Actress and singer Lea Salonga originated the role Kim in the musical Miss Saigon, winning Tony, Olivier, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Theatre World awards. She also played the roles of Eponine and Fantine in Les Miserables on Broadway and provided the singing voices of Disney princesses Jasmine and Mulan.
Lea headlines the 2012 Adelaide Cabaret Festival, performing this weekend with Vanessa Scammell conducting the Adelaide Art Orchestra.
Richard Jay-Alexander was Executive Producer of Miss Saigon on Broadway and subsequently directed Salonga’s Carnegie Hall debut in November 2005. In this excerpt from an extensive forthcoming interview, Richard remembers working with Lea as they prepared specialty material for her concert.
Lea Salonga is so unique and so gifted.
I worked with her on Miss Saigon and I worked with her on Les Mis. I asked her to come and play Eponine for us, back in the day and I also did her Carnegie Hall debut.
That was a fantastic show because when she called me from the Phillipines she told me she was pregnant. She was very nervous about it but I asked of she’d be willing to announce her pregnancy (during the show).
In the Richard Jay world, if you’re going to play Carnegie Hall, it’s gotta matter. It’s not like the old days where Harry Belafonte would play there once a year or whenever he had a new album. You may never be there again, so you need specialty material!
Lea played the original Annie in the Phillipines and used to listen to Andrea McArdle so I had Andrea as a guest and they sang Tomorrow together.
Lea did Miss Saigon with Liz Callaway, who was the original Lizzie. We told the story about how Liz was pregnant while we rehearsing Miss Saigon, but had her baby and made it back for the first preview. Lea loved the idea, we had Liz’s son stand up in the audience and it brought the house down.”
So I started with Married, a song she did not know from Cabaret.
Oh the world can change, it can change like that, due to one little word - married.
Lea says “I love embarrassing my husband” and we did a bit of dialogue along the lines of “ever since we got married, everybody’s like, when are you going to have a baby, Lea? Not now, no rush. That used to be my stock line. Ladies and gentlemen, you are looking at a very happy pregnant girl at the end of her first trimester.”
We did The Story Goes On (from Baby) and Lea was joined on stage by Liz Callaway singing and all these things I feel and more…your child is next. I had permission from (Baby’s writers) Maltby and Shire. They came to rehearsal and it was very, very thrilling.
We ended Act 1 with I’d Give My Life For You. It’s fantastic when you have a career like Lea’s. I’ve done Carnegie Hall a lot, but this was a historic night.
Lea has one of those voices - it’s the perfect pop voice, like Karen Carpenter in that it’s seamless and has no break. We sang a lot of great stuff and she can be very funny.
I remember one song she was ‘mixing’ and I said “oh no, no, no, no, no. Stop! You’re not mixing anything. This is balls to the wall, I don’t care if your vocal cords are bloody.” She looked alarmed and I said “I’m kidding. Sort of.”
But the point is you’ve gotta give it up. It’s Carnegie Hall, not science. She did, and she got eleven standing ovations. It was a big triumph.
L-R: Richard Jay-Alexander, Lea Salonga & Richard Maltby (lyricist Miss Saigon & Baby)
with Vanessa Scammell conducting the Adelaide Art Orchestra
June 9 & 10, 2012 @ 8pm
Adelaide Festival Theatre
See booking link below for ticket prices
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