BWW Interview: Lea Salonga Talks 'Perfect Ten' Concert, 'Sweeney Todd,' And More!
Lea Salonga is all set to perform in Manila once again via Resorts World Manila's (RWM) two-night gala concert titled "Lea Salonga: Perfect Ten" tomorrow, August 30, and Saturday, August 31, 2019, at Newport Performing Arts Theater in Pasay City.
At the press launch, in a pocket interview session, she talked about her concert tours, her upcoming musical "Sweeney Todd," her new film "Yellow Rose," and her current stint in "The Voice Kids" Season 4. She also talked about her former mentee in "The Voice" Leah Patricio and thespian Julia Abueva.
Now fully recovered from a recent leg injury, Salonga, who just wrapped up her first solo tour in the UK describes her audience (in a humorous way), "I was wearing crutches and people were so much nicer."
She adds that the audiences (everywhere) will always appreciate a performer who does their job well. Her UK tour was a little different though because the crowd's reception was louder and warmer. It was beyond what she imagined.
In her concerts, she is fond of getting someone from the audience to sing a duet together. Most often, she picks a male Filipino and sings with him "A Whole New World" from the animated film Disney's "Aladdin," where she recorded the singing voice of Princess Jasmine. She admits that not all the time she gets to sing along with great singers, except for two men she sang with: the guy in Vancouver and her Filipino-American co-star in The CW TV's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," Vincent Rodriguez III.
Apart from her concerts, the Tony Award winner had the chance to work with Eva Noblezada in a film titled "Yellow Rose" by a Filipina-American award-winning documentary and commercial director Diane Paragas.
She hopes for Filipinos to have the chance to watch it. She refers to Noblezada as the "magic" in the film. "She will not just impress the audience. People will connect with her."
After her successful return to Broadway in the Tony Award-winning revival of "Once On This Island," where she played the Goddess of Love, Ezrulie, she is now set to play Mrs. Lovett in the new international production of "Sweeney Todd," produced by Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group, which will run in Manila and Singapore.
She has been wanting to do "Sweeney Todd." She finds Stephen Sondheim shows more challenging and difficult to sink your teeth into.
"It was kind of on a back burner for me and [director] Bobby Garcia, which eventually, we decided to do."
"We thought we're in the right age[s] to do it," she shares. She will play alongside rock icon Jett Pangan as Sweeney Todd.
During our tête-à-tête, the names Leah Patricio and Julia Abueva surfaced.
Patricio was Salonga's mentee back in the second season of "The Voice" (Philippines edition) who placed third in the singing tilt. Patricio is now part of the hit Filipino rock musical "Rak of Aegis."
Salonga says: "I'm so thrilled for her...I might make an excursion to see it with a bunch of other friends but can't make any promises." Her schedule has been kind of hectic in preparation for "Sweeney Todd" and other prior commitments.
Another young lady close to her heart whom she continually roots for is Julia Abueva. She recently headlined the musical "KPOP" on Off-Broadway.
"I saw KPOP. I was so proud and was screaming my head off. I was not trying to be distracting. We just hang out after the show.
"I'm thrilled for her. She is genuinely talented and I'm thrilled that she's pursuing this in New York. That she's getting booked for shows."
On TV, "The Voice Kids" Season 4 has begun airing. Salonga is one of the featured coaches, along with recording stars Sarah Geronimo and Bamboo Manalac.
When asked about what are the things they look for in a young singer to join their respective teams in the "The Voice Kids," she was quick to enumerate some points:
"We're turning for different things. We're not just turning for the biriteros and biriteras (belters). I think there is now a demand for something beyond the high notes. We're looking for authentic emotions, expressions, and storytelling.
"It cannot just be about a showcase of notes, but they're spectacular when they hit well. Nowadays, with so many types of singers and so many different genres, I think it's fair to say that we're not always going to get impressed by the biriteros anymore...We will turn to the ones with the spectacular notes who happen to have strong storytelling skills. We will also turn to someone who will do something very quietly and we get shivers, and goosebumps, then all of a sudden our chairs turn. We are impressed now by the stories that the kids are telling in the songs."
In her concert this weekend at RWM, Salonga will be joined by Esang de Torres, Nicole Chien, Tanya Manalang, and Michael K. Lee. Floy Quintos directs the show, which also features the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Gerard Salonga.
Lee is Salonga's co-star in "Miss Saigon" and "Allegiance" on Broadway. It'd be a treat for the concertgoers to hear them sing duets from "Miss Saigon" and Disney's "Aladdin."
"This concert will be very special for sure. Yeah, many of the songs are those I've sung before, but it's great revisiting music as I grow older. Things take on a totally different meaning and feel different to my heartstrings. Cannot wait to do this," Salonga beams with excitement.
Photos: Resorts World Manila