30 years ago, a little girl found a CD to a new musical and couldn’t stop listening to it. For Christmas that year, her parents took her all the way to London to watch that show live.
That little girl of roughly 5 or 6 years old sat in the theatre in awe and amazement, laughing and crying and thoroughly blown away by her first live musical theatre experience. And a musical theatre lover was born.
That little girl, obviously, was me, that show was Miss Saigon, and the lead actress was none other than the incomparable Lea Salonga.
Ms Salonga would feature regularly in my Musical Theatre development, popping up from time to time, such as in the concert DVD “Hey Mr Producer” and of course, in the Disney films “Aladdin” and “Mulan” (One of my personal favourites.)
Then, just last night, I was once again lucky enough to be in the same room as this musical theatre legend, as she performed at the stunning Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham on her UK tour.
From the moment the band started playing the opening notes of “Miss Saigon”, I knew I was in for a treat. The overture hinted at all of Lea’s greatest hits, giving us a taste of things to come.
Speaking of the band, I would have expected Lea to be accompanied by a brass band or orchestra, so I was surprised to see more of a cabaret club-style band, with two keyboards, guitar, drums, bass and a piano. Whatever my expectations, I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the sound they produced, especially during some of the larger numbers.
At the end of the day though, the instrument everyone really wanted to hear was Lea Salonga herself. I mean, we all know Lea can sing. Obviously she can sing. But she can really sing! Her voice is crystal clear, as flawless as I’ll probably ever hear and I was utterly mesmerised from her first note.
The concert featured a varied repertoire of songs, including all of the famous numbers you’d most associate with Lea, while throwing in a few curve balls at the same time. I don’t want to give too much away for anybody who may be seeing the show later in the tour, but I will say that I have a whole new appreciation for One Direction and I’ll never think of A Ha’s “Take on Me” in the same way again!
As a musical theatre and Disney lover, I was pretty much in my own personal heaven.
There was even the opportunity for some audience participation as Lea invited the audience to sing along with her to some numbers, an offer which many people couldn’t refuse. One lucky gentleman was even invited to join her on stage to perform the Disney classic “A Whole New World”. (And he did a pretty good job if I do say so myself – Well done Arthur!)
When Lea wasn’t captivating her audience with her singing, she was entertaining us with her funny anecdotes and fascinating stories about her career in the musical theatre industry. Although I’m sure I would never, ever get bored of hearing her sing, I’d always happily listen to her chat away for hours on end. She’s clearly a woman who has had some amazing life experiences and I want to hear about them all!
The set was simple, with just some decorative curtains as a back drop, but the use of some impressive lighting effects really helped to add to the atmosphere of the evening.
As Lea sang her last “not really last” song, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that such a magical evening was ending. As it turns out, there was one last special treat left in store.
After the performance, we were able to meet Lea herself and have our programmes signed. True, it may have only been for 30 seconds, and we may have exchanged just a handful of words, but I can now officially say that I have met the woman who inspired my love of singing and the theatre. That’s not something I ever thought I’d get the chance to say.
If, like me, you are a life-long fan of Lea’s work then I urge you to get online pronto to see if you can find any tickets left for her remaining UK tour venues. Similarly, if you love musical theatre or just love beautiful music, then it’s definitely worth going along.
Tickets and tour details are available through Lea’s website. I’m even tempted to buy tickets myself and go along again. Who knows when I’ll next get the chance to see her live. I’m really hoping it’s sooner rather than later.