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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at Café Carlyle


  Lea Salonga/ Ph: Tristan Fuge

Lea Salonga has managed to make quite a transformation as a cabaret artist in a single year, and the results are on full display in her return engagement to the Café Carlyle. Her new show, titled New York in June, runs at the nightclub venue through June 25.

The Filipina performer is still best known for originating the role of Kim in Miss Saigon and then providing the singing voice for Princess Jasmine and Mulan in Disney animated films. More recently, she returned to Broadway in revivals of Flower Drum Song and Les Miserables. She is also slated to star alongside George Takei in the forthcoming musical Allegiance.

Her first show at the Café Carlyle last year, titled The Journey So Far, was mainly a retrospective of her career. At one point, her band serenaded her with the pop hit “A Whole New World” from Aladdin. (Perhaps it was due to an overdose of white wine, but I nearly ending up singing along with them until my friend shushed me.)

On the other hand, New York in June spans numerous musical genres and manages to look at some well-known songs in original ways. For instance, she performed “I Enjoy Being a Girl” not in the ordinarily playful and sexy manner, but with contempt and mockery, and paired it up with “Femininity,” a little-known song by the Sherman Brothers for the 1963 film Summer Magic. She also managed to combine the Beatles’ "Blackbird" with a selection from the Kander & Ebb rarity “A Family Affair.”

In one particularly inspired moment, her mention of life on the road as a concert hall artist led into a rendition of Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere.”

Her other musical theater selections – including “Everybody Says Don’t” from Stephen Sondheim’s Anyone Can Whistle and a ballad from the short-lived off-Broadway musical I Love You Because – were similarly smart and also poignant. And for good measure, she also threw in some traditional Filipino songs.

But perhaps most importantly, Salonga now seems more at ease in an intimate venue. She spent much of the evening conversationally talking about – and even conversing with – her family. She discussed a quiz she found on Facebook that measures how Filipino a person is.


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