Lea Salonga on THE JOURNEY SO FAR, ALLEGIANCE and Working with a Nashville Producer


Just over a year since she debuted her critically acclaimed cabaret act at New York's Café Carlyle (and only weeks after her 2011 stint at the same venue), Lea Salonga's new live CD - The Journey So Far - is set for release by LML Music/Allegro Distribution on Tuesday, August 9, giving her fans the world over a chance to hear her crystalline voice on a new recording, which was executive produced by Nashville's own Chris Keaton.

Working at Café Carlyle, she contends "is magical and so much fun. I love working with New York musicians. You're kind of vocally naked and working without a safety net under you when you're doing cabaret. And in the room is a really dignified, classy crowd who are so attentive to what you're doing."

"The Journey So Far is an introduction to who I am," Salonga suggests. "An introduction to what I've done. There are people who know the sound of my voice, so this is kind of a musical resume, a summary of my musical career."

Listening to the CD of The Journey So Far, the beauty and clarity of Salonga's exquisite voice comes through in this disc of her live performance at Manhattan's Cafe Carlyle... clearly, it's the next best thing to being there. Her performance of "I Have Dreamed" alone is worth the price of the CD, but it is so perfectly combined with a stunning list of other tunes that capture her artistry so vividly, that it guarantees this is a collection no musical theater lover can possibly pass up.

While Salonga's musical performance is unparalleled, the charming witticisms and showbiz memories, sprinkled like so many diamonds throughout her between-songs patter - delivered with perfect timing and just enough nuance to feel as if she's opening up her life to you and you alone - makes you feel as though the two of you have become intimate friends. And it's that combination of charm and her innate ability to connect with her audience (whether on CD, on the phone, in a nightclub or on a Broadway stage) that has won her legions of loyal fans throughout the world.

Salonga, the Tony Award-winning Filipina singer and actress, is best known for originating the lead role of Kim in the musical Miss Saigon (and for which she won the Tony, Olivier, Drama Desk Outer Critics and Theatre World Awards), will highlight the release of the CD with a worldwide tour throughout 2011-12.

Speaking by phone during her lunch break from rehearsals for Allegiance - the new musical by Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione now being workshopped ahead of its premiere at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre - Salonga chatted warmly and amiably about her career, her family, Allegiance and The Journey So Far.


"We wanted to make this recording and this show at Café Carlyle something very personal, touching on my life as well as my career," Salonga explains. "There are songs from my homeland, musical theater, film, and the jazz and pop worlds...this is more than just a recording; it's a memento, a lasting souvenir of this very special time in my life."

"I give credit to my director (Daniel Kutner) and writer for making the show as personal and as intimate as possible," she explains. "I didn't want anything to be generalized, everything had to be very specific to my life...those are the most fun stories to be tell!"

Among those many stories told during her act were her reminiscences about her mother, who by all accounts - and Lea certainly agrees - is a force of nature.

"I picked up the newspaper a few months ago and was reading about a typhoon that had her name - "Bebe" - that was threatening the Phillippines, and I thought, 'Oh my God, how appropriate is that?'" Salonga recalls. ""She's kind of a typhoon."

And while she gently pokes fun at her mother's protectiveness, she's just as quick to give credit to her mother for the lifelong support of her dreams.

"She's incredibly supportive of me and my brother (he's a conductor, a real genius). She blows into a room and she has a very strong personality, but she's also very sweet...kind of like a Tootsie Roll pop, very sweet and hard, but when you crack the outside to get to the center, you find it's really soft and chewy. That's my mom!"

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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors, held during Labor Day Weekend, which honor oustanding theater artists in Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors. Midwinter's First Night, held the first Sunday in January after New Year's Day, honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. Further, Ellis directed the Nashville premiere of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show, with Ellis honored by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror.