PROVO — Sparkling more brightly than her gold-embroidered gown, Broadway star and international soloist Lea Salonga wowed audiences at two de Jong Concert Hall performances on the BYU campus.
While widely known for her ability to belt out an emotional Broadway ballad, Salonga impressed with the interpretive skills she brought to standards by a variety of composers and her keen, often self-deprecating sense of humor. She also radiated warmth and good cheer to the enthusiastic audiences.
Salonga surprised the audiences with her opening selection of “Feeling Good,” from the 1965 musical “The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd.” But her jazzy interpretation set the tone for the evening of “just fun stuff,” as she later explained.
Following up with Lerner and Lowe’s “On the Street Where You Live,” Salonga’s exquisite technique and commitment to the song was evident. And her rich, creamy vocal tone was also heard in her lush interpretation of the Gershwins’ “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”
Relating that she listens to a wide variety of music, Salonga showed her enjoyment of contemporary songs by covering Lady Gaga’s “Pokerface” and Bruno Mars’ “Forget You.”
The Tony-winner is popularly known for performances as two Disney princesses. To introduce “Reflection” from “Mulan,” Salonga expressed her disappointment at being asked to record a shorter, now-official version. “So now I have to make sure that Mickey Mouse is not in the audience, so I can sing the long, original version,” she said.
Salonga invited an audience member to join her for the “Whole New World” duet from “Aladdin.” “It’s either a train wreck, which is always quite entertaining, or it can be pretty good. Sometimes.”
The evening turned personal as she introduced songs related to meeting her husband and the joy brought by their 5-year-old daughter.
“Blackbird” became a song about romantic timing that revolved around the words:“You were only waiting for this moment to arrive.” The Beatles’ hit was combined with Kander and Ebb’s “A Quiet Thing,” which is about the sweetness of discovering love.
Before an emotional, goose-bump-inducing version of “I’d Give My Life for You” from “Miss Saigon,” Salonga expressed that, after giving birth to her daughter, she now more fully understands the commitment mothers make to their children.
The evening included two “Les Miserables” offerings: “I Dreamed a Dream” and “On My Own,” which Salonga said was her audition song for “Miss Saigon.” After listening to her heart-wrenching version of the Boublil-Schonberg compositions, it’s easy to understand why she landed the career-making role. And why the de Jong audience responded so enthusiastically to her first Utah performances.