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Lea Salonga In Concert: London Palladium (and touring)

July 24, 2019

(seen at the evening performance on 21st July 2019).

Explaining the postponement of this much-anticipated concert from February until now due to a skiing accident, Salonga remarks ruefully, “what is a Pilipino doing on a ski-slope anyway?”

Her first huge laugh of the evening, and the Palladium theatre magic kicked in. For those who don’t know, the Palladium’s stage is enchanted and always has been. It will make anyone who makes the effort look better than they are, and magnify the faults of the lazy. A good show will be great, a mediocre one humbled. This night was firmly in the first category.

Unusually for a concert, musical director Larry Yurman gave us an overture – a potted history of Lea’s life in music, familiar snippets setting the scene for her arrival on stage in a beautifully-cut jacket outfit. Thirty years on, the lady is as fresh as the girl who took London by storm in 1989, and she was going to make the most of it.

“Feeling Good” told us of her mood, and “Go the Distance” her intention for the night.

Chat, how she hopes her work will inspire others of her ethnicity to live their dreams as she does hers is underlined by “Reflection” from “Mulan” – one of three Disney movies which lead to Disney declaring her a “Disney Legend” in 2011.

A slightly odd change of pace with “Fast Car” (Tracy Chapman) and “Drops of Jupiter” (Train) follow. The latter slightly more effective and an introduction to both for this monkey.

“Human Heart” from Broadway show “Once On This Island” brought us back to show-tune territory, rather suggesting how strong a song must be for a theatre professional to get the most out of it.

Another “left field” selection, “Story of My Life” – a “One Direction” number demonstrated her range and also some risk-taking that paid off. Another risk – her own on relationships resulting in her beloved daughter – lent personal meaning to her spotlight moment closing act one, “I’d Give My Life For You” from “Miss Saigon.” And the audience knew she meant it.

Some Sondheim opened act two, with “Another Hundred People” from “Company.” Arguably the strongest performance of the night, simply up there with the original, Bernadette Peters and a very select few others. “In A Very Unusual Way” was a sensible lower-key transition into an amusing audience sing-a-long “Let It Go” from “Frozen.” Even without a small daughter, yep, knew all the words… but couldn’t get up to anything like the notes our hostess managed.

Inviting musical theatre performer Rachelle Ann Go onto the stage, “I Know Him So Well” had the monkey wishing this duo had been cast in last year’s London Coliseum revival. Both women demonstrated acting skills and understanding of the song way beyond the usual cabaret cover it has become.

Another whiff of 1980s nostalgia followed with Chris Allard on guitar accompanying a ballad arrangement of A-Ha classic “Take On Me.” One that should be recorded if it hasn’t been already.

“Burn” from “Hamilton” signalled the final run-in as show business called again – and if they are looking around for a third sister, they have one here.

Looking around the auditorium, New Zealander Charlie was chosen to duet on “A Whole New World.” Fortunately, a bit of a wit as well as able to carry a tune, the result was a fun interlude.

Back to the real business, with a “Les Miz mash up” of “I Dreamed a Dream” and “On My Own.” Both delivered with the weight of someone who knows the show intimately, and sagging only with the endearingly naff on-stage school disco lighting design (fortunately un-credited). The Palladium’s own wonderful team on spotlights were perfection, the rest, well, amusing anyway.

Two encores, yes, two, for the crowd. “This is Me” stood up well against the original the monkey had heard just a month ago at the Hugh Jackman concert. “The Greatest Love of All” closed the show, reminding us that whatever else, Lea Salonga’s voice is still up there with the best – high and crystal clear. If anything her diction has become even more polished with time, more than capable of dealing with the occasionally punchy sound design obviously intended for a lesser venue’s capabilities.

A special evening with one of the leading ladies of musical theatre, played to a crowd of adoring home ex-pats and British musical theatre enthusiasts. Salamat musika, salamat Lea Salonga.

 

5 stars, standing ovation.

 

And that’s it for the summer. Taking a “ blog break” now until 11th September. Back when the leaves start to fall. Watch twitter for details.

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