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The Seth Concert Series Featuring Lea Salonga – Review

Lea Salonga by Ramund Isaac
Lea Salonga by Ramund Isaac

This was, as both Seth Rudetsky and Lea Salonga separately pointed out, quite a feat, despite the tech gremlins creeping in on occasion. To have done this concert in the pre-Covid era would have meant Salonga flying to New York City, very probably putting up with jetlag, and everything else that goes with intercontinental flying. Not that she has any issues with staying in New York, as her multiple long runs on Broadway testify, but it is indeed quite something to be broadcasting from her home in Manila, Philippines, as Rudetsky was hosting in New York, and fans and followers were watching proceedings from wherever they were in the world at the time.

As someone said in the live chat room, “It wouldn’t be Broadway without tech difficulties,” but I would hasten to add that the team working behind the scenes did very well – I found it quite incredible that Rudetsky’s piano playing and Salonga’s vocals were entirely in sync for the whole live concert. I can’t have been in the only person in the (online) audience who recalls the days not so long ago when an intercontinental telephone call was slightly problematic because there would always be a time delay.

As Rudetsky’s concerts tend to go (he has brought his famous song-and-conversation series to London on numerous occasions over the years), there was a mixture of what we Brits call ‘banter’ and musical theatre showtunes, including songs that Rudetsky called ‘other-song-itis’ – the jealous (for want of a far less sinister word) feeling that some actors get when they are off-stage and can hear someone else in the cast singing a number they would very much like the opportunity to sing at some point but is unlikely to happen, for example, if the character is of a completely different age profile to the said actor, or a different gender.

Cue songs like ‘Why God Why’ from Miss Saigon (usually sung by a white American GI) and ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Misérables (usually sung by a man, albeit in a fairly high key). It was interesting to hear the stories about Salonga’s Broadway shows – I hadn’t known, for instance, that live animals, including a couple of goats, were used in the 2017 Broadway revival of Once On This Island. She seemed more than a little uneasy talking about it, and it’s not difficult to understand why – goats in Manhattan – really? Anyway, Rudetsky rightly commented repeatedly about how note-perfect every lyric of every song was – and while that was very true, Salonga’s replies were equally valid (and humble), particularly when she spoke about Broadway audiences who have paid a lot money to see shows, and deserved the very best.

Lea Salonga has an innate ability to perform in such a way that makes it seemingly effortless, with an excellent range. There’s a control to her singing that has no doubt been refined over the course of her career to date. I could imagine this being a show with a deserved standing ovation had it been in a packed out Broadway theatre. There was a lot of ground covered in ninety minutes (without interval) but it is worth pointing out an online concert held in lockdown in the Philippines called Bayanihan Musikahan, through which Salonga and other singers raised (according to fans commenting on the live chat) US$2.4 million to help the most vulnerable in Philippine society. Both that and this concert are remarkable achievements by a remarkable actor.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Multiple award-winning actress and singer Lea Salonga is renowned across the world for her powerful voice and perfect pitch. She is best known for her Tony Award-winning role in Miss Saigon. In addition to the Tony, she has won the Olivier, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Theatre World Awards, in the field of musical theatre. She was also the first Asian to play Eponine in the musical Les Misérables on Broadway and returned to the beloved show as Fantine in the 2006 revival. Many fans of all ages recognize Lea as the singing voice of Princess Jasmine from Aladdin and Fa Mulan for Mulan and Mulan II. For her portrayal of the beloved princesses, the Walt Disney Company bestowed her with the honor of “Disney Legend”.

LISTING:
Mark Cortale Presents
THE SETH CONCERT SERIES
LEA SALONGA with SETH RUDETSKY
Sunday, June 28th at 9AM EST
Sunday, June 28th at 8PM EST

MELISSA ERRICO with SETH RUDETSKY
Sunday, July 5th at 8PM EST
Monday, July 6th at 3PM EST

AUDRA MCDONALD with SETH RUDETSKY
Sunday, July 12th at 8PM EST
Monday, July 13th at 3PM EST

All tickets available at www.thesethconcertseries.com

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