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Interview: Lea Salonga Reflects on her Career and Spills About her Upcoming Tour!

The Dream AGAIN TOUR will stop in Vancouver on April 12th!

Interview: Lea Salonga Reflects on her Career and Spills About her Upcoming Tour!

Next week, Broadway and Disney Legend, Lea Salonga, will perform at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on April 12th in Vancouver as part of her 2022 DREAM AGAIN TOUR. Known for her work on Broadway (Miss Saigon, Les Misérables), TV (The Voice Philippines), and film (singing voice of Disney's Mulan and Princess Jasmine of Aladdin), Lea is the epitome of a true global superstar. Recently, Lea spoke with BroadwayWorld about her past works, future ventures, and upcoming tour! Read the full interview below!

To start, you've had a truly amazing career so far. Having been in Broadway shows, TV, and film, you have had experience in everything! Looking back on your previous works, what was the hardest thing that you've done?

Lea: I think I have a more difficult time when I am working on something that doesn't have to do with dancing and singing. I had to learn some Chinese opera for the Mark Taper Forum production of Flower Drum Song in 2001. This show required me to learn choreography with a bamboo stick that involved spinning it around on my neck. I dropped it so many times (even on stage during performances) and the embarrassment from that was not fun! I remember that caused me the greatest anxiety. When the show moved to New York, I only did it for one dress rehearsal and then it was scrapped by the time we had our first preview. I was relieved, but I knew it was important for the character. When we did it in LA, my partner in the show was Tzi Ma. He was trained in that kind of work, so I always felt that I was in good hands. In New York, my partner was Korean American Randall Duk Kim who was not trained in Beijing opera. Overall, I was quite happy not to do the choreography. It was very fun, but stressful to do in LA for 3 months. Thankfully, the choreography was always at the top end of the show. Once that part was done, I could relax! It was not easy!

You have done many theatre shows including Miss Saigon, Les Misérables, and more recently Once on this Island and Sweeney Todd. What do you love most about live theatre and what was your favourite theatre memory?

Lea: The thing about live theatre is that it's live! You have one shot with that particular audience to get everything right, tell a good story, and show them a really great time. You get to show them how theatre can be all of these fantastic things filled with transformative qualities, storytelling, and entertainment. It can act as an escape and provides wonderful things for so many people!

There are a lot of unforgettable theatre moments that I experienced as an audience member. Some non-musical theatre related memorable moments for me include going to Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group. I remember sitting in the audience at both of these shows and my jaw was just on the floor. I saw the Blue Man Group in New York many years ago and I just remember thinking "what on Earth is happening" and "why is this the best thing that I've seen in my life?" I also saw it again in Vegas and it was a bigger and showier experience because it's VEGAS BABY! Both times I remember thinking, "this is why I love watching shows!" As for traditional musical theatre, watching "An American in Paris" memorable for me. I took my family to see it and my daughter really loved it! She burst into tears when she saw Garen Scribner as Jerry when he joined the show after Robert Fairchild left. When Garen walked into the room, she collapsed into the sofa and started crying, which was really cute. Sharing theatrical experiences with the people I love makes the moments memorable for me!

Recently you were in the film Yellow Rose with Eva Noblezada and filming for the upcoming HBO TV series, Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin. How was working on those projects? Are you still filming for Pretty Little Liars?

Lea: I'm still filming Pretty Little Liars! I actually have to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to film and go for fittings. Sometimes we film 2-3 episodes at the same time, so it can be confusing. I've always been a little trepidatious in terms of navigating a career in film. In LA, I've taken acting classes with some really wonderful teachers; however, I feel that you don't get really great at it unless you do it often. The same concept goes for the people who do musical theatre! I can do it in my sleep because I know what it is and what I need to do. With musical theatre, everything kind of clicks into place for me. That hasn't happened for me yet in TV and film, but I am learning. I'm still trying to figure out camera angles and how to prepare for the different shots from the director. For example, I try to give as much support as I can for my scene partner(s) in eyeline shots. Funny story, I kind of got distracted yesterday while filming! There's a monitor that sits on top of the camera and it happened to be right in front of me. We were filming a scene where I didn't have to look at my scene partner directly, so I ended up standing there like I was watching the TV show! After the director yelled "cut" I told my scene partner, "I got distracted watching you because you're so pretty!" It was a particularly intense and awkward scene so I'm hoping it kind of helped!

Moving onto your 2022 DREAM AGAIN TOUR that will be starting in North America and then moving onto the UK. What was the preparation like for this tour?

Lea: There's been a lot of prep! Whenever I have a moment to study music and am in the right headspace, I prepare my sheet music and lyrics in show order. After that, I go over it until I feel confident in the routine of songs so that once we get into the rehearsal space with the band and musical director, I know exactly what to do. I've been listening to study material coming from different arrangers too. My brother did a few things and so did one of his colleagues from Manila. Larry Yurman arranged a lot of the mashups and medleys and there's been other stuff that I've recorded or done in the past as well! It's just been a lot of music to learn, but it's been fun stuff. There's songs that come from musical theatre, film, and pop in the show! If I'm in a car for a couple of hours, I put my headphones on and take out my lyric sheets. I listen to the music and arrangements over and over again until I have a handle on what I'm supposed to do.

In addition, there's also wardrobe to figure out as well! I needed to get a new pair of heels for the tour because I couldn't do stilettos anymore. Heels are definitely more manageable! I asked Brian Bustos of LaDuca Shoes to customize a pair for me. They do shoes for all of the Broadway shows and have custom made some for Paula Abdul, Katy Perry, and the great Chita Rivera. We collaborated on the style and materials of the shoes and I knew I was in good hands when I went to their shop. They have been so wonderful and after my experience with them, I was like "I'm never buying a pair of heels again from the outside world."

In addition, you will be in Vancouver on April 12! Have you ever been to Vancouver before? We are very excited to have you!

Lea: Yes I have! The past 2 shows I've done in Vancouver were at River Rock (just outside Vancouver). I have some family that live in Vancouver so hopefully I get to see them when I am in town for the show!

Has your preparation for concerts and live performances changed over the years? Looking back at when you recorded for Miss Saigon, Aladdin, Mulan, etc till up until now, do you think your voice has changed over time or stayed the same?

Lea: Strangely enough, higher notes are a little bit easier for me to reach now and I'm quite happy about it! Bridging the gap between my chest voice and a full on falsetto, when I combine the two it's sometimes a hit or miss if I'm not well warmed up. That can get me really frustrated. For the most part, my technique has always been solid and my lower notes are richer (which I guess is part of becoming and older adult). My emotions are also much easier to access, which is nice! You live a little more so you learn a little more! The storytelling aspect of a musical theatre song is much easier to bring forth having lived a little bit more!

My vocal warm-up hasn't really changed and has always been 30-45 minutes. I time it for about an hour and a half before a show. If there is a make-up artist working on me, they always know I have to do a vocal warm up while they work. The make-up artists that I am with are familiar with the routine. If I have an 8:00 p.m. show, I look at my watch and make sure I start my warm up at 6:30 p.m. I completely shut the make-up artist out unless they need me to do something (e.g. look up or down for lashes). I don't think there's anything that's changed over the years because this routine works for me!

What can people look forward to when they come and see you on tour?

Lea: I think they can look forward to feeling joy (at least I hope so)! I think that there is much joy in everyone involved with the show because we haven't done something like this together in 2 years. The last time I did a show with the band was in 2019 on the previous US tour. It will have been 3 years of not having seen each other in person, even though some of us collaborated doing online things. We haven't done a show in front of an audience in a long time, so this is going to be really exciting for us and I'm hoping that the audience will pick up on that! They will be seeing 5 very excited people on stage just happy to be doing the show! The songs are going to range in emotion from stuff that's happy, sad, poignant, touching, and seductive/sexy. The overarching thing is that we just want to have ourselves a really great time and we hope that the audience feels that too!

Lastly, I heard that you are a gamer! What are you currently playing at the moment?

Lea: I just finished the latest DLC for Assassins Creed Valhalla. I've been playing that game for the last couple of years. It came out at the end of October 2020 and I've been playing it ever since! The game is really good with a great story. I love the hero and there are aspects of North mythology that are tightly woven into the game. Sometimes your player is Havi who then takes on the name of Odin later on. There's also Thor and Freya and those Gods get reincarnated into these other humans that are trying to figure stuff out as the game continues. You meet some historical figures that were around during the same time as when the game takes place. There are some fun diversions in the game such as fishing that give you rewards. I've been playing the Assassins Creed series for a while. At one point, there was a crossover between Assassins Creed Odyssey and Assassins Creed Valhalla. Two of the characters actually met up to solve one mystery. Now I feel like I have to revisit Odyssey to play the downloadable content in the context of Odyssey because I've only played it in the context of Valhalla. I love that game! I think I've played through that game 3 times. It's so good and so funny!

Lea Salonga's 2022 DREAM AGAIN TOUR show in Vancouver will take place on April 12th, 2022 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. For tickets, please visit https://www.ticketmaster.ca/lea-salonga-in-concert-vancouver-british-columbia-04-12-2022/event/11005787852E122C.

Photo Credit: Raymund Issac



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