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Lea Salonga was born (on February 22) and raised in the Philippines. She began performing professionally when she was seven years young, and from there, she continued with much success at the Philippines Reperatory Theatre. As she took part in many theatrical productions as she grew up, she recorded her first album recording at the age of ten. It didn't take long to establish herself as a household name throughout her country. Soon she was performing in public concerts in addition to becoming a name of success in voice and in the theatre.

In 1989, she attended an audition in Manila where producers and writers of the hit musical Les Miserables went to search for the right actress to play the lead role in their new musical, Miss Saigon (pictured at right). At the time, she was enrolled in college, pursuing a biology degree and pre-medicine studies. But all that changed. After a series of auditions, some of which required her to travel to London to complete, Lea earned herself the lead role of Kim, which came to be her first international big break. After a year and a half, and after a bit of controversy surrounding her and Jonathan Pryce (playing the part of the Engineer), she and Pryce continued in their respective roles in the Broadway production of Miss Saigon. (Visit the official Miss Saigon web page: http://www.miss-saigon.com.)

During her run in Miss Saigon she received a note from the casting director working on Disney's Aladdin, and she set up an appointment to audition for the singing voice of Princess Jasmine (pictured at left). After what was obviously a spectacular rendition of her chosen audition piece, "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid, she was chosen for the part. Lea as EponineAlong with the stunning success of the movie, the song she sang with Brad Kane (the singing voice of Aladdin), "A Whole New World," was nominated for (and won!) Best Song at the Academy Awards, where she and Kane performed an elaborate rendition of the song during the ceremony.

After her run in Miss Saigon, she continued to showcase her talents on Broadway, playing the role of Eponine in Les Misérables (pictured at right). In 1995, she was invited to reprise her role as Eponine in the Tenth Anniversary Concert of Les Mis at the Royal Albert Hall in London. (Visit the official Les Misérables web page: http://www.lesmis.com.)

A veteran of several Filipino movies, she made her U.S. television-movie debut in Redwood Curtain, opposite John Lithgow and Jeff Daniels. In this very touching and heart- warming movie, she plays the role of a half-American-half-Vietnamese concert pianist whose father was a Veteran of the Vietnam War. They left her mother behind in Vietnam after the war, and she grew up with her father and the woman he later married in the United States. However, she did not know that he was really her father; he'd told her when she little that she was adopted. Not knowing her true roots, she was unable to effectively put herself into her music. So she set off on a quest to find out all she could about her parents -- a quest that ultimately became an all-out obsession that led her to a small town bordering the Redwood Curtain, a forest expanse inhabited by veterans of the war.

Late in 1995, Lea won the honor to shine in another Disney movie, Mulan, due to be released June 19, 1998. She will be the singing voice of the title character (pictured at left) whose speaking voice is provided by Ming-Na Wen, seen in The Joy Luck Club. (For more info on Mulan, visit Disney's official Mulan web page: http://www.mulan.com.)

On November 1, 1997, Lea Salonga performed at an event in San Francisco, celebrating the success of the Filipino Heritage Foundation. You can read my review of the concert.

After the release of Aladdin, Lea recorded an album with Atlantic Record which she self-titled (pictured at right). Among the wonderful songs submitted by various writers, the first single released was "We Could Be In Love," a charming duet alongside Brad Kane, whose voice blends seamlessly with Lea's. A couple of years later, she recorded a song with pop star Peabo Bryson entitled "How Wonderful We Are" for the soundtrack People, a special shown on Disney Channel. And recently, she completed the recording of her newest album, entitled "Lea in Love" (which I still have yet to buy and listen to!), and was released in stores in the Philippines..

Then it was reported that Lea was considering taking the role of Belle in the Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast. For a while, all we knew was that a contract was in the negotiation progress. Unfortunately, the deal never went through. (As of right now, Toni Braxton is performing the role of Belle -- and doing a pretty good job, so I hear.)

Then some very exciting news made its way to the fans. Lea Salonga was planning to return to Broadway to star as Kim again in Miss Saigon! This was a very big deal because a) this was the role that Lea originated and b) it had been almost a decade since she first appeared in Miss Saigon, and fans who'd never seen her in this role would finally get their chance. Her run began on January 18, 1999 and she was originally scheduled to go until May 15. Due to popular demand, she agreed to extend her run until mid- June.

An article about her return to Miss Saigon can be seen here at her "official" (?) web page at http://www.xnet.com/~wmeistr/LEA/sked1.html.

Lea Salonga: Achievements, Career Highlights & Awards
Elementary and High School Valedictorian O.B. Montesorri, Philippines
Recorded her first album at the age of 10 entitled "Small Voice" 1981 Philippines
Aliw Awards Best Child Performer 1980-1982 Philippines
Tinig Awards Best Child Singer 1983-1985 Philippines
Originated the Lead role of Kim in the Hit Musical "Miss Saigon" 1989 London, England
1991 Broadway
Medal of Merit by President Corazon C. Aquino 1990 Philippines
Lawrence Olivier Awards: Best Actress 1991 London
Tony Awards: Best Actress in a Musical 1991 New York
Drama Desk Award New York
Outer Critics Circle Award
Theatre World Award New York
Provided singing voice to Princess Jasmine in Disney's Aladdin 1992
Portrayed the role of Tuptim in a remake recording of The King and I (also starring Ben Kingsley and Julie Andrews). 1993
Portrayed the role of Eponine in Les Misérables 1993 Broadway
Performed "A Whole New World" with Brad Kane at the 65th Annual Academy Awards 1993 Los Angeles, CA
Chosen to play the role of Eponine in the Les Misérables 10th Anniversary Concert in 1995 London
Starred in lead role, Geri Riordan, in the made-for-TV movie Redwood Curtain 1995
Recorded single "How Wonderful We Are" with Peabo Bryson for Disney's special feature People: A Musical Celebration of Diversity 1995
Performed at a concert following Hong Kong's reunification with China November 1997
Performed at a concert with the Children's Choir of the Philippine Cultural Academy and the Philippine Heritage Foundation Chorale 1997 San Francisco, CA
Released her second U.S. album entitled "Lea ... in Love" June 1998
Performed in Hey, Mr. Producer! celebrating the hit shows produced by Cameron Mackintosh alongside many other accomplished artists such as Colm Wilkinson and Jonathan Pryce. June 1998 London
Provided singing voice for title character in Disney's Mulan. (Only second artist to provide voice more than once.) June 1998
Many thanks to Sonny Alquizola for assistance in additional information!

Lea in Hawaii
Lea signing autographs after a performance of Les Mis in Hawaii.

Thanks to Bryon Uyechi for providing the picture!