12 March 2011 10:16, By Ted Benito
Originally from The Asian Journal
At one point during her sold-out concert last Saturday at the Broad Theater in Santa Monica, Lea Salonga turned to the audience and said, “You know, it was my birthday a few weeks ago… [loud applause from the audience]… and I just turned 40! But I don’t feel like I’m a day over my late 30’s!”
Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that Lea performed her Tony-winning role as Kim in Miss Saigon”over 20 years ago. But Saturday’s performance was an indication that she still loves to sing and perform in concert , with a pristine voice that belies the fact she just turned 40.
Accompanied only by her musical director Larry Yurman on the piano, Lea’s offering of songs did not disappoint the audience. It was a rare treat to hear her sing with only a piano, but Yurman’s finely-tuned accompaniment, coupled with Lea’s personal anecdotes about life, love, work and family, made the show even more intimate—and in the end, more meaningful. Of course, there were the expected songs from Lea’s musical vault, but there were also some new numbers that punctuated the already impressive repertoire.
She began with the Tagalog song,“Salamat, an ode to music which permeates all of our lives—gives it meaning, makes life more worthy—which was followed with a medley of bossa-nova influence My Romance/Let’s Fall in Love.
Two other well-arranged medleys came with Fallin’/I Still Believe in Love and Your Song/Someone’s Waiting for You, which she dedicated to her daughter Nicole. She channeled her Disney princesses with Reflection (from Mulan) and A Whole New World (from Aladin), the latter being sung as a surprise duet after she chose a “victim” (in this case, a rather tall gentleman named Daniel) from the audience, much to everyone’s delight.
A homage to her Broadway roots came with performances from I Dreamed a Dream and On My Own (from Les Miserables, her personal favorite) and I’d Give My Life for You (from Miss Saigon). As she related to the audience, I’d Give has more meaning for her now since she became a mother. The first time she was asked to perform the song after Nicole’s birth was the very first time she finally connected with its sentiment and true meaning.
For this writer, Lea performed two numbers which highlighted her penchant for off-the-beaten-path Broadway tunes. The first came with the Zina Goldrich penned There’s Nothing I Wouldn’t Do, an up-tempo quirky song about the devotion of a lover to his (or her) loved one. The lyrics—humorous and sprinkled with double entendre—include lines like: “I wanna wash your car, I wanna scramble your eggs, your salad I will toss, of course I help you floss, rub Tiger Balm on your legs…” all of which is not surprising, especially since Goldrich also penned Taylor the Latte Boy, a song Lea has performed in a concert previously.
Then came Everybody Says Don’t, a Stephen Sondheim written song from the little known musical Anyone Can Whistle but one that has been a long standing staple of one of Lea’s inspirational mentors, Barbra Streisand. In fact, as far as this writer knows, La Streisand is the only one to perform this song in concert. Lea turned this song into an anthem of positivity and empowerment. The lyrics say:
“Everybody says don’t,
Everybody says can’t
Everybody says wait around for miracles
That’s the way the world is made
I insist on miracles if you do them
Miracles might come true
Then I say don’t
Don’t be afraid”
Two other highlights of the show came with Lea’s performance of John Lennon’s Imagine, which gave her the chance to show off her vocal skills as she delivered a bluesy version of this classic, and the Filipino song Ikaw, which was sung with such passion and tenderness, no one needed to understand Tagalog to feel that every word and phrase in the song meant nothing but LOVE. She then bookended the show by singing (in her second encore) ABBA’s Thank You for the Music, which echoed the sentiment of her opening song (although the lolas who were sitting behind me were wanting her to belt out Lady Gaga’s Poker Face).
For devoted Lea fans, the evening was a slice of musical heaven delivered by a funny, touching, humorous, delightful and extremely talented angel. For those who had never seen Lea before, they were blessed with nothing but a wonderful, flawlessly performed show that left them hungry for more. And hopefully, and thankfully, she will be around to do just that for quite some time.
Lea performs throughout the month of March at select cities. Check www.leasalonga.com for more details.
Ted I. Benito is an LA-based producer, director and principal partner of PAE Live!
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