I Met Lea Salonga After Watching Her on Broadway and It Was So Surreal!

Article by: Michaela Acero

If you’re a super updated Broadway or Lea Salonga fan, you probably know that the two have joined together once again for the remake of the classic musical, Once on This Island (which won the 2018 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical!).

I love musicals and Lea Salonga as much as the average Filipino, but I’m not 100% updated with either; so when my family and I were looking for Broadway plays to watch during our trip in New York, we were pleasantly surprised to find that Lea Salonga is currently performing as the love goddess Erzulie in Once on This Island. Let me tell you about my experience watching, waiting, and even getting to meet Lea Salonga herself!

Luckily enough, my family was able to score first row seats at a good price at TKTS for the Wednesday matinee show of Once on This Island. There was no guarantee that Lea Salonga would be performing on that day, though, since she has understudies in case she is unavailable for a show. All we could do was hope!

On the day of the show, we headed to the Circle in the Square – literally a circle theater in Times Square (I found this really amusing hahaha)! The Once on This Island set was unlike any other musical set I’ve ever seen! The entire stage floor was covered in real sand and real trash, and the walls of the theater were covered in many quirky props like clothes hanging to dry, small statues, and various little “thingamabobs.” Since we were seated in the front, our feet were literally on the sand! I had to remind myself that, no, I hadn’t magically been transported to Boracay after a storm…

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The set of Once on This Island

We checked our Playbills and we were so happy to see that Lea Salonga’s name was clearly on the list of that day’s cast. I won’t spoil anything, but… THE SHOW WAS AMAZING! I literally lost my breath when I saw Lea come out in her majestic goddess costume! Having never seen her perform live before, I can tell you that it was nothing short of awesome. It’s no wonder she won an award for this particular role!

Once on This Island has a very unique and colorful story and soundtrack, yet having a Filipina icon perform right in front of me was what made the show even more special.

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The Playbill of Once on This Island and the cast list for the day

After the 90-minute show, we left the theater to line up outside in hopes that we could get our Playbills signed by some cast members, especially (fingers crossed!) Mrs. Salonga herself. It isn’t routine for all actors to come out of the stage doors to meet fans; apparently, this happens unpredictably. Several actors began to exit, and they were greeted by screaming theatergoers of all nationalities and ages. I even spotted a kapwa Pinoy a few meters away from me!

After a few minutes of waiting, out came THE LEGEND, THE ICON, LEA SALONGA! I could barely contain my excitement as she slowly made her way to our area. I told her the show was amazing and that she was so great, and she smiled nicely back at me. My grandparents were as thrilled as I was! We took a picture with her and even got our Playbills signed.

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My family and I with Lea Salonga!

The whole thing was truly a surreal experience! It’s not everyday that you get to watch and talk to the first Asian woman to win a Tony award, the singing voice of not one, but two (Jasmine and Mulan!) Disney princesses, and the very first Kim in Miss Saigon. The musical theater fan in me was thrilled, but my Filipino self was positively glowing with pride once I left that Island.

Lea Salonga will be performing her last show on June 24, 2018. If you won’t be able to catch her, you can still listen to the beautiful song that she sang in Once on This Island, called “Human Heart,” on Spotify.

Read more about Lea Salonga on Once on This Island here.