Singer-actor Lea Salonga showed off her formidable vocal and dramatic talents in “An Evening with Lea Salonga” to a packed house on Saturday in an Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Pops concert. Salonga, whose Broadway pedigree was earned with her Tony Award-winning portrayal in “Miss Saigon,” and roles in “Les Misérables,” “Allegiance,” and “Once on This Island.” She is also widely known as the singing voices of Princess Jasmine in Disney’s “Aladdin” and the titular character in the “Mulan” films.
Marking her return to the Hilbert Circle stage for the first time since her 2013 appearance, Salonga, accompanied by the ISO, led by conductor Jack Everly, sang a program comprised primarily Broadway songs. Showing off her astonishing vocal range and power, Filipina Salonga also bantered easily with the audience, sharing anecdotes from her prodigious career as a trailblazing Asian artist. With her feet planted squarely in front of a mic stand for the duration of the two-hour concert (with a 20-minute intermission), the beauteous Salonga displayed the uncommon talents that have made her the Broadway superstar she is.
During Salonga’s Act I introductory remarks, she acknowledged how happy and grateful she was to return to performing live in front of an audience after the pandemic hiatus. She then sang “Dream Again,” which included a chorus with the following lyrics: “My heart’s been holding out so long/That we will be together once again/Let’s fill the silence with a song/Our melody will live to be softened/My friend/It’s time to dream again.” Other highlights included “I Enjoy Being a Girl” from “Flower Drum Song,” “Out There” from Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “I’d Give My Life for You” from “Miss Saigon,” and “The Human Heart,” from “On This Island.”
Proving that few can belt and sustain high notes like her, Salonga was explosive in Act 2, as she interpreted more Broadway songs, including “Something’s Coming” from “West Side Story,” “Send In the Clowns” from “A Little Night Music,” “A Whole New World,” from “Aladdin,” “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Misérables,” and “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked.” For an encore, Salonga sang “True Colors,” then another, an ABBA medley that included “Mamma Mia,” bringing the audience to their feet.
In possession of a virtuoso vocal instrument and joined by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra that never sounded better, Salonga turned in one of the most entertaining concerts I have attended thus far, this season. Her stellar performance, marked by charismatic showmanship, was yet another reminder of how fortunate we are to enjoy live performance, much less from a world-class artist such as she, once again.
For tickets and information about the remainder of the 2021-2022 Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra season, visit indianapolissymphony.org