Lea Salonga In Concert – Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

Theater Review – May 6, 2022


Virginia G. Piper Theater, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Scottsdale, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

Back in 1991, I saw the original Broadway production of “Miss Saigon.” The impeccable cast featured a young performer marking her New York debut as the tragic Kim.  That 18-year-old was Lea Salonga.  She was impressive then and continues to maintain her remarkable allure today.

The diminutive Salonga appeared solo at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts with a brilliant and jazzy back-up quartet as the singer used her magnificent voice to perform a two-act set filled with songs from her musical theater and movie career plus other songs she has trademarked.

She dazzled the sold-out audience.  After an impressive overture featuring a smattering of her signature tunes, she appeared in a simple black pantsuit looking magnificent.  After a few introductory remarks, she used her distinctive and familiar voice with all of its power and finesse to perform a generous catalogue of fan-favorite tunes.  Her voice soared through the Center and her impressive diction made every word clear and distinctive.  She was relaxed and enjoyed every moment of her performance.

It was like we were back in 1991.  While her voice has grown more mature and expressive, her ability to sing with the gusto and bravado she has always used is amazing.  Her selections included signature song hits from “Miss Saigon” and “Les Misérables” plus a welcome Stephen Sondheim tribute during which she spoke glowingly of the recently deceased writer/composer’s lasting contributions to the musical theater catalogue.  She mentioned her luck in playing Mrs. Lovett in Sondheim’s operatic “Sweeney Todd.”

Her conductor/pianist kept the band and Salonga working together stunningly.  The quartet played loudly but Salonga’s microphone allowed her voice to soar while atmospheric lighting further enhanced the mood of each song with subtle projections further highlighting song lyrics.

For the second act, she appeared in a beautiful flowing blue gown but she complained about wearing high heels to which the crowd encouraged her to remove them.  She declined as she wanted to maintain the perfect picture for her fans.

She sang songs from two popular contemporary musicals – “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Hamilton” – expressing sincere and moving emotion as she thoughtfully explained each show.  She sang familiar Disney favorites and a moving “Somewhere” from “West Side Story.”  Two encores closed out the performance including an impressive Stephen Schwartz tune, “Written on The Wind” composed for “Mulan” before the composer was fired and a new team brought in to create the score.

“Lea Salonga in Concert” was an unforgettable entertainment.  Isn’t it time to write a new musical that highlights Salonga’s great performing gifts?  Like other Broadway performers appearing at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Salonga performed for a single time.  Next season’s Broadway stars who will be appearing at the Scottsdale Center have not yet been announced but should be named soon.

Grade: A