Musical star Lea Salonga to perform solo in Toronto Nov. 4

Community News & Features Nov 2, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Exclusive Interview:

TORONTO –Internationally acclaimed musical artist Lea Salonga will be in Toronto to perform solo on Wednesday night, Nov. 4, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

The Tony-award-winning star of Miss Saigon, and the Disney Princess from Aladdin and Mulan will be performing for the first time in a live solo concert in Toronto. The concert is part of her 20-concert tour in selected cities in the U.S. and Canada, including Vancouver, Honolulu, Maui, Los Angeles and Callas, just to cite a few.

Lea’s concert will feature favorites from her Broadway hits and animated classics.

In a phone interview Friday by The Philippine Reporter with Lea, who was then in Dallas, the singer revealed that she is looking forward to her Toronto performance where, just like in other cities she’s been to, she will have the opportunity to perform solo before her fans, for “I want to be closer to my fans,” she said. This is also one city where she says she has a lot of family and friends, both from her father and mother side.

Just like any typical Filipino who takes pride in having a lot of family relations, she reveals: “What is significant in this tour is I have discovered that in the various cities I have been to, there is a clutch of family and friends that I get to meet, like in Honolulu, Maui, Vancouver and Dallas, that my manager asked me, ‘Is there any city where you don’t have any relatives?” she confides with amusement.

Lea gave very candid responses to the questions posed by this writer in that brief interview:

TPR: What do you want to achieve in this tour?

Lea: I’d like to share my talent with as many people as possible.

TPR: Now that you have already achieved so much in your career, what is it that you would still want to accomplish?

Lea: I’m pretty much living a dream. My life right now is a dream come true, but it took a lot of hard work. Now I can think I can keep on going, on moving forward…I have done quite a bit in my career. I now want to have an opportunity to perform before my fans, to be closer to my fans…I am hoping that this tour will continue to lead me to other things.

TPR: Before this tour, what were your major performances, particularly in Broadway musicals?

Lea: I did Les Miserables in New York in 2007. I also did Cinderella in a six-month Asian tour which started in Manila in late 2008 and ended in Singapore in January 2009.

Are there any other major broadway musicals in the future?

Lea: Offers are being made, but I am not in a position to reveal them yet.

TPR: In the wake of the recent typhoons in Manila, have you been approached to share your talent to help the typhoon victims, as many other musical artists have done or are doing now?

Lea: I did a solo benefit one night at The Philippine Centre in New York in October and in that concert alone, we raised US$20,000. In addition, Ayala Foundation, through that concert, raised donations up to US$100,000.00 for the victims.

TPR: You are known to have a naturally beautiful and powerful voice. Have you had the need to do any vocal training at all in your career?

Lea: Yes, but nothing regular. When I was doing Miss Saigon in London, I had voice training with a real good teacher who taught me a strengthening technique to support a really good voice. With that training, my voice has gotten stronger over the years.

TPR: It’s difficult to believe a voice like yours would still need further training:

Lea: In London, I needed help with my voice due to sheer exhaustion in a schedule where you sing eight times a week. It’s murder on you. So I asked that really good teacher if she could help me, and she did. A lot of us have to be trained and it pays off. A lot of us (who have been trained on how to have a strong voice) are able to have good reputation in the Broadway community. I hardly take a day off in the run of a show.

TPR: You seem to perform with ease that one could think you would not need any training at all.

Lea: We’re trained to make it look easy. I have been performing for 31 years. This is my job and I take pride that I do it well.

The interview was brief, but enough to reveal what was important to Lea, not just as a professional performer, but as the person that she is, as well.

At the start of the interview, she seemed much too formal, and sparing in words. She was informed by this writer that this was her third interview with her, the first time about 30 years ago at her home in Manila, where she had even sung her first recorded song, “I Am But a Small Voice,” with her brother Gerald on the piano, after that interview for Star Watch, the Business Day’s entertainment magazine; and then again about 15 years ago, at the Philippine Consulate General in Toronto, when she was interviewed for a Philippine Reporter feature story.

Warming up in the course of the phone interview, she cheerfully confided that her daughter Nicole had joined her in Dallas for the first time during her tour, and that she will be traveling with her to Toronto, and to the cities where she completes her tour with four more shows.

Lea also revealed she used to be based in the US, but since 2005, when her husband was offered a job in Manila, she has since joined him there with their daughter, Nicole, who is now three years old.

She remains close to her only sibling, Gerald, a talented pianist who since they were children, has been accompanying her in some of her performances. “He is preparing something for December, so Gerald and I will be working together again,” Lea said.

While other stars would clam up when asked personal questions, Lea would candidly respond without hesitation, but only after warming up to her interviewer. She was refreshingly honest about what she wanted to convey to Torontonians in this interview, after she was told by a relative in this City that she did not even know Lea was coming to perform in a solo concert.

“I want to spread the word…because it is surprising that there are some people who do not know that we are coming,” Lea said.

Unlike the Toronto performances of most Philippine-based musical stars whose local sponsors are local Filipino-Canadian promoters, and where tickets are also available at Filipino-Canadian outlets, and performers are presented in local press conferences prior to the show, Lea’s concert is sponsored by Live Nation, a mainstream company, and tickets are available at all ticketmaster outlets, where people can purchase directly; or call to charge by phone, or order online at