5 Questions with Lea Salonga - East Valley Tribune: Performance

5 Questions with Lea Salonga

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Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2013 5:45 pm

You may not recognize her name, but you’ve probably heard Lea Salonga many times before. After all, she is the singing voice of Disney Princesses Jasmine in “Aladdin” and Fa Mulan in “Mulan.”

A Filipino beauty and a modern theater legend, Salonga created the role of Kim in the hit musical “Miss Saigon” and graced the Great White Way in Broadway productions “Les Misérables” and “Flower Drum Song.”

Before she heads to New York City for a concert staging of the heartbreaking musical “Ragtime,” Salonga will be performing a select few concerts along the West Coast – including one on Friday at Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino in Chandler.

The East Valley Tribune recently sat down with Salonga to discuss her forthcoming concert, the Oscar-nominated “Les Mis” film and her plans for 2013.

Q: So to begin with, what can concertgoers expect from your upcoming show at Wild Horse Pass, in terms of atmosphere and set list?

A: As far as my set list goes, I try to definitely keep something from “Miss Saigon” and “Les Mis” in the set list. It seems that there are fans that come to concerts expecting “On My Own” and “I Dreamed A Dream” to be performed that evening. Sometimes I’ll do one or the other, sometimes I’ll do both and then I’ll do something from “Miss Saigon.”

I pull the rest of the set list from standards, pop songs and just whatever feels right to sing. That’s kind of where I pull all sorts of songs from. The standards songbook, it’s pretty rich and there’s a lot to pull from over there. With the pop songs, it really all depends. I mean I’ve had Lady Gaga in my set list, so you know, we’ll see where inspiration hits from this time.

Q: You recently appeared with “Star Trek”-vet George Takei in a new musical called “Allegiance” at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. What are some upcoming projects that you’re looking forward to in 2013?

A: Well, at the end of this month I kick off the American Songbook series at Lincoln Center. Then I just have concerts everywhere. In February I’m in Hawaii, in April I’m in Indianapolis. I’m just hopping everywhere. I’m doing another stint at the Carlyle in New York this May, and then I head off to Japan in June, and past that there’s a lot of stuff going on in Manila, (Philippines), so there’s always something and stuff being planned and talked about.

Q: Being so close to the stage production of “Les Misérables,” what are thoughts on the recent film adaptation, which was just nominated for eight Academy Awards?

A: I actually wrote a review of the film. It’s not so much a review as it was a reflection. I was really excited about the film given my own history with the show. There were things that I loved, things that I just liked, and things that I didn’t really think were worthy of the show’s history or the score.

I loved Anne Hathaway as Fantine. I just really thought she was right and think what she did was just great and perfect. Then there were people that were just doing absolutely what was appropriate for that version of the piece.

I think where I found myself most elated was when somebody opened their mouths and sang it properly, and were really not just great film actors, but when they opened their mouths you were just like, “Oh my gosh! They’re fantastic!”

Q: Throughout your career, you’ve played a plethora of roles that are now iconic. Are there any dream parts that you’d still like to tackle?

A: As I inch further and further away from that youthful age of my 20s and 30s, because I’m in my 40s now, I don’t know that the dream roles exist. I think with stuff like “Allegiance” I get to create a role and create something that another Asian actor will look at and say, “I want to play that. I want to do that,” and make it somebody else’s dream to play it, too.

There aren’t a lot of roles written for somebody like me. I got really lucky with the two dead girls in “Les Mis,” but for an Asian on Broadway, I got to be realistic and try to figure out what roles I can really play that would stretch the audience’s imagination without pulling them out of whatever alternate reality they’re in.

It’s also cool with the upcoming “Ragtime” concert that I can just take something that nobody would probably even dream of casting me in. I’m thankful that the director, Stafford Arima, who also directed “Allegiance,” just one day asked me out of the blue, “Would you like to sing this role?” I go “Well, I’ve never really heard it” and he just showed me a bunch of songs and I said yes. Knowing what the role traditionally is and who she’s been played by, I was like “Wow, OK. This should be fun.”

I guess to play something that I don’t know any Asian person has ever played before, I think that’s pretty cool.

Q: To wrap things up, do you have any New Year’s resolutions that you’d like to share?

A: Every time I end up making resolutions, I always end up breaking them so I always hesitate to. I think I just need to follow the resolution of living healthfully. I am getting older, so just taking care of myself and trying to make sure I’m always getting rest wherever I’m going. Also, just to live a very good and happy life.

I guess just the philosophy that’s told often, you know, how tomorrow can be the last day of your life so live today happy. I try to live every day as if that’s it. I think there’s just the expectation that, you know, I’m not going to be taking a motorcycle and jumping over 18 buses any time soon, so it’s just living a happy, happy life.

IF YOU GO

What: Lea Salonga in concert

When: 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18

Where: Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino, 5040 Wild Horse Pass Blvd., Chandler

Cost: $39-$149, discounts available with an active Gila River Casinos Players Club card

Information: (800) 946-4452 or www.wingilariver.com

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