Review: Broadway star Lea Salonga impresses with stunning San Diego concert



Lea Salonga has a musical CV that can be summed up in one word: wow.

In 1991, at the age of 18, she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for the role of Kim in “Miss Saigon”, making her the first Asian woman to win a Tony.

In 1992, she became the musical voice of Jasmine in the Disney hit “Aladdin”, followed six years later by Fa Mulan in “Mulan”. It is of them Disney Princesses, in case anyone matters.

To date, Salonga, now 48, has appeared in no less than six Broadway productions: “Miss Saigon” (she first premiered the role in London’s West End), “Les Misérables” twice (one in Éponine and another in Fantine), “Flower Drum Song”, “Allegiance” (the Old Globe musical with George Takei) and, more recently, “Once on This Island”, which in 2018 won the Tony for Best Cover of a Musical.

In total, it’s a musical career spanning 40 years, stretching back to her native Manila, where in 1978, at the age of 7, she made her theater debut in a Repertory Philippines production of “The King and I.”

During a 17-song solo concert at the Copley Symphony Hall at the Jacobs Music Center on Sunday, the actress and singer proved why in the book of musical theater she deserves her own chapter.

In front of a sold-out audience of 2,248, Salonga delivered a flawless performance of over two hours that allowed her to hit her marks – and her notes – as she crossed musical genres, leaping from musical theater to standards. Americans to pop and vice versa. at the musical theater.

At 2:09 p.m., Salonga stepped into the limelight on crutches, still treating a leg injury she sustained in January on a ski trip to Japan.

“I’ll be fair with you,” she joked to applause as she sat down on a stool in the middle of the stage at Copley Symphony Hall, surrounded by her group of four.

Sunday’s concert – part of the San Diego Symphony’s City Lights series – was the third stop on a 25-city North American tour. Most of the cities on the tour – like Costa Mesa and Cabazon before San Diego – are sold out. And no wonder: Salonga, who was seated the entire performance, wasn’t about to be hampered by a leg injury.

Wearing a maxi dress, Salonga sat down for her first song and settled in quickly, but not before revealing that she was wearing gold sneakers instead of high heels. She then sang the first note of “Feeling Good”, recorded for the first time in 1965 by Nina Simone and recently taken over by Michael Bublé.

Throughout the afternoon concert – which had an intermission – his performance was strong, his vocal diction precise. Her crystal-clear voice – powerful if necessary – soared to songs one would expect from a singer with Salonga’s vocal prowess, in numbers ranging from “I’d Give My Life for You” (“Miss Saigon “) to” I Dreamed a Dream “(” Les miserables “).

But she didn’t just deliver sweet songs – the kind one expects from a Disney princess. She was alluring and sultry in songs like “Blurred Lines” from Robin Thicke’s eponymous album in 2013 and playful and nimble in “Fast Car” from Tracy Chapman’s eponymous album in 1988. There were also tender moments. : In songs like “Burn” from “Hamilton” and “You Will Be Found” (the encore) from “Dear Evan Hansen”, she sang with conviction, but gently.

She paid tribute to her mother, who asked her to sing “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”, the 1961 hit from The Shirelles. She paid tribute to Filipino nurses when she sang “The Human Heart” from “Once on This Island” – a “song that heals,” she shared. She paid tribute to “cancer survivors and warriors” when she sang “Drops of Jupiter,” a Train song that singer Patrick Monahan says was inspired by her late mother, who died of cancer.

The afternoon’s most anticipated song finally came towards the end when she playfully announced that the next stop was “A Whole New World”, the ballad she recorded with Brad Kane for the film. Disney’s 1992 “Aladdin”. She asked for a volunteer to sing the male part, and San Diegan Alvin Tayag quickly took to the stage, confident he would be her choice. She did, and minutes later Tayag – a UC San Diego graduate who now works for Sorrento Valley-based Coffee Ambassador – was on stage.

“I’m your biggest fan,” said Tayag, who said it was the second time he’d performed “A Whole New World” with Salonga (he had previously performed Alan Menken-Tim Rice’s song with she in 2010, also in San Diego).

After singing their catchy take on the song, Salonga breathed a sigh of relief and said, “It could have gone either way,” adding that she was pleasantly surprised by Tayag, who didn’t miss it. a beat. He had previously rejected his offer of sheet music, in case he forgot the words.

“It just proves the fact that Filipinos can sing, ”she said with screams and screams.

In her vibrant vocal performance on Sunday, Salonga herself proved one thing: There is no doubt that this Filipina can to sing.




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