Disclaimer: This post is totally unrelated to child-rearing, parenting, crafting, etc, but you should read it anyway.
I love Lea Salonga, have loved her since I caught a TV show that documented the audition process for the then-unknown Miss Saigon. The first time I saw the 18-year-old girl from the Philippine sing "Sunlight, Moonlight", I was hooked. I was probaby 13 or 14 at the time. I then did what any rabid fan would do, I got the double-cassette Miss Saigon album and listened to it day and night.
Thiswas in the early 90s, the world was still pretty disconnected. The internet was not as we know it now. Google didn't even exist, and forget Youtube. So all I had were my cassettes. To this day, I can still sing all the words to all the songs. My dream was to watch her in Miss Saigon. I never got the chance, and sadly, now she no longer plays Kim.
Last Saturday, I got to spend an Evening With Lea Salonga. Cue me screaming. It was for work, but I would have paid for a ticket otherwise anyway. She was in KL for her first ever concert in Malaysia, for two nights only. I went to opening night and now I am even more of a fan!
Lea was flawless, fantastic, beautiful and much much more, weaving magic into every single note that she sang. I love you, Lea!!!
This morning, I made my girls sit through every song she ever sang that was posted on Youtube. You never know what might spark their interest, right? How I wish Youtube was around when I was 14. Lauren was singing la la la for about 3 seconds and she got bored, and Angelica was more interested in colouring and only watched when Lea was in costume as Princess Jasmine and singing A Whole New World with Alladin. Sigh. But hey, I enjoyed every minute of it!
Here is my review in The Star today.
The real deal
By ELAINE DONG
Lea Salonga oozes talent and charisma at her first ever concert in Malaysia.
LEA Salonga was in town last weekend for a two-night concert. And what an enchanting evening it was!From the minute she sang the first note, the magic began. The capacity audience of 6,000 at the Plenary Hall of Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on Saturday was told by the Philippine sensation that her opening repertoire comprised songs she had fallen in love with over the years. She hoped that everyone, too, would fall in love with them.
Indeed, they did.
Dressed in black and backed by a five-piece band – with her brother Gerard at the helm (and piano) – Salonga was breathtaking at her first ever concert in Malaysia. An Evening With Lea Salonga was organised by R&B Productions and presented by Malaysia Airlines Enrich in partnership with CIMB Bank.
She kicked off her gig with I’ve Never Been In Love, followed by the uplifting number she sang as Fantine in the famous musical Les Miserables, I Dreamed A Dream.
Interestingly, each song was punctuated with a personal anecdote. The 39-year-old chanteuse brought up intimate morsels of her life as well as of her two-decade-long career that began with the award-winning starring role in the hit musical Miss Saigon in 1989, first in West End, London, then in Broadway, New York.
She went on to dedicate I Do to her “love” – her husband Robert Chien, who was in the audience together with their daughter Nicole, four.
The international theatre star next paid tribute to Michael Jackson, who inspired both her and her younger brother since they were kids. “Gerard asked me to stick sequins onto gloves for him,” she quipped to laughter from the floor. For “the greatest entertainer of all times”, she sang Gone Too Soon by the late King of Pop.
When she performed I’d Give My Life For You from Miss Saigon, the audience was visibly moved as her powerful vocals rang with emotion. The song held a special meaning for the mother of one because when her daughter was born, “I finally knew the power behind the song.”
Next up were the lighter Someone To Watch Over Me and the funny Taylor The Latte Boy, about a girl falling in love with a Starbucks barista! In honour of the era of musical revolution that she was brought up in, she belted out a medley of 1980s pop songs and ballads. The familiar and catchy tunes had the audience singing along.
In self-deprecating humour, the youthful-looking lady talked about turning the big 4-0 (next year), and how as she aged, she realised the importance of just having fun. With that, she slipped casually into what sounded like a powerhouse ballad, only to have the audience suddenly realise she was singing Lady Gaga’s Poker Face! By the time the first bridge was over, the audience was cheering her on as she started on the actual dance version.
After that rousing rendition, she performed On My Own, from her role as Eponine in Les Miserables, to thunderous applause.
“As everyone knows, I was a Disney princess,” Salonga, who was the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in the Disney animated feature Aladdin, said as an introduction to her next song. She ruefully remarked that much as she would like to sing A Whole New World, she was without an Aladdin. At this point, a voice was heard from the back rows: “I’ll be your Aladdin!” Amidst cheering from the crowd, Iz Sulaini, an aspiring singer and huge fan of Salonga, raced down the steps to the stage. A delighted Salonga then did a duet with Iz to loud appreciation. After the show, the 27-year-old Iz told this reviewer that he “had been preparing for this moment since he was 12!”
Salonga appropriately closed her 90-minute show with Tiga Malam (Three Nights) made famous by Datuk Siti Nurhaliza. The audience gave her a standing ovation as the star of the night left the stage, but the applause got louder and Salonga returned on stage with a big smile and rendered three more numbers. She sang last year’s American Idol finale song No Boundaries, Barbra Streisand’s Everybody Says Don’t, and The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow from Annie, her first major musical theatre role in the Philippines.
When she finally gave her last bows and left the stage, you can tell why Salonga has had such a long and successful career. Standing up on that stage with just her band, Salonga was a commanding and powerful presence. Every note she sang was crystal clear; she moved effortlessly between ballads, musical theatre and pop, hitting the high notes with as much ease as she sang the low notes. She played well to the sell-out crowd, telling stories that had everyone laughing.
And her brother Gerard, her musical director, deserves a special mention. He played with passion throughout the concert, directing the band while playing the piano. Brother and sister obviously have a great working relationship as they read each other’s cues on stage perfectly.
Salonga is the real deal. She doesn’t just sing; each song is a performance in itself. You find yourself brought on the stages of Broadway and West End as she sings the signature songs from her theatre career.
You’re welcome back anytime, Lea!