• Katie Heyes

My July Journey: Day 14 - Lea Salonga Live at Manchester Opera House - Theatre Review

Broadway legend and Cinematic Powerhouse Lea Salonga graced the stage last night with her one-woman show performing at the Manchester Opera House as part of her UK concert tour. From bringing millions of childhood dreams to life providing the iconic singing voices of not one but two Disney Princesses, to her powerful and pitch perfect performances as Kim in Miss Saigon and Eponine in Les Miserables, this woman never fails in moving many to tears with her stellar performances and tonight was no exception.

Before we delve into tonight’s breath-taking experience, I’ve got something to admit to you all – I’ve never actually been to a concert. Shameful, I know! Despite watching a lot of Ballets, Musicals and Operas, I’ve never actually seen a live performance of a band or singer that I love. So with this being my first one, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. But let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed!

Whether you’re a musical theatre enthusiast, Disney film buff or just a fan of a good old live band, the varied repertoire caters to all tastes. The night opened with a beautifully orchestrated rendition of Feeling Good, that got everyone’s toes tapping along. This familiar classic alongside Salonga’s warm, charismatic and engaging stage presence leaves the audience engrossed and truly charmed. All the familiar classics we know and love from Salonga make an appearance pulling the nostalgic strings of audience members of all ages and nationalities. The emotionally poignant Reflection from Mulan, introduced by an equally potent speech about the importance of diversity and visibility of Asian women in the film industry, had me welling up from the first few chords and the same can be said for I’d Give My Life For You from Miss Saigon, a song that she describes as the gift that keeps on giving after giving birth to her own child 13 years ago.

These little authentic touches to the night is what truly made it something magical. As mentioned previously, the musical set-list varies from classical musical theatre to more contemporary hits which although from the outset may seem like odd choices, really are befitting to her warm and rich singing voice. After a beautifully stripped back acoustic rendition of Ah-Ha’s 80’s vibrant classic Take On Me and a quirky take on One Direction’s Story of my Life, Salonga’s second Disney Princess was Jasmine in Aladdin starting the iconic duet A Whole New World, where she plucks a willing volunteer from the audience. Last night’s collaboration was with Mark who, despite clearly being incredibly nervous, revels in every second of sharing the stage with Miss Salonga. However, what made this collaboration so wholesome was his declaration that he actually saw her in her first performance on Broadway in 1989 when he was only 14 years old. Not only that but the pianist in the band actually recognised him from being his music teacher years ago! What are the chances of that? What’s more is that, he then goes on to deliver an astonishing performance yielding a rapturous applause. A true delight to witness and must surely be an unforgettable experience for Mark and Miss Salonga herself!

Interestingly enough, this rescheduled concert coincides with the closing of the original London production of Les Misérables at the West End. To mark the end of an astonishing era of musical theatre, she closes the show with a beautiful mash-up of I Dreamed a Dream and On My Own; moving many avid theatre goers to tears once more! Despite approaching her 50’s, her voice is still as potent and rich as it was in the early years of her career making it a breath-taking live experience and a perfect celebration of musical theatre as an art in general. One of the highlights was her version of Burn from Hamilton, where she celebrates this musical’s genius in driving a new generation to the theatre. Salonga’s vitality in performing inspires all audiences old and new, from all corners of the world, receiving standing ovation at the end of what I’d describe as a flawless and once in a lifetime experience.

Overall, for my first concert experience, it couldn’t have been much better! The lively atmosphere amongst audience members and Salonga herself, the iconic song choices and the interaction made tonight one of the best nights ever, not just for me but for the hundreds of others moved to tears by her wonderful voice and charismatic persona, who could have easily sat there for hours on end watching her sing and listening to her stories of life on Broadway. A feast for the eyes and ears and a stellar performance all round!

- Katie x

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