Geek-out of the Week…

August 11, 2011

Good singingface: a rare phenomenon

…goes to the release on Tuesday of Lea Salonga’s album The Journey So Far, recorded live at Café Carlyle in New York. Geek that I am, I snapped up the 16-track album pretty quickly – and it’s brilliant.

Whatever type of theatre (or music) you’re ‘into’, you cannot deny that Ms Salonga is a goddess. No one does vocal purity and passion quite like her, not to mention the sheer strength and stamina of voice she had when she became a huge star in Miss Saigon at just 18.

This release is, as you can probably gather from the title, a celebration of landmark moments, “a kind of a musical resume, a summary of my musical career.” Opening with the jazzy Salamat Salamat Musika in her native Filipino, Lea takes us through Les Mis, Flower Drum Song and her favourite standards (Someone to Watch Over Me/Let’s Fall in Love.)

OK, it’s not gritty stuff. While the woman can certainly act her socks off, her choices here pretty much reflect the uplifting romance of her voice. But my feeling is, once you’ve been a Disney princess (twice!), you have full license to be as corny as you want. In between songs she chats to the audience in a fun, relaxed way, offering some great anecdotes. It’s essentially downloading an unmissable gig direct to your iPod.

For Saigon geeks there is an extra treat; Too Much for One Heart, a gorgeous ballad written out of the original production (presumably for time and narrative reasons – it’s a bloody good song.) You’ll recognise the tune as it was used in the track Please. As a mini-Geek, listening obsessively to musical theatre soundtracks, I used to play and replay Please – which was weird, because storyline-wise it’s pretty much just a conversation (albeit a revelation) in Act 2. But something about the melody just got me, and when you listen to Too Much For One Heart you realise why the melody is so much bigger than the lyrics it ended up with.

I have massive love for Salonga for so many reasons – for being the original Miss Saigon, for being the only cast member to land a lead in both the 10th and 25th anniversary concerts of Les Misérables, for the fact that she still promotes, respects and celebrates her native country, the fact she has made 26 albums since she was 10 years old and that rather than hiding away, a fading child star, she’s still performing – not to mention being fabulously witty, political and opinionated on Twitter and her blog. Musical theatre goddess, I salute you.

The Journey So Far is available on iTunes for £7.99

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