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Lea Salonga: The Journey So Far

The Tony Award-winning star's cabaret act at the Cafe Carlyle shows off her pure voice, superb interpretive skills, and winning sense of humor. logo
Lea Salonga
(© Ronnie O. Salvacion)
Just like all those pretty girls in high school who never bothered to develop a personality, Lea Salonga could more than get by on her remarkably pure, sweet, and seemingly effortlessly voice (and adorable looks). But she's also wisely developed her interpretive skills and sense of humor, both of which are on full display in her extremely enjoyable cabaret show, The Journey So Far, now at the Cafe Carlyle.

As this is her first official foray into cabaret, it's not surprising that Salonga adopts a fairly traditional approach to the genre. She introduces herself through "Salamat, Salamat Musika," a song from her native country, The Philippines, and then intertwines her early personal and musical history as a child performer though an enchanting section that includes spirited renditions of "Sing," "Tomorrow," and "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" -- as well as a hilarious recitation of the Girl Scout pledge.

In a nice twist, though, when Salonga gets to the show that made her a star, Miss Saigon, she chooses to perform -- passionately -- "Too Much for One Heart," a lush romantic ballad that was written for the work, but never made it to the stage. Afterwards, she immediately launches into a gorgeous version of "On My Own," which she performed in Broadway's Les Miserables -- and which, as it turns out, was her audition song for Miss Saigon.

It's her courtship and eventual marriage to Rob Chien, however, that leads to the strongest section of her act -- and the one that veers from a "greatest hits" format. Salonga belts out a snappy "Something's Comin," which is followed by an extraordinarily heartfelt pairing of "Fallin'" and "I Still Believe in Love" (both from They're Playing Our Song), a pitch-perfect take on Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich's pattery "There's Nothing I Wouldn't Do," a breathtakingly beautiful version of the Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me," and a positively lovely rendition of "Two Words." In each of these songs, Salonga's exquisite technique and commitment to the song is unmissable.

Smartly, Salonga doesn't disappoint her fans; she gives her all to the stirring "Reflection," which she sang in the Disney animated film Mulan, and tackles her biggest hit, "A Whole New World" (from Disney's Aladdin), albeit in an unusual and humorous fashion. Her final pairing of "Your Song" and "Someone Is Waiting for You" is memorable and unexpected.

Indeed, by evening's end, Salonga is more-than-likely to be voted most popular. Don't hold it against her.

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