FUNFARE By Ricardo F. Lo - Lea at The Café Carlyle in New York during her first performance there in March last year.

BREAKING NEWS: Lea Salonga will be back on Broadway this summer as lead star of the new musical Allegiance opposite Star Trek actor George Takei.

This piece of good news was relayed to Funfare by this corner’s Big Apple correspondent Edmund Silvestre who also added that, prior to her Broadway comeback, Lea will be the exclusive featured artist for three straight weeks at The Café Carlyle from June 7 to 25.

Allegiance tells the story of a Japanese-American family’s struggles and triumphs during the World War II.

“Lea will play Gloria Suziki,” said Edmund. “She and Takei will be joined by several Asian-American actors including Fil-Ams Paolo Montalban and Alan Ariano.”

Edmund recalled that as lead star of Miss Saigon, the longest-running Broadway musical of all time, Lea scored a Best Actress grand slam (Tony, Oliver, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Theater World Awards), and was the first Asian to play Eponine in Les Miserables on Broadway, returning to it as Fantine in the 2006 revival.

“She recently participated in the 25th-anniversary concert of Les Miz to sell-out crowds at UK’s 02 Arena. Of course, she also dazzled audiences as the hauntingly tragic Grizabella in a limited run of CATS in Manila.”

The Café Carlyle stint is Lea’s second.

According to Edmund, Lea will be accompanied by a quartet led by musical director and pianist Larry Yurman in an all-new program of songs to be megged by Daniel Kutner.

[PHOTO - LEFT: With composer/lyricist/playwrite Jay Kuo. RIGHT: With George Takei (of Star Trek) at last year’s pre-reading of Allegiance, the play in which Lea is performing on Broadway this summer

“Lea, who will take over the Café Carlyle stage from the legendary film director and musician Woody Allen and his jazz band, is welcomed by The Carlyle Hotel managing director Erich Steinboch, who raves about Lea’s unparalleled talent and box-office power among the Big Apple’s elite circle and music aficionados that prompted Café Carlyle to sign her up for the second time around.”

Edmund quoted Steinboch as saying, “Ms. Salonga’s repertoire will cover Filipino music, musical theater and the Great American Songbook. Regular patrons as well as first timers can’t wait to watch and hear her perform live on stage in an intimate setting.”

Other legendary stars who have performed at The Café Carlyle include Judy Collins, Eartha Kitt, Elaine Stritch, Barbara Cook, John Pizzarelli, Jessica Molaskey, Beverly Peer, Ute Lemper and Steve Tyrell.

The Café Carlyle is located in The Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street on Madison Avenue, and is what top entertainment journalist Liz Smith calls the “favorite of all New York nightspots.” (Note: Tickets to Café Carlyle’s An Evening with Lea Salonga are priced at $75 [Tuesday thru Friday], $85 [Saturdays] and $45 at the bar.)

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Incidentally, last May 21, Lea and husband Rob Chien treated their daughter Nicole to a holiday in Hong Kong Disneyland for the girl’s fifth birthday. Lea happened to have an engagement in Hong Kong that same week.

“Even if it isn’t a special occasion, just being here (at Hong Kong Disneyland) makes that day special,” Funfare sources quoted Lea as saying.

Lea is familiar with Disney and Hong Kong Disneyland. Many Disney fans know her as one of the voice actors for the Disney films Aladdin (as Jasmine) and Mulan (title role). She also performed at the grand opening of Hong Kong Disneyland in 2005.

By coincidence, Disneyland was also marking its fifth anniversary so the number five was prominently displayed throughout the park.

Funfare sources added that Nicole made new friends during her visit, including Rapunzel from Tangled. She also rode the carousel with Cinderella, one of her favorite Disney characters. The princess and birthday girl had a lovely chat and Cinderella clearly made an impression on Nicole.

Nicole knows that her mother has recorded classic Disney songs. Lea said now that she is a mother, her Mulan and Jasmine recordings have even more meaning.

The music provides a kind of “family immortality, because she [Nicole] will always be able to say ‘my mom sang that’,” when she hears one of her mother’s Disney recordings. “It’s really special and it never gets old.”

They enjoyed the rides and shows in the park as well as meeting a number of characters, also including Tinker Bell, who asked Nicole to show her a funny face. Then the two posed making funny faces together. And Tinker Bell even bestowed a bit of pixie dust on Nicole.

It was, indeed, a “high 5” celebration for both Nicole and Hong Kong Disneyland.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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