BWW Interviews: Lea Salonga Talks Il Divo Tour, Allegiance, Miss Saigon, and More!
The Il Divo "A Musical Affair" Tour played the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto on Wednesday night, and after the show, BroadwayWorld Toronto Senior Editor Alan Henry was able to go backstage and chat with a BroadwayWorld favorite - Lea Salonga. Salonga is, of course, best known for originating the role of Kim in Miss Saigon (the west end revival had its opening last night), and being the singing voice of two Disney princesses - Mulan and Jasmine. She is joining Il Divo on their international tour.
Salonga and I first spoke about how her collaboration with Il Divo came about: "I think it's more of their representation calling my representation, and then it happened! It was a very good fit and my agent told me they would like to invite me to tour with them for parts of Asia, specifically Japan and Korea and then entire North American tour"
Going on an extended tour, however, wasn't an easy decision for Salonga - as she has a young daughter. "I kept going back and forth because it was going to be time away from home, time away from my family. My daughter would be coming with me because that's non-negotiable. Lots went into consideration. And I also worried if I have the energy to do this, the physical endurance? Because, it's a long tour, with a lot of airports." Ultimately, things worked and out and soon Salonga was preparing for her new concert tour.
"When we all decided this was actually a good idea to do on every level, and once we started working together I was so glad I said yes because it just felt so right."
Salonga hasn't always been a fan of Il Divo. When asked about it she said "No - actually no. And I think they know this. I don't think I'm the target for Il Divo - but I have great respect for them and the greatest respect for their music and abilities."
"I have a bit of a soft spot for Carlos because he was in Les Miserables, so we know a lot of the same people, and we've worked with a lot of the same people on the production side of things. It made me feel incredibly comfortable because we already had this connection."
Salonga travels extensively to tour her concerts, as well as Judge on The Voice in the Philippines. She and I spoke a little about some of her favortie cities to visit. "If I had to narrow it down it would be the cities where the food was incredible. I love Seattle because the seafood is incredible, and I love Vancouver for the same reason. I also love how close both of those cities are to nature. In Vancouver, I stayed at my cousin's house. I would wake up and look into the backyard at the pine trees. It erases living in hotels, and airports, and backstage areas in theatres. It's real, green, and fresh. So, wherever I stay with friends or family, really."
Salonga also spoke very fondly of New York, a place she's spent a lot of time since moving there for the Broadway run of Miss Saigon. "And then, there's New York. That's my city. I don't have to ask anyone anything at all."
I next asked Salonga about her work on The Voice in the Philippines. She has been a judge on the regular version of the show, and is now partaking in The Voice Kids. We spoke a bit about the differences between the two. "Well, you have to keep in mind you're working with a young, impressionable, malleable human being you can influence. And they can smell "BS" from a mile away. You just hope that they have parents that don't get messed up, that don't mess them up, that they are managed by good people who have their best interests at heart."
The next topic of conversation was the up-coming Broadway musical Allegiance, which has plans to open on Broadway sometime next year. I asked Salonga if there were any updates regarding the show. "The plans are to take it to Broadway. There aren't any [new developments] as far as I know. I'm not privy to anything at the moment, so I am in as much suspense as everybody else out there. I have no idea what's going on or what the plans are."
"I mean, I'm also getting older. I'm 43 - and the character I'm playing is about 29 or 30. And while I do look pretty young, when I'm 20 to 40 feet away from somebody sitting in the audience, there is only so much suspension of disbelief that I am willing to take on. Also, my life is taking so many interesting turns. My kid is in school, and I don't know if I want to uproot her to Manhattan for a year. There's a lot to consider, and priorities change. I don't know what stage of my life I'll be in when it happens, if it does happen."
Salonga and I also briefly spoke about the new production of Miss Saigon, which had just opened a few hours prior to our interview - in the West End, and she had just had a chance to peruse some early reviews. "No - I haven't seen it yet. And I won't be able to until the fall because I am doing shows with Il Divo in the UK then."
"I'm really happy for Jon Jon Briones because we were in the original company together 25 years ago and we have done Allegiance together as well as a previous workshop. The two of us have, kind of, seen each other in shows - and have worked together in the fray, so to speak. To seem him leading this new company makes me feel incredibly proud of him. I am so thrilled with the reviews he has been receiving, and all the notices from audiences and critics."
Next, we talked about the long-rumored Miss Saigon film. Considering original Les Miserables star Colm Wilkinson made a cameo as The Bishop in the film version of that show - I asked Salonga if she had any interest in making a similar appearance in a film version of Miss Saigon.
"I would certainly consider whatever role [Cameron Mackintosh] would ask me to undertake. If it was behind the scenes or on camera, yes, I would love to be apart of that. But it would really depend on who the director would be, and what he or she envisions for this film. They might want to start completely afresh so the perspective is completely new and different."
To end off our interview, I asked Salonga if there was a classic Broadway show she'd like to do a revival of. "Probably something Rodgers and Hammerstein. Their repertoire seems to suit my voice really well."
Photo of Lea Salonga by Raymund Isaac