For Broadway legend Lea Salonga, the song was "On My Own."
In BYUtv’s intelligently conceived new series, “The Song That Changed My Life,” producers chronicle the pivotal pieces of music that inspired and continue to motivate the careers of professional musicians.
The highly entertaining premiere episode, airing at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 31, profiles Salonga. While popularly known as the singing voice of two Disney princesses, in “Mulan” and “Aladdin,” Salonga is also a widely admired recording artist and concert soloist.
The song that changed her life is from “Les Miserables.” And like Frank Sinatra with “My Way” and Barbra Streisand with “The Way We Were,” Salonga has stamped “On My Own” as her own. The heartbreaking emotion that she brings to this song of unrequited love, along with her superb vocals, was most evident when she played the “Les Miz” character of Eponine in the 10th anniversary production of the record-breaking musical.
That would be significant enough, but how the song truly changed her life was at her audition before producer Cameron Mackintosh and the “Les Miz” authors, Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boubil. Salonga, then a nearly unknown 17-year-old actress, was in competition for the lead in “Miss Saigon,” which the trio had been searching worldwide to find. The actual footage of this audition is one of the significant archival recordings included in the episode. And it’s endearing to see that before Salonga began to sing, she asked for Schonberg’s autograph.
“Miss Saigon” opened in 1989 and catapulted Salonga to stardom, winning her both a Tony and the British equivalent, an Olivier.
This episode’s director, Adam Anderegg, was able to interview Salonga and include clips of her rehearsal and performances last September while on campus at Brigham Young University for two sold-out concerts in the de Jong Concert Hall. There’s also a music video-style montage at the end of the episode that was filmed in downtown Provo.
In addition to explaining the impact “On My Own” had on her professionally, Salonga introduces one personal selection in her concert repertoire. Conceived by her musical director Larry Yurman, the medley combines the Beatles’ “Blackbird” and “A Quiet Thing,” from the musical “Flora, the Red Menance,” by John Kander and Fred Ebb.
“Some of the best things happen in the quiet ways. That’s how I met Rob,” she says, speaking of her husband of eight years. “We didn’t have the big fireworks but when we met each other, we knew. It was quiet and subtle.”
For Salonga, love didn’t begin with crashing cymbals, but “happiness (came) in on tiptoe,” to quote a lyric from the medley.
As insightful as the premiere episode is, the second episode gives viewers a very personal look at the work of Duncan Sheik. The ubiquitous ’90s hit “Barely Breathing” began Sheik’s pop-rock career, but the composer has since broadened into films and the Broadway stage.
Filmed at Sheik’s Sneaky Studios in the Hudson River Valley area of New York, the program reveals his songwriting process and includes an animated video of a musical he is developing. The quietly impressive “Whisper House,” based on a recent CD release, is a highly personal project for Sheik, based on aspects of his childhood.
“The Song That Changed My Life: Duncan Sheik” airs in the series’ regular Monday-evening timeslot at 7:30 p.m., on April 2. Three additional episodes have been announced so far, with more to follow in this continuing series.
The Lower Lights, April 9: the indie hymns revival group of Utah musicians.
Jack and White, April 16: the California-country-rock music of “American Idol” finalist Brooke White and singer-songwriter Jack Matranga.
Fictionist, April 23: the Provo-based indie pop-rock band.