Adapting Puccini's opera "Madame Butterfly," the British producers of "Miss Saigon" tried vainly to find a young Asian actress/singer in the U.K. who could play the lead role of a Vietnamese orphan. Scouring many countries they eventually found 17-year-old Lea Salonga in the Philippines.
Initially opening in London, "Miss Saigon" became a massive hit, later breaking box office records on Broadway (with advance ticket sales at $24 million), and established Salonga as an international star. She became the first actress to win multiple awards for a single role, including the Tony, Laurence Olivier, Drama Desk and Theatre World awards.
"I had no idea it would be as successful as it ended up being," Salonga reports. "It's still being produced in regional productions all over the country, which makes me very proud to have been a part of it. It ran for 10 years both in London and New York, and spawned two national tours.As for its impact on my career, it most certainly didn't hurt. The show changed my life completely, and I'll always be grateful."
One whole new world after another for LEA SALONGA The Philippines’ national treasure returns to the MACC
Making her professional debut in a Repertory Philippines' production of "The King and I," Salonga began her recording career at the age of 10, eventually receiving a gold record for her first album, "Small Voice." She later hosted her own musical TV show, "Love, Lea," and opened concerts for Stevie Wonder and Menudo.
Following her crowning achievement in "Miss Saigon," Salonga played the role of the street waif Eponine in the Broadway production of "Les Miserables," then flew to Los Angeles to perform the Oscar-winning song "A Whole New World" (as the voice of Princess Jasmine) from Disney's animated feature hit "Aladdin," at the 65th Annual Academy Awards. In the same year she released her self-titled international debut album, which sold 3 million copies worldwide.
Since then she captivated audiences worldwide as the main heroine in the animated movie "Mulan," and scored again in major stage productions of "The King and I" and the "Flower Drum Song."
Among her recording highlights, besides soundtracks of her hit musicals, she teamed with Peabo Bryson on the song "How Wonderful We Are" for the album "People: A Musical Celebration Of Diversity," which also included artists such as Vanessa Williams and Chaka Khan.
In 2007, she released her most recent CD, "Inspired," a collection of favorite songs including Jim Brickman's "To Hear You Say," and her wedding song, "Two Words" by Louie Ocampo.
Hailed as a national treasure in the Philippines, Salonga received a presidential award of merit this year, the highest honor bestowed upon a civilian in her country. She has performed before five Filipino presidents, three American presidents and the queen of England.
Returning to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater on Nov. 13, Salonga will touch on all facets of her career. "A few of the songs will be different from the last time I was there, but for sure I shall be including Disney, lots of musical theater and a couple of Filipino songs," she says. "I love sharing a part of my culture and country wherever I go."
Currently touring North America, in December she returns to her homeland for a special fan concert. "It's a concert in Manila titled 'Your Songs,' " she explains. "Fans have requested what songs they'd like me to sing, and that's what I'll be singing."
As to her most popular audience favorites she says: "Audiences have been responding to 'On My Own,' 'I Dreamed a Dream' and 'A Whole New World.' They've also liked 'Taylor, The Latte Boy,' which is a song written for a friend of mine and is a cabaret and audition staple."
And her youngest fans are most thrilled when she breaks out a song from "Aladdin" or "Mulan."
"You have no idea how many kids have freaked out when I sing 'A Whole New World' or 'Reflection' to a kid," she concludes. "It's made me laugh a whole lot, which makes it all worthwhile."
* Lea Salonga performs in the MACC's Castle Theater at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13. Tickets are $39, $49 and $125 plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.
The American Bluegrass Masters Tour unites Grand Ole Opry legend Bobby Osborne with some of the hottest bluegrass musicians, including Grammy-winning dobro player Curtis Burch.
As one half of the legendary Osborne Brothers, Bobby Osborne has had a profound impact on the evolution of bluegrass as a vocalist, mandolinist and bandleader for over five decades.
The Brothers pioneered the distinctive "high-lead" vocal arrangement in bluegrass, and were the first bluegrass band to perform on a college campus, in 1960, and the first to play a concert at the White House (1973).
By incorporating electric instruments, drums and an expanded repertoire, the Osborne Brothers kept bluegrass on the air and on the charts throughout the '60s and '70s, even winning the Country Music Association's Vocal Group of the Year award in 1971. Now in his late 70s, Osborne continues to play and sing, leading his band the Rocky Top X-Press.
Curtis Burch, known as Dr. Dobro, founded the pioneering New Grass Revival, with Sam Bush, Courtney Johnson and John Cowan. In 1987, he performed with bluegrass icon Doc Watson on Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion." A few years later he won a Grammy for "The Great Dobro Sessions," and he also played on the multi-Grammy-winning soundtrack for "O Brother Where Art Thou?"
Also playing on the tour are Norman Dean Osborne, Bobby V. Osborne Jr., John Paul (JP) Mathes and Reona Tokutake.
* The American Bluegrass Masters Tour is presented in the MACC's Castle Theater on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12, $27 and $37, plus applicable fees, available as above.
It's flashback time at the Maui Beach Hotel for a "Deja Vu" 1970s nightclub reunion show on Friday, with presentations at 6 and 9 p.m. This night of nostalgia features headliners The Fabulous Shamroks and the Purple Haze playing songs from the '60s and '70s, recalling the days when the Shamroks won Haleakala Dairy's "Battle of the Bands" and Purple Haze placed third. Purple Haze's original members include Martin Hill, Randy Sasada, Alan Oura and Mark Sato. The Fabulous Shamroks will field all six original members - lead singer Alan Pascua, Earl Apo Jr., Randy Pascua Jr., Rudy Mina Jr., Jerry Javier and Nestor Bio.
Host band Asian Blend, fronted by Sunway, will mix its dance repertoire with songs from the '70s through the '90s. Original members Jay Molina and Mitch Hazama will be joined by Dave Ray Toma, Mike Kennedy, Gilbert Emata and Doobie Brothers/Kalapana saxophonist David Choy.
Also on the bill, Russ Correia and friends and The Fugitives. Tony Takatani will be the emcee.
Tickets are $35, available by calling 242-8554. Tickets for the later show are available on a "standing- room-only basis" as the reserved seats are sold out.
The seventh annual MauiFEST Hana Film Festival presents an afternoon and evening of free music and movies from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday at Hana Bay Beach Park. The entertainment lineup includes slack key guitarists John Keawe, Don Kaulia and Kevin and IkaikaBrown, plus Walter Keale, Calvin Hoe, Benny Uyetake, the Zenshin Daiko taiko drummers, and Miss Hula O Na Keiki winner Hulali Brown with hula halau Ke Kua O Kala Au Ala Ili Ahi.
Some of the films screening include "Voyages Journey of the Hawaiians," "Kekohi," "Ko Aloha Ukulele Story," and "Ke Ka'apuni Ho'onui 'ike."
The event features food booths and Hawaiian arts and crafts with proceeds benefiting Ohana Makamae, Hana Youth Center andHale Hulu Mamo. No coolers are allowed; bring low beach chairs and blankets.
It's hard to believe that the legendary U.K. ska revival group the English Beat will play Maui. Fusing ska, reggae, punk and Motown-style soul, their hits included "Mirror in the Bathroom," "Stand Down Margaret," "Twist And Crawl" and the brilliant souped-up cover of Smokey Robinson's "Tears Of A Clown."
When the Beat (as they were known in the U.K.) originally broke up in 1983, their members went on to form General Public and Fine Young Cannibals. Led by founding member Dave Wakeling, the English Beat plays the Maui Theater in Lahaina on Dec. 3. as part of a 30th anniversary tour.