Her Journey So Far

Lea Salonga

 Tony Award-winner Lea Salonga delighted fans in a rare concert in San Francisco to kick off Filipino American Heritage Month.

It is apparently a rare occurrence to have the international Broadway and movie musical star Lea Salonga perform in the San Francisco Bay Area, since she’s a self-proclaimed New Yorker who divides her time between the Big Apple and the Philippines.  So it was a treat for the mostly Filipino American crowd that packed the Nourse Auditorium in the city a few weeks ago to welcome the singing sensation, in time for Filipino American Heritage Month.

PhilDev, a non-profit that develops programs to support initiatives cultivating economic growth in the Philippines through science and technology, brought Ms. Salonga to the City by the Bay  for a one night-only benefit gala.  It was a kind of a reintroduction since her whirlwind success in the 1990s.  She has certainly grown into her own, using the cabaret-style format to illustrate the trajectory of her career from the age of seven to a mellow 42-year-old.

“I’ve learned through characters,” Ms. Salonga explained in between songs.  “I am grateful for the work, even on a rickety stage and an iffy sound system somewhere in the Philippines.”  She said her perspective of the world has changed as a woman, a friend, mother and daughter, adding she is less judgmental.

Her song selection came from her 2011 CD “The Journey So Far,” a mix of musical numbers, American standards, pop and Filipino songs, that was spun from her 2010 limited-run singing engagement in New York City’s Cafe Carlyle.  She also dedicated a portion of her performance to the rich history of Filipino Americans here, referencing literary icon Carlos Bulosan in the song “Long Season.”  With age, her exquisite voice has found more range as she determinedly knocked out Stephen Sondheim’s vocally challenging “I Don’t Want to Get Married” from his musical “Company.”

The concert lasted roughly two hours, minus a half-hour or so intermission, and the sold-out audience was unquestionably sated by night’s end, with some of course wanting more.  Fans stood in a line that snaked out the venue’s doors into the courtyard, waiting for an autograph.