Lea Salonga: Dream Again Tour

Lea Salonga

Dream Again Tour

The Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Scottsdale,AZ, May 5, 2022

Reviewed by Lynn Timmons Edwards

Lea Salonga

The Scottsdale Center saved one of their most popular acts to close out its 2021-22 Broadway Series. Lea Salonga is known now as a “Disney legend” for lending her voice to the iconic song “A Whole New World” as Princess Jasmine in the animated film Aladdin. Her Dream Again Tour celebrates the 30th anniversary of the film’s release as well as the release of her new single, “Dream Again,” which was also her opening number. The sold-out house was a broad mix of generations and cultures, including a large contingent of Arizona residents with roots in Salonga’s home country of the Philippines. The young lady sitting next to me was a Disney Princess fan of both Jasmine and Fa Mulan, whom Salonga vocally portrayed in Mulan and Mulan II. Broadway fans know her for her Tony Award-winning role in Miss Saigon and as the first Asian to portray Fantine in Les Misérables. She returned to that show in 2006 to portray Eponine and she is a veteran of both the 10th and 25th Les Misérables anniversary concerts.

Salonga was accompanied by a skilled quartet of musicians: Larry Yurman (music director/pianist), Kevin Axt (bass), Ray Brinker (drums), and Paul Viapiano (guitar).

The 51-year-old singer has expanded her repertoire far beyond Disney and Broadway songs. She kidded that she and her music director had decided to front-load this show with sad songs; she would brag that she has built her career on her ability to make an audience cry. But she also wanted us to feel a sense of resilience. A medley of Stephen Sondheim’s “Move On” and “Not While I’m Around” paid tribute to the recently deceased Broadway songwriter.  She was chosen to sing his early composition “Take Me to the World” for his virtual 90th birthday celebration and she treasures his written response: “Thank you for the birthday gift.”

She has perfected her vocal craft and was in excellent voice. Every tone is forward and clear, and she has total control over her dynamics, masterfully coloring her words when the material allows for her acting skills to shine. Pop songs such as the Cyndi Lauper/Ron Hyman “Time After Time” and Dolly Parton’s hit “Here You Come Again” (Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil) were an easy listen, but less interesting than Great American Songbook classics “Somewhere” (Leonard Bernstein/Sondheim) from West Side Story and “Happy Days Are Here Again” (Milton Ager/Jack Yellen) which rivaled any rendition audiences might have heard Barbra Streisand sing in her concerts. She also gave a nod to Liza Minnelli with the Kander and Ebb classic “Maybe This Time.”

The 2015 “Stiches” by Shawn Mendez was very intense and dark and at times the musicians overpowered the singer. It was clear Salonga wanted to reach all the generations in her audience.  Her most recent Broadway role was the 2018 revival of Once on This Island. She turned in a riveting performance of “Waiting for Life” to open Act II. To satisfy those who came just for a Disney Princess or Miss Saigon fix, she closed the show with a medley of what she calls the “CliffsNotes” of her career. She weaves “I Give My Life to You,” “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Reflection,” “A Whole New World,” and “The Human Heart” into a finale so that no one would go home disappointed.

She returned to the stage for a double encore of “How Far I’ll Go” (Lin-Manuel Miranda/Mark Mancini) from Disney’s Moana and “The Greatest Love of All” (Michael Masser/Linda Creed), which she had used as a second audition song early in her career.

Salonga ventured into the world of cabaret in 2010 with a three-week sold-out engagement at Café Carlyle in New York City. She now performs in concert halls around the world when she’s not recording or taking roles in film and television. She is currently filming the first season of a reboot of Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin for HBO Max.

Lynn Timmons Edwards

Lynn writes and performs themed cabaret shows based on the songs of the Great American Songbook throughout Arizona. She has had three short plays produced in the Theatre Artists Studio Festival of Summer Shorts and is working on a full length play, "Fairy," based on the life of Mary Russell Ferrell Colton, a founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona. In addition to writing and singing, Lynn plays bridge and tennis and enjoys traveling with her husband and artistic companion, Bob. Born in Ohio, Lynn is a graduate of Denison University (BA), Arizona State University (MPA) and has lived in Arizona since 1977.