By David Davila (playwright/song-writer)
Did you know that almost all of Lea Salonga’s recordings were done live?! LIVE!? Isn’t that cray-cray? I mean the girl decides to put on a concert, and she’s so pitch perfect, and in tune, that all they have to do is hire someone to press record, and she has a new album on itunes.
Lea. Gurl. Can we talk? I mean, can we talk about how you just don’t get enough recognition in this country? What gives? Time Out New York did a story about the twenty-five greatest divas in Broadway history and they totally left you off the list, and instead included several people who had only been in one Broadway show. I mean…. blasphemy!
Adam Feldman and David Cote obviously have never seen this....
(Lea Salonga at Carnegie Hall 2008)
We’re talking about the Tony award winning actress from my favorite musical of all time (Miss Saigon), who also happens to be the voice of two Disney princesses. I get upset when people have never even heard of her. The woman is MAD famous in Asia, dawg! MAD! Like Cover of Magazine Famous! In Asia she is a Level 4, and in America she's only at Level 2..... I want her to be Level 4 here too!!!!!!!!!!
She’s the Barbra Streisand of Asia, and rightfully so when you hear that version of “People,” so why the lack of recognition in the states?The only person who seems willing to color-blind cast her in America is Cameron Mackintosh, a Brit. Which makes me scratch my head in amazement. One of the top 10 living voices on the planet, and Broadway producers, American audiences, Hollywood filmmakers even, aren’t fighting over her left and right? Where is Lea’s multi-picture romantic comedy deal?
(Wouldn't she have been great in some cheesy 90's romantic comedies? Where are the Asians in main stream Hollywood films? Seems like they're only cast in stereotypical roles.)When I go to see Ms. Salonga live, I'm one of only a few non-Filipino audience members. Where are the rest of the gay men in America?
What I’m trying to say I suppose, is that Lea Salonga shouldn’t just be a Filipino National Treasure. She should be an International Treasure, but for some reason Americans have brushed her aside as an “Asian singer,” as if that is some kind of subgenre of “regular singers.” It’s as if mentally people make a subconscious statement in their head thinking “Oh, she’ll never get to play any of the great roles so I really shouldn’t pay attention to her.”
Lea Salonga has the type of voice that inspires Oprah or Ellen to dedicate an hour long telecast to her, sending millions of people out to buy her recordings; but that never happened.Indeed Oprah and Ellen both invited Charice Pampengo on their programs only to see her album fail in the states, unlike in Asia where it became a giant hit.
(Charice's international hit PYRAMID, which received no radio airplay in the states.)So I have to ask if the problem here isn’t within the industry but actually somewhere among the American people who aren’t willing to accept an Asian superstar unless they are playing the stereotypical role of ninja warrior.
(Jessica Sanchez: the next great pop diva - hopefully...)
(Bobby Steggert as a Chinese Emperor in Duncan Shiek's THE NIGHTINGALE... I guess Telly Leung, Jose Llana, and Ethan Le Phong weren't available.)
(The Asian Chicken salad scene from Margaret Cho's REVOLUTION)
All I can do is try to get you to fall in love with Lea Salonga’s amazing ability to perform a song, and hope that one of you talented composers out there reading this blog, might be inspired to write a new role for Lea.
And now I’d like to acquaint you with some of her best recordings, I know you're dirt poor so I will go through several of her albums (yes I have them all) and highlight which stuff you really need on your ipod:
Don’t Know What to Do Don’t Know What To Say - this song always gets stuck in my head, it’s fantastic!
Do NOT get the 1995 Complete Cast Recording... that is NOT Lea on the recording, look for the sticker that verifies it has Lea. Do not be fooled... and I have never been a fan of the re-written Broadway lyrics, or the orchestration of the final scene. Stick to the original cast recording ALWAYS!!!!
Two Words - a song she sang for her husband at their wedding
When The Winter’s Gone - never has she sounded more like Karen Carpenter than here...
LEA SALONGA LIVE: Vol I & II
All of it!!!! Spring for the entire two volume set... I promise it’s worth it... If you can’t afford it, then at least get the Disney Medley. Her version of Go The Distance is breathtaking. She makes the song sound like a masterpiece. Alan Menken, hello, you should have written Lea a show years ago!
SONGS FROM THE SCREEN:
Somewhere Over The Rainbow... because no one can ever get tired of this song, and her version is immaculate.
LEA SALONGA: THE BROADWAY CONCERT
For some reason this album isn’t available on itunes anymore, but it’s available on DVD, and it comes with the CD. This entire concert is amazing, and I recommend getting the whole thing, but again if you can’t, make sure you get Nothing. Her version is literally the best acted/sang version of this song I’ve ever seen. A masterclass in acting. Also I’ve Never Been in Love Before is like a hot knife through butter. Ouch! Amazzaballs!
DAVID DAVILA is half of the song-writing duo Havrilla & Davila, author of the Tex-Mex plays ADAN Y JULIO, MEN OF GOD, CREDO, REQUERDOS OF MY LIFE, and AZTEC PIRATES AND THE INSIGNIFICANCE OF LIFE ON MARS. He is a self-proclaimed Voxist, Diva enthusiast, and the founder of Lone Star Theatre Co. Catch a concert of his 52 Songs project Sept 5th at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. Wanna talk about it? www.daviddavila.net
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