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BWW Interview: Lea Salonga Discusses Her DREAM AGAIN 2022 UK Tour

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The stage and screen star also chats about the Tony Awards, Pretty Little Liars and lockdown!

BWW Interview: Lea Salonga Discusses Her DREAM AGAIN 2022 UK Tour

West End, Broadway and Disney legend, Lea Salonga, has just announced she will be returning to UK venues for a tour in 2022. Salonga spoke with BroadwayWorld about the pandemic, being cast in Pretty Little Liars and returning to performing.

How are you? We've all been through a lot the last year or so.

Yeah, we've all been quite through it, haven't we? I'm actually doing all right, I'm back to work. I'm in New York City at the moment. I'm on a little bit of a break from filming Pretty Little Liars, the TV series, for HBO Max. I got the job while I was still in Manila; I got hired very quickly! And now I'm here in the city, enjoying a little bit of a breather.

Getting on a plane was quite exciting, as well as a little scary - we're still in the middle of a global pandemic. I'm just trying to keep myself safe, keep my mask on, follow regulations, and I was vaccinated a few months ago.

I was giddy trying to choose an entree meal. It's one of those things that I had taken for granted, you know, just being able to fly around, have someone help you with your bags, getting into my apartment. Long story short, I'm doing very well, because I'm back, although not back on a stage just yet.

How are you finding working on a TV show vs a theatre show or a film?

I'm not doing what I normally do. It's still quite exciting though because it's one of those things that I've never done. I've done a soap opera, I've done a daytime drama, but I've never done, you know, an "HBO drama". This is this feels like a whole different world for me.

It's exciting to be a part of the show; everyone I've been working work is really fantastic. I'm just incredibly grateful to have a job at what is still a very scary time.

I remember some advice from one of my friends, Telly Leung - we did a couple of musicals together here in New York and he has his own experience on TV. He told me, "We are whispering on screen", so everything is pretty much taken down. We take the volume down as everything is close-up.

Our delivery has to be different because we're not playing to the back of houses anymore. It's much more intimate. My approach is to keep things grounded, real, and not so big, for lack of a better word.

Of course, your last time on screen was in Yellow Rose with Eva Noblezada...

Yes, it's been a while since I've acted on screen, about three years since I did Yellow Rose. It got screenings in New York, and it didn't really get a wider theatrical release until we were in the middle of this pandemic!

Yellow Rose is a project that I'm incredibly grateful for because it was a Filipino-American story put on film. That's not something that we've seen before. It was our little movie that could. I'm hoping for more experiences like that.

Eva Noblezada...that girl is such a superstar. I'm so glad that she's back on Broadway now with Hadestown. That show should have got a long run in the West End. I'm glad that it got its run at the National [Theatre], where it all started, but it was too short, way too short. Hadestown needs a longer theatrical run in the UK. I think that would be a really nice homecoming.

Have you been back to the theatre yet?

Just the Tony Awards, and even then it wasn't to watch as I was presenting. I didn't really hang around for very long. I guess I needed to build up my tolerance for being in a theatre again, being shoulder-to-shoulder with people again.

The theatres are coming back to life here - albeit slowly, one show at a time. It's been really wonderful getting to see the city coming back and seeing people excited to go back to the theatre.

Yes, there are vaccination and mask mandates, but I'm personally quite grateful for them. I'm vaccinated and I feel safer wearing a mask. Hopefully when a person sees me approaching them on the sidewalk, they feel safe knowing that there is a mask on my face as well.

How was lockdown for you?

I was in Manila; I was a hermit for about 18 months! I went out maybe a handful of times, literally a couple of lunches with people. Other than that, I went out for my vaccinations, and a couple of doctor's visits, that was it.

I haven't seen my mom since March 2020! She's 84, so we're doing everything that we can to keep her safe, but now she's fully vaccinated. I think once she has her booster and my teenager gets their first shot, we'll be able to see her. Sadly, in the Philippines, there are still millions upon millions of people that still need to get that first shot.

I was actually in hospital, for non-COVID reasons, in March 2020, and I think one of the first cases of COVID in that same hospital was the day I left. We were all very relieved.

I didn't do a lot of socialising, apart from stuff online. I think that was the best we could do to keep ourselves and those around us safe.

We should feel an obligation to try and keep people safe and comfortable. I think if everybody does their own obligations to public health and safety, we'll be able to return to life. Everyone should be able to emerge from their cocoons in a safe and timely way, and then we'll all be able to enjoy the things that we have previously enjoyed before this pandemic raged.

I think for everyone's peace of mind we just have to do what we need to do right now. One day we'll be able to strip masks off and throw them away when the time is right - but that time for me is not right now.

And now you're coming back to the UK for another tour! What were your favourite memories from your last tour around the UK?

Yes, wow, it's been two years since that tour. I do remember how welcoming everybody was. I wasn't sure how audiences would respond because the last time that I performed in the UK was at the Miss Saigon 25th Anniversary Gala and as a guest performer during El Divo's European tour.

I was crossing my fingers that there was some goodwill leftover from Miss Saigon and from previous performances in the UK, such as the anniversary performances of Les Mis. Thankfully, whatever anxieties I had been feeling prior to the tour were dispelled.

We kicked off in Cardiff in Wales, and everything just went so everything went really swimmingly. The audiences were just amazing, incredibly welcoming, and so incredibly sweet. It was just beyond expectation.

The tour was really magical; at every venue in the UK that we went to, the crowds were so loud and it felt like a party atmosphere! It was really wonderful. If it's anything like what it was at the Tony Awards, it will be great.

What was it like being back at the Tony Awards?

The atmosphere at the theatre that night was incredibly electric. I remember speaking with Annaleigh Ashford, who was presenting after me when she revealed that it was her first time walking into a theatre in a while as well, and she had to find a little quiet corner to cry in!

I was just stunned to be back. While part of my brain knew I had to practise my speech and get on a stage, walking into a theatre in the middle of a pandemic felt almost close to normal!

New York really does feel normal in some ways, but at the same time, it's not. People are walking around on the sidewalk but it's not as crowded as it normally is. It's just local people. The tourists haven't really slammed back into the city yet because of restrictions on travel.

Right now, it feels that as New Yorkers, we kind of have our city back and we are getting to have it for ourselves in a way I've never experienced. That said, we certainly will appreciate the tourists coming back!

I think a lot of people are just grateful to be able to go out for fresh air and walk around and do errands like normal human beings. I found myself excited to go and get an eye exam because I hadn't done that in a few years.

What are you most excited about coming back to the UK and why should people come to your tour next year?

At the moment there are the first actual concerts I have scheduled. My manager and I always have plans and things in the calendar, of course, but these shows were the first things to be actually finalised and announced. This UK tour could possibly be my first time back on a stage performing in a solo concert.

This will be the first time my brother, Gerard, will be my musical director for this tour. He did an Australian tour with me but he's never toured the UK with me so I think this will be quite exciting. Our mom will be very happy that the two of us will be able to tour and perform together in the UK. I think it will be really fun.

I'm hoping that everything that we have planned so far materialises. It's exciting to think that my first time getting back on the stage for the first time might be in a lovely theatre in the UK.

Lea Salonga's Dream Again tour at De Montford Hall, Leicester, from 18 June 2022 and then on tour


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