Seth Rudetsky’s Broadway concerts have been entertaining fans for over a decade, and while they are usually performed live to an audience, the current pandemic has seen the series move online. Previous concerts in the online series have featured Jessie Mueller and Jeremy Jordan, but this week was the turn of Broadway and West End favourite, Lea Salonga.
It’s the first time the pair have staged a concert together, and Lea Salonga remarked that under normal circumstances she would be performing with jet lag, having had to travel to New York to perform. The combination of a pandemic and huge leaps in technology meant that Salonga was able to perform from her home in Manilla, while Rudetsky provided musical accompaniment from the other side of the globe.
Despite those technological advances, we lost our star guest for just a few minutes during the first song, luckily Rudetsky, often referred to as the Mayor of Broadway, was easily able to fill that short time with a series of Broadway anecdotes, including how Betty Buckley landed a Broadway debut in Cats. Indeed, when Salonga did return, she had to wait while the audience heard the full story about why ‘One Song Glory’ in Rent is staged the way it is (Adam Pascal could never remember the words and needed a prompt card hidden in the sofa.)
With the tech demons exorcised, the first song was repeated, and aptly for Pride Weekend it was Cyndi Lauper’s ‘True Colours’, played in a beautifully stripped back and gentle way which allowed those incredible vocals to really shine through.
The remainder of the concert was comprised of numbers from Musical Theatre, including two Sondheim numbers; ‘Not While I’m Around’ from Sweeney Todd and ‘Everybody Says Don’t’ from Anyone Can Whistle. Salonga’s latest Broadway role was also featured with ‘The Human Heart’ from Once on This Island. Between the songs, Lea and Seth chatted away like the old friends they undoubtedly are, covering a variety of topics from Salonga’s fundraising efforts in The Philippines, to on stage mishaps at Miss Saigon.
Of course, a number from that show had to be included, and it was ‘Why God, Why?’ which was chosen, possibly because it allowed Salonga’s trademark vibrato to be showcased to its fullest. Given that Salonga has played both Fantine and Eponine in Les Misérables, we were treated to a superb mash up of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ and ‘On My Own’, but it was Salonga’s rendition of Valjean’s ‘Bring Him Home’ that sent the chat box in to the biggest spin – the online equivalent of a standing ovation.
Lea Salonga has voiced two Disney characters, Princess Jasmine and Mulan, and it turns out being a Disney Princess earns you more than a few perks when visiting the Disney parks. Apparently, this impresses Salonga’s daughter more than her Mother’s actual appearance in the movies! Both of which were featured with a second mash up, comprised of ‘A Whole New World’ and ‘Reflection’.
These weren’t the only Disney movies to feature though, a throwaway comment about singing a song from The Little Mermaid at her Aladdin audition, gave Rudetsky the idea for an impromptu rendition of ‘Part of Your World’ which sounded the best it ever has with Salonga at the helm.
The Seth Rudetsky Concert Series gives audiences a unique opportunity to be a part of that world for a couple of hours, the perfect mixture of fascinating insights and world class performance. The move online opens the event up to a more global audience, just as Lea Salonga was able to captivate us from her living room, we (including those of us here in the UK) were able to enjoy a Seth Rudetsky Concert from the comfort of our very own homes.