BWW Interview: Lea Salonga Discusses Her UK Tour
Lea Salonga has come a long way since her Olivier and Tony Award-winning debut as Kim in Miss Saigon.
In addition to her film, recording and performing career, she's been treading the boards worldwide, most recently in Once On This Island on Broadway. Lea speaks to us about her first ever UK tour.
How does it feel to be known as such an iconic and well-loved voice of stage and film?
You're so nice to say that. It's not something I really think about. I just go from one show to the next.
I think of my voice in terms of being an instrument to tell a story and interpret the emotions of the particular character I'm playing at that particular moment. I like to think my voice is pliable, and it was a real compliment to have it referred to as a "multi-purpose instrument" by a critic once.
"Iconic" is not an adjective that I would use to describe my voice, but I am aware my career has been very long and wonderful, and I'm truly blessed to be where I am now.
Are you excited about coming to the UK?
Yes, I am very excited. Something tells me I have been to the London Palladium before but I can't remember exactly what it was for - certainly not headlining. I am thrilled to actually have a concert there. It's a huge deal.
I've never done a UK tour before. I've been in the US and all over the world. The last time I was in concert in the UK I was touring with Il Divo; it wasn't actually my concert, so this time will be special.
I'm excited to step on a West End stage again and share what I've learned since the last time I was there. It will be very emotional - I'm even getting emotional thinking about it just now! And I'm thrilled about visiting London again and enjoying the good food.
I'm also looking forward to playing Manchester and Cardiff. Cardiff will be particularly cool because I have a few friends who live there, so it'll be nice to visit.
You've just finished filming Yellow Rose with Eva Noblezada. How was it to work with her again after the Miss Saigon 25th Anniversary Gala performance?
We completed filming a month ago, so now the director is in the middle of the editing process putting everything together. I haven't worked on a live action film for over 20 years, so the prospect of getting back into delivering the emotion required for that kind of project was daunting. It also being Eva's first feature film meant we were holding hands in the first few days of filming.
Eva is incredible. Her performances are so real, and I'm hoping people who fell in love with her when she was in Miss Saigon in London and New York will get to see her in this. I think people will be very surprised, in a good way. It's going to be doing the film festival circuit, so I hope it gets to come to the UK.
What can we expect at the concerts?
Because it's the first time I'm touring in the UK I will probably pull out a lot of the stuff I'm known for. There will definitely be some Miss Saigon, definitely some Les Miserables, most likely some Mulan and perhaps a bit of "A Whole New World" too. The rest of the evening may feature some pop, some jazz, but most certainly some musical theatre, which I love best.
Do you prefer being yourself on stage in a concert or playing a character?
It always depends. I find when I'm doing a concert I'd rather be a character in a show, and then when I'm in a show I'd rather be myself on stage! You always want what you don't have.
I've just finished a long run as Erzulie in Once On This Island, which was such a blast. I made wonderful friends and I really miss everyone. It was very special. However, my body still hurts and being in the show required real care and physical therapy!
I'm currently preparing for concerts in the Philippines and other parts of the world so I'm going to be very busy with that. After finishing the UK tour I just know I'll start thinking about wanting to be in a show again.
Do you like being busy?
Yes. It's better for me. Being idle for too long doesn't suit me.
Do you prepare differently for concerts and shows?
Oh yes. Take, for example, a concert in Manila: I know I'm going to have an [autocue] so I don't need to memorise all the lyrics. I still need to be prepared though. I need to know the songs and what story they tell in such a way to minimise my glances and interaction with the [autocue], which might otherwise ruin the flow of the programme.
Whereas if I'm in a show, I'll be in the company of many musical theatre actors. I know what I need to do to prepare for the first day. I try to learn as much of the music as I can before I show up so I know, when I come in, that I know as much as I can - so the musical director doesn't need to stop because of me. I do it out of my respect for everyone else.
Equally, I try not to over-prepare, because it's important to allow room for malleability and for the director to, say, switch your dialogue with another character.
Out of Kim, Erzulie and Mulan, who would you like to go on a road trip with?
Haha! Erzulie, I think: she is wickedly naughty and fun. She's someone who's lived through a whole lot and yet still has a lot of heart. She's always up to a bit of mischief, and so for that I think she'd be someone who would be cool to go on a trip with.
Lea Salonga will tour the UK in February/March 2019
Photo Credit: Live Nation Media