If ever there was a highly anticipated event at the Royal Concert Hall Nottingham then this solo concert by Broadway legend Lea Salonga must rank amongst the very highest. Tonight’s audience cannot get enough of Ms Salonga and we hang onto every word she says and every pitch perfect and often stunningly powerful note she sings.
She seems genuinely in awe of the Royal Concert Hall stage and the packed house tonight. She starts by declaring “Wow so this is Nottingham! I keep expecting a Robin Hood joke but none has come yet.” Lea Salonga looks beautiful in her smart black ladies suit revealing a sparkling top underneath. For comfort she sports a pair of colour contrasting trainers. Her hair is cut short and she behaves and looks every inch the immensely experienced star that she is. Yet there is no arrogance and no ego on show only an astute and appreciated warmth of personality. At the top of her show she happily teases a few latecomers and Ms Salonga chats convivially with her eager and reverent audience throughout the whole evening and we love this feeling of inclusion. Her warm presence is full of gratitude. She starts by introducing her first class band. They are Adam Dennis, Michael Riley, Chris Allard, Dan Ezard and Julien Brown led by musical director Larry Yurman.
Her set for the evening is a mix of her personal favourites and musical theatre classics that she has an association with. Most of them comes with an explanation of why she chooses to express the sentiments of the song, especially as she has got older. One of her favourite new songs sung tonight is The Human Heart from the Tony Award winning Once on This Island. She says that the song is an anthem for love, togetherness, age, youth and hope. A line that resonates with her is “This is the gift I give, through your love you’ll live … forever.” Her genuine sentiment is that hope and shared music and fellowship are the gift we give each other.
From her recent album Blurred Lines we enjoy Fast Car, Black Bird/A Quiet Thing, The Story of My Life, All of Me. This sparkling and unforgettable evening includes Miss Saigon favourite I’d Give My Life For You, On My Own and I Dreamed A Dream from Les Mis. There is Reflections from Mulan, a fun audience participation version of Let It Go from Frozen, a tender rendition of Burn from Hamilton, Another Hundred People from Company, In A Very Unusual Way from Nine, This Is Me from The Greatest Showman and more.
As this show is a solo affair Lea Salonga invites a man to volunteer to come up on stage and sing Alan Menken and Tim Rice’s famous duet A Whole New World with her. A few hands go up and a very eager yet nervous Filipino guy called Arthur leaps to his front row feet and is quickly up on stage and handed a microphone. He has the look of a man for whom all his dreams have come surprisingly true in one blinding unexpected star struck moment. The sweet chemistry between Lea Salonga and Arthur is one of the many highlights of the evening and after some explanation from Arthur about him rushing all the way from London to see his stage heroine and nearly missing his train they sing the Disney classic together. Arthur has had his moment of musical theatre rapture complete with a Lea Salonga hug and the audience go crazy with applause. Arthur will be grinning forever.
It is likely that Lea Salonga’s fans here at the Royal Concert Hall, including many Filipinos, would more than happily sit forever listening to and watching her sing and relate her stories of life and showbiz. But all good things come to an end and after three standing ovations between her last three closing numbers Ms Salonga delights her audience by declaring that she will be signing programmes afterwards in the foyer. That’s a true star for you. What a glorious unforgettable evening! ‘Salamat’ Lea Salonga.
Lea Salonga UK tour continues to Birmingham Symphony Hall 11th July – Manchester Opera House 13th July – The London Palladium 21st July 2pm and 7.30pm
This review is also written for Nottingham Post.
To read our pre-tour interview with Lea Salonga click HERE.
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