Lea mania hit fever pitch at her sell-out show in Sydney.
There was excitement. Excitement. There was applause. Applause. And there was a lot of shrieking and screaming from excited fans, young and old, at Lea Salonga’s packed to the rafters concert at the Sydney Town Hall last night.
“#leasalonga is absolutely #slaying the setlist!” said one front-row ticket holder on Instagram, complete with photos of Lea and the two Disney characters that propelled her into the Disney hall of fame: Aladdin’s Jasmine and Mulan.
Yes, a Lea concert would not be a Lea concert if she didn’t perform ‘A Whole New World’ and ‘Reflections’. And perform them she did, with verve that belied the (million) times she must have been requested to perform these songs.
The lucky guy she plucked from the crowd to help sing the Aladdin duet almost stole the show. Almost. But the night was all about Lea and she took every member of the audience through a soaring, tumbling magic ride showcasing her powerful pipes and perfect pitch.
The big musicals? Check. OPM hits? Check. Whitney Houston? Check, check, check.
Her renditions of 'On My Own' and 'I Dreamed a Dream' were flawless, the audience roared (and sighed) as she sang OPM hits 'Hahanapin Ko' and 'Nais Ko', and many bopped and sang along to her cover of the Bruno Mars hit 'Grenade'.
Sydney Town Hall boasts a 1,200-seating capacity but there were moments when it felt more intimate. Like the time Lea talked about her Miss Saigon audition, being the first Asian to play Eponine in the musical Les Miserables on Broadway, and how Filipinos living overseas will always be tethered to their homeland for a host of reasons, not least the Philippine cuisine.
"This is why I will never be a size zero, because I love Filipino food!" she joked.
Who cares about being a size zero when you are a 10 in your chosen field?
In her book Playlist, Lea talks about her first 35 years in the music business. The book reveals an artist who didn’t reach stratospheric heights in her career by sheer talent alone (she has won Tony, Olivier, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Theatre World Awards).
Lots of hard work, determination and sacrifices were involved. And like many Filipinos, she started from the ground up, singing at family parties when she was five or six, to the Carnegie Hall and a host of prestigious venues around the world.
Under the hashtags #leasalonga and #salongadownunder2015, the congratulations and well wishes poured in from the show’s start to finish. “Amazing singer!” said one on Twitter. “Speechless! Can’t wait for the second half!” said another on Facebook.
But perhaps the night was even more unforgettable for the local supporting acts who, together, called themselves the #leasquad. They practised. They sang. They delivered.
Sydney-based vocal coach and recording artist Tina Bangel, a self-confessed diehard Lea fan, thought it was an “opportunity of a lifetime”, which she shared with her young students, collectively called “One Voice”. Bangel once coached X-Factor winner Marlisa Punzalan for a show -- who knows, one of the kids who shared the stage with Lea last night might just become Australia’s next Delta Goodrem.
Host Marcus Rivera, a Miss Saigon alumni (he played the Engineer in the Australian production), enthralled the audience when he hit the high notes on ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’.
Among the supporting acts, Clarissa Bock was a standout, singing ‘His Eye Is On The Sparrow’ with a big voice that promises a star in the making.
Those lucky enough to have nabbed a ticket to Lea's show in Melbourne tonight are in for a treat. Her setlist had something for everybody: cabaret, jazz, the big musicals, OPM, pop hits, and Disney favourites.
By the time she finished her second set, her fans were satiated. There were plenty of smiles, especially from those who scored an autograph and a quick photo-op. (The line after the show for the autograph signing snaked from one end of the Sydney Town Hall to the other.)
Last night, there was no question that Lea is the original 'Idol Ng Bayan'. It was an unforgettable performance that fans will be talking about for years to come. Or at least until her next Sydney show.
Lea Salonga will be performing at the Plenary in Melbourne tonight, the last leg of her four-city Australia and New Zealand tour produced by Oz-Pinoy Promotions, owned by Carol Manaloto, and other producers.
Follow her updates: #salongadownunder2015
Five things you may not know about Lea
1) She puts her left shoe on first before the right.
2) She makes the sign of the cross before she goes onstage. Always.
3) She swears. Like a sailor.
4) Her favourite drink is Hendrick's gin & tonic (but she won't say no to a glass of German Riesling).
5) She learned how to drive a car at the tender age of 30.
Source: 35 Things You May Not Know About Me, 'Playlist' by Lea Salonga
Photos: Tyrone Andres, Charles Chan
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