year, she performed a critically celebrated cabaret run at Feinstein’s/54 Below and performed in concert with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra as well as at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops in a new version of Boublil and Schönberg’s “Do You Hear the People Sing.”
For much of 2014, Lea performed with legendary popera quartet Il Divo, accompanying them in Asia, the United States, Canada, Mexico, and all through Eastern and Western Europe on their A Musical Affair tour, celebrating the band’s 10th anniversary. She can be seen on their latest DVD and CD bearing the same name.
Lea made her debut in the world of Cabaret in 2010, performing a sold out, three week engagement at the Café Carlyle in New York City. She returned in June 2011 to delight audiences in another multi-week engagement and released a live version of her 2010 concert “Lea Salonga: The Journey So Far,” her 26th career CD, in August 2011. The CD rose to the #3 spot on iTunes Jazz Charts. In 2013, she did a third engagement titled “Back to Before,” which was lauded by the New York Times.
Lea has toured all over the world, performing sold out concerts in such locations as the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Singapore’s Esplanade (twice), Kuala Lumpur Convention Center (twice), Hong Kong Cultural Center (multiple times), Queen Sirikit Convention Center in Bangkok, Carnegie Hall in New York, and in various venues in Vancouver, Sacramento, San Diego, Phoenix, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, San Bernardino, Cerritos and San Francisco. She was also the first artist to sell out two shows at Brigham Young University’s deJong Concert Hall in Provo, Utah since The Kings Singers in 2009.
Many fans of all ages recognize Lea as the singing voice of Princess Jasmine from Aladdin and Fa Mulan for Mulan and Mulan II. For her portrayal of the beloved princesses, the Walt Disney Company bestowed her with the honor of “Disney Legend” in August of 2011 along with such luminaries as Regis Philbin, Jim Henson (posthumously) and Anika Noni Rose.
She also served as one of the judges of the 2011 Miss Universe Pageant telecast, held in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The telecast was viewed by over one billion people in more than 100 countries worldwide.
In 2010, she participated in the 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Misérables to sold out crowds at the UK’s O2 arena. She also dazzled as the hauntingly tragic Grizabella in a limited run of CATS in her hometown of Manila. Lea also teamed up with legendary Grammy winner, Patti Austin, to perform the concert series, ‘Heart and Soul,’ at venues throughout the United States.
Honored with an appointment as a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Goodwill Ambassador in October of 2010, Lea vowed to act as an advocate for the Youth and United Nations Global Alliance initiative led by the FAO. The same year, she also joined forces with Avon as a celebrity judge for Avon Voices, alongside such artists as Fergie, Natasha Beddingfield and Diane Warren, in the first ever global, online singing talent search for women and songwriting competition for men and women.
In her 37-year career, Lea has performed for six Philippine presidents (from Ferdinand Marcos to Benigno S. Aquino III), three American Presidents (George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush), and for Diana, Princess of Wales and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She began her career as a child star in the Philippines, making her professional debut in 1978 at the age of seven in the musical The King and I. She went on to star in productions of Annie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Fiddler on the Roof, The Rose Tattoo, The Sound of Music, The Goodbye Girl, Paper Moon, and The Fantasticks.
Lea began her recording career at the age of ten with her first album, “Small Voice,” which received a gold certification. In addition to performing in musical theater and recordings, she hosted her own musical television show, “Love, Lea,” and also appeared with international acts such as Menudo and Stevie Wonder.
Lea’s big break came when she was selected to play Kim in the megahit musical Miss Saigon in 1989. Given her popularity in the role, she was asked to return in 1999 to close the musical in London and again in 2001 to close the Broadway production.
In 2002, she took on the role of a Chinese immigrant in a reinterpretation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song, on Broadway, opposite Jose Llana. This was after the reinvented musical had a very successful run at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in 2001, with Lea playing the lead role and the show garnering multiple wins and nominations, including Lead Actress in a Musical for her, from the LA Stage Alliance’s Ovation Awards. The Salonga-led Broadway revival cast album was also a top contender at the 2003 Grammy Awards for Best Musical Show Album.
An avid techie and gamer, Lea divides her time between Manila, Philippines with her family and the United States.
The Human Heart from Once On This Island (2017)
I’d Give My Life For You from Miss Saigon (1990)