Lea Salonga at the Craterian

Lea Salonga has developed a remarkable resumé during her career as a singer and actress. The Tony Award-winning Broadway star also is an acclaimed concert artist. Salonga performs before presidents, royalty and throngs of admiring fans around the world. Hers is the familiar singing voice behind animated Disney films enjoyed by children everywhere.

It's been an impressive 31-year professional career — even more impressive is that Salonga is only 38.

Salonga will perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, at Medford's Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater.

"I come with a simple set. Just me, a black background and six musicians," Salonga says during a phone interview from New York. "I do some Disney, some musical theater, some standards. I just want everybody to have a good time, to come away with a good night of music."

Her series of concerts in North America follows a six-month Asian tour in Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella." Salonga, who's performances sold out at Carnegie Hall and the Disney Music Hall in Los Angeles, is known for the beauty and clarity of her voice. The New York Times describes her singing as "spectacular."

Salonga's breakout role was in the hit musical "Miss Saigon," first in the 1989 London production and then later on Broadway in 1991. She was the first actress to play the role of the orphaned bar girl Kim, abandoned by an American soldier in the wake of the Vietnam war.

"You're flying blind when you originate a role because there aren't any roadmaps or signposts — it's uncharted territory," says Salonga. "What you do will be signposts for others to follow. The key for songs is established based on your vocal range. Every other actress has to follow your key. I've made actors unhappy, because I sing so high."

Salonga was the first actress to win multiple international awards for a single role, including the Tony, Olivier, Drama Desk and Theatre World awards. New York Times critic Frank Rich noted that Salonga "had the audience all but worshipping her from her first appearance as Kim."

Video of Salonga's audition for "Miss Saigon" can be seen on the Internet. Hair pulled back and face free of makeup, she looks younger than the 17 years she was at the time.

"I remember my knees knocking together," Salonga says. "That's how nervous I was. It was ridiculous. It was just very strange singing for these people. Once I realized who they were — the composer of "Les Misérables" — and here I had prepared a song from "Les Misérables." It was unreal."

But at 17, Salonga already was an accomplished singer. She made her theatrical debut at age 7 in her native Philippines.

"As a 7-year-old, I was very impressionable," Salonga says. "The directors were a huge influence on me because of the passion with which they approached the work. It shaped me in a positive way."

Her first album, "Small Voice," was recorded when Salonga was just 10. Since then, she has recorded more than 20 film, musical theater and solo albums.

Salonga is considered a national treasure in the Philippines. In 2009, she received a presidential award of merit, the highest honor bestowed upon a civilian in her country. She has performed before five Filipino presidents, three American presidents and the Queen of England.

After her success in "Miss Saigon," Salonga starred in a series of musicals, including "Les Misérables."

"My character had a child, and my daughter was about 1 at the time," Salonga says. "It made it easier to relate. It wasn't just singing pretty songs. I traveled the road that she did. It was both exhausting and exhilarating."

Audiences will recognize Salonga's singing voice from the Disney animated films "Mulan" and "Aladdin." She was the voice of Princess Jasmine in "Aladdin," and she performed the film's Oscar-winning song, "A Whole New World," at the 65th Annual Academy Awards in 1993.

"I tried not to think about the television audience," Salonga says. "The millions and millions of people out there. I just wanted to think about the people in the theater. But there were a lot of famous stars out there. Fortunately, it was dark and I couldn't see their faces. I would have gone crazy."

Salonga relishes getting to know other performers while rehearsing together for concerts.

"I remember a benefit called 'Hey, Mr. Producer.' Hugh Jackman was rehearsing a song from 'Oklahoma.' All the women in the show fell in love with him that night."

Ticket prices for Salonga's concert range from $52 to $58. For more information call 779-3000 or visit www.craterian.org.

Share This Story