BWW Review: LEA SALONGA IN CONCERT, London Palladium
Theatre royalty Lea Salonga concluded her tour with a spectacular last night at the London Palladium. The crowds who gathered to catch a glimpse of the prowess of her voice were treated to 17 pieces that included crowd-pleasers as well as stunning arrangements of beloved songs.
Salonga boasts an enviable and steady career that spans over 40 years of musical theatre. She's well known as the singing voice of both Jasmine and Fa Mulan in Disney's Aladdin and Mulan respectively, and for earning her Broadway and West End stripes originating the role of Kim in Miss Saigon and debuting as the first actress of Asian descent to play Éponine and Fantine in Les Misérables.
Originally set to entertain UK audiences back in February, her concerts had to be rescheduled due to a skiing injury earlier in the year "What is a Filipino even doing skiing?" she joked at the start of the night, going on to delight the auditorium with genuine laid-back humour that made her bubbly personality shine through.
Besides her classic repertoire songs like "A Whole New World" from Aladdin (sung with a member of the public, Charlie, who managed to keep his cool and held his own after being handpicked for the overwhelming task of being her stage partner) and "Reflection" from Mulan, the dazzling powerhouse delivered A-Ha's "Take On Me" in nearly unrecognisable form arranged as a ballad and unloaded emotional bombs like a gut-wrenching medley consisting of "I Dreamed a Dream" and "On My Own" from Les Mis.
"I end up in shows where I die in spectacular fashion" she joked, introducing the mash-up from "Dead girl number two and three" in her list of character demises - with the first one being Kim, whose big number "I'd Give My Life For You" had been presented earlier on. Surprising everyone in the room, she called her compatriot Rachelle Ann Go (who's playing Eliza Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre) on stage to sing an emotional rendition of "I Know Him So Well" from Chess.
Keeping the Hamilton vibe up, not one eye was left dry after she performed "Burn". She lightened the mood between pieces with funny anecdotes that introduced her as a woman who can certainly command the scene with her singing abilities but also with natural magnetism and personality.
She welcomed the forthcoming West End production of Frozen (directed by Michael Grandage at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and set to open in autumn 2020) and gave Idina Menzel and Caissie Levy (who plays the role of Elsa on Broadway) a run for their money with a singalong version of "Let It Go".
The insane traits of the power of her voice and projection are certainly not a secret to her loyal fanbase and regular theatregoers, but it's safe to say that she isn't resting on her laurels. On Sunday, she delivered an eclectic and ravishing set-list that not only showed off her impressive vocal extension but also celebrated a lifetime of music.
It was perhaps fate that led her to postpone her touring schedule since this meant that she would be playing in London exactly 30 years after she began rehearsals for Miss Saigon at the age of 18. It was a special night for everyone involved, and after two explosive encores consisting of "This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman and Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All", she bowed out for the last time among cheers and a standing ovation, closing an emotionally overwhelming night.